Beware of psychotic, stupid, bad drivers

January 25, 1997|By GREGORY KANE

I'm turning in my Fixed Or Repaired Daily Escort and buying a horse. I'll travel via the Equine Local from now on, thank you very much. If it was good enough for Duke Wayne it's good enough for me.

Our Amish friends may be onto something here. They clip-clop along the roads of Pennsylvania Dutch country in their horses and buggies secure in the knowledge they are safe from the aggressive drivers of, say, the Baltimore-Washington corridor.

"Aggressive driver" is the term police use for the idiots who tailgate, speed, change lanes without signaling and violate every other rule of the road as if they had a divine fiat to terrorize those drivers whose priority it is to get where they're going in one piece.

But "aggressive driver" may be too kind a term. I prefer the word "psychotic driver." We need a more clinical description here, because those labeled "aggressive drivers" should be on a therapist's couch somewhere. Deep within every tailgater, speeder and looney driver lurks a seething sociopath itching to get out.

Mind you, I haven't been driving that long. I didn't get a license until late 1993. When folks asked me why I waited so late in life to learn to drive, I'd give them what I thought was a good reason: other drivers.

Not all of them, of course. Most drivers are good. It's only a minority who are Gawd-awful, but we all know what havoc a handful of knuckleheads with an idiotic agenda can wreak. But in the matter of psycho drivers a few anecdotes might be in order. Most of you who drive have no doubt encountered these situations.

Cruising along Gwynn Oak Avenue one morning and doing the speed limit of 30 mph, I spot a car tearing down the street behind me. I figure the car's going at least 45 and the driver, when he or she catches up, will tailgate me. The woman driving the car fulfills my prophecy, continuing to tailgate when I speed up to 35 mph. When I slow down to allow two women to cross the street, the driver behind becomes totally unhinged. She crosses the double solid lines into the lane for traffic coming in the opposite direction and zooms past me.

So in her hurry to get to her destination -- I'm betting it wasn't her analyst's office -- she endangers her life, mine, and those of the two women crossing the street and anyone in a car coming in the opposite direction. The frightening thing is she probably thought she was right.

Don't you just love the folks who come to a red light and are in a lane that's clearly marked either left or right turn only and then zoom in front of you -- in the next lane over -- when the light changes to green? Most of us would honk our horns, get the attention of the driver in the other lane, explain that we made a boo-boo and ask if we may get over when the light turns green. But not the psycho-driving bozos. For them, the roads and streets are all theirs. The rest of us are just in their way.

My brother and I were driving back from Easton one morning when a heavy rainstorm hit. Rain poured in torrents and visibility shrank to almost nothing. Traveling up Interstate 97, my brother decided to slow down to 55 to 60 mph, below the 65 mph allowed on the highway. That didn't stop other drivers who insisted the weather conditions were perfect for doing 70 mph or above. One van driver entering I-97 refused to yield the right of way.

"The worse the weather is, the stupider some drivers get," my brother observed.

Yes, the stupid drivers rank only slightly above the psycho ones in terms of the threats they pose. Just above the stupid are those drivers who are simply bad. I've even been able to break the worst drivers down by occupation. They are, in no particular order: Taxi drivers: The traffic law hasn't been made that they won't break.

Truck drivers: Ever had them tailgate you at high speeds? My experience traveling either north or south on Interstate 95 is that I'll be in one of the two far right lanes calmly doing about 60 mph. A truck about a half-mile to a good mile back speeds up doing something considerably higher. The driver slows down only when he gets too close for comfort and refuses to drop to a safer distance.

Bus drivers (public transit and commercial): You'd think with passengers on board these guys and gals would be more inclined to do the speed limit, wouldn't you? Think again. Pass them, and they consider it a challenge.

Corrections officers, at least those who work at the detention center or the penitentiary: They've been known to run red lights to get to their jobs. If you're ever traveling south on Guilford Avenue near Center Street early in the morning, be afraid. Be very afraid.

Me? I'll be saddling up my horse.

Pub Date: 1/25/97

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