Cynical Synapse

Mon, 13 Oct 2008

Sociopaths on the Roadways

Filed under: Behavior, Cars, Driving, Life, Rants — cynicalsynapse @ 10:56 pm

I spend about 3 hours a day on the road—mostly highway driving—so I’ve developed some farily intense opinions about other drivers. In August, i referenced another blog and noted stupid people shouldn’t get licenses. While there are certainly more than the fair share of stupid people out there, it’s not fair to them to not separate out the sociopaths on the roads today.

Before deviating to the deviants, however, the blog I was looking for in August was The Way We Drive Today. He gives a name—the force field effect—to a phenomenon that always puzzled me. I’ve always though the people who end up following me, even though other lanes are available, should give me a lottery ticket when I move aside and they suddenly discover open road ahead of them! Then again, these are, apparently, people who don’t even realize there are other lanes. What he refers to as “Can’t Pass Me,” I call it the Lemming Syndrome. It’s actually a corollary of the force field effect. Drivers with Lemming Syndrome don’t know there are other lanes, but a key feature of true Lemming Syndrome is being in the left lane. He also mentions the “can’t pass you” people, who pull up to you and match your speed. Eventually, you encounter someone slower in your lane and have to slow down. Sometimes these folks actually manage to pass you, but they pull into your lane and then slow down! I am truly amazed at how many people do not seem to know their cars are equipped with cruise control.

Beyond those core groups, two others really drive me bananas. They are:

Oh! I Must Be On a Freeway!These people come down the acceleration lane, maybe even reaching highway speeds (usually not, though). They merge into traffic and maintain their ramp speed for about a mile or so. Then, out of the blue, they decide they need to go 10 over the limit. What changed in the last mile, dude? Never mind that I’ve been on cruise control, waiting for you to make up your mind while traffic’s been stacking up behind me.

Slow Down for the Exit.Regardless of whether or not the ramp has a severely reduced speed, some folks start slowing down about a mile before their exit. Why? These are the same folks who hit their brakes on the highway even though the ramp is clearly designed to allow for adequate deceleration. Is this anticipation for lower speeds? Have they already mentally switched from limited access expressway to two-lane country road? Why do people pass you and then pull this stunt? Granted, some exits require slowing down before getting on the ramp, but these are the exception, not the rule. There’s usually no need to slow down before being in the deceleration lane—which is why it has that name!

The ones that truly annoy me, though, are the Roadway Sociopaths. These are the ones that have to move over as many lanes left as there are lanes available as soon as they get on the highway. They weave in and out of traffic as much as they think they need to in order to be first. They often zip from lane to lane, just to be first. Last month, I even watched one pass on the right shoulder just because traffic wasn’t moving fast enough for him. Hello! If traffic’s moving at or above posted speeds, there’s nothing to complain about! I admit, in my younger days, I was less patient and tended to try to find the fastest lane. Now older and wiser, I’ve accepted there is a corollary to Murphy’s Law that says the lane you are in will be the slowest lane. Thus, there’s no need to stress over other lanes. And, if I had a dollar for every time I’ve pulled up to the same red light one of these “rocket” scientists is waiting at, I’d have a free tank of gas! The added risk and stress just isn’t worth it, my friends.

Ancillary to the speed demons and the newly-merged who have to immediately move over as far left as possible are the last-second exit fiends. There are clearly those who didn’t realize this was their exit, many of whom were probably on cellphones. But, by and large, the majority are people trying to get to the front of the line by passing as many as they could before exiting. Without regard for humanity around them, they zip across two or more lanes of traffic to make the exit at the last second. Was the risk worth it? The maneuver could be successful each time you take it. But, is the risk truly worth it? For what, a few seconds at a traffic light at the top of the ramp? Why endanger the rest of us because you’re an egotist? I’d rather you were just stupid, but that BMW or Lexus implies otherwise. Intentional selfishness on today’s highways is just plain sociopathic.

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