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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883


Ever-present driving realities

Aggression and distraction are realities for some drivers — and both traits are precursors of roadway mayhem.  I’ve covered these bad-driver tendencies regularly, but they are still ever-present.

Actually, aggressive driving can be good driving up to a point.  Drivers who accelerate promptly, keep their speed consistent near the posted limits, make turns briskly in proper lanes, pass with confidence, park decisively, merge with precision, and maneuver to leave space around their vehicles, get my validation as good aggressive drivers — or maybe “confident” or “decisive” best describes their driving style.

But aggressive driving turns harmful if it turns to rage or adversely affects other drivers.  It’s amazing to me that incidents of rage can occur as a result of something as simple as another driver’s failure to signal — or from the display of a middle finger.

I recall a message from a young driver I found on an Internet forum.  After two weeks of driving he proclaimed the task to be easy — he admitted that maybe merging is hard when some won’t move to the left lane, but he bragged that, “after an obscene gesture or two, it’s taken care of.”  If that wasn’t enough to incriminate him, he also bragged of driving 10 mph over the limit, but in school zones, “where the speeds are too slow.”  He claimed to know where cops are, and “speeds where they are not.”

That’s an example of the mentality that sane drivers must deal with.  The kid’s outrage was even misplaced — freeway mergers must yield to freeway travelers and moving left by the latter is helpful when possible, but not required. As I’ve stated often, you can’t control the actions of others, but you can control your reactions to them.  Please muster up all of your available patience when you encounter an individual like this merger who signals with his finger — hopefully he’ll learn some lessons before disaster strikes.

You never know what is going to set someone off.  For example, I read of a driver who said he goes ballistic when drivers fail to signal — another said that they get irate, “when there are cars on the road.”

Beware of the signs of destructive aggression:  swearing, insulting, or threatening other drivers — seeking revenge by fantasizing or acting out hostile acts  — or lapsing into irrational risky behavior.  The potential consequences are not worth it!

As for distraction — we drivers already had plenty of it before cell phones, but now cell phones head the list.  I’ve harped on this subject over the time that mobiles have made their meteoric rise to the top of the driver distraction list.  Each new study finds greater ills arising from driving and phone use.  Merely having a phone conversation has shown to lower reaction times to those of a person having a .08 percent blood alcohol count (legally drunk).  Unfortunately, such diminished physical capacities that can’t be corrected with practice.

This concerns me because of the huge numbers of drivers I see talking or texting.  Studies show that at any time, one out of four drivers is using a cell phone.  I think it may be closer to two out of four from what I’ve witnessed.

Please make mobile calls when your vehicle is immobile.  Wishful thinking made me wonder if those drivers stopped behind me were taking advantage of the red light to make a short call.  But no — instead they jabbered as we embarked.

Readers may contact Bill Love via e-mail at