Our world has a surplus of major crises not limited to floods, wars and refugees. However, it seems that unless we are directly affected by these dreadful events, human nature leads us to just utter a few sympathetic words and then go on to daily personal concerns. One of those daily activities of American life is driving our vehicles; we do love our cars, trucks and SUVs.
Having recently returned from a long trip on interstates, here are a few of my random thoughts on driving. First, we are determined to get wherever we are going as quickly as possible. Many times, we brag that we have cut a certain number of minutes off our usual travel time. What do with do with those few minutes saved? Often, we don't have a deadline, but we are in such a rush that we still don't take the time to appreciate scenic views or visit interesting places just off the highways.
It's "orange barrel" season, and road construction, especially in West Virginia, is at a peak; accidents now seem to occur with greater frequency than previously. On our recent trip, Maury and I found ourselves regularly checking our travel apps to see where the tie-ups, road construction and accidents were occurring. Is there a day that goes by that we do not hear about a wreck on I-64, I-79, the West Virginia Turnpike or U.S. 35 between Charleston and Point Pleasant? In light of the extensive and well-marked construction zones, why is it so difficult for drivers to slow down in these accident-prone areas?
What is so challenging about using turn signals when changing lanes? Even the most limited driver should be able to engage the signals without physical or emotional distress. It isn't like the days of my childhood when drivers actually had to extend their hands outside the car to inform other drivers that they were turning right or left.
What really motivates people to drive continually in the left/passing lane? The most common excuse seems to avoid hitting a deer. I'm not sure who calculated the safety efficiency of being 15 or so feet farther from where deer should make their entrance, but there seems little scientific proof that lives are saved by driving in the left lane. Recognizing the problem of left-lane drivers, the Ohio Department of Transportation has occasionally used electronic signs with messages such as "Camp in Ohio state parks, not the left lane" and "Visiting in-laws? Slow down, get there late."
Merge is a one-syllable word; it isn't a difficult concept. On the road, it is usually accompanied by signs showing that all vehicles soon will need to use only one lane. Merging is problematic because people don't want to "lose out" and rather than combine lanes orderly and early, some drivers prefer the game of "I'm braver than you" by racing to the front of the line and forcing themselves into the single lane. The "zipper merge" where cars alternate in entering a single lane from a specific point is now a hot-button topic on social media.
If most vehicles ahead of you suddenly observe the speed limit, it's probably good to follow their lead. It's reasonable to turn on lights and decrease speed in heavy rainstorms. And if you don't see one driver who you think is a complete idiot each day you're on the road, you haven't traveled far enough.
Wishing all drivers safe and happy travels this summer.
Diane W. Mufson is a retired psychologist. Her email is email@example.com.