I’m Not a Bad Driver. I Just Don’t Drive the Same Way You Do.

This holiday season, let’s celebrate diversity… on the road.


America: What a country. A wonderful melting pot of races, ethnicities, religions, genders. More and more each day, it seems, we discover new differences between ourselves to treasure, write books about, and study as college electives. Acronyms abound! Hyphenation heightens! The more disparate we grow, the greater we become. We honor one another’s holidays, traditions, foods, clothing choices, musical styles. Only in this one arena do we all, each and every one of us, expect uniformity:

We want everyone else to drive exactly the way we do.

It’s illogical, really, when you think about it. We don’t all sing alike, or walk alike, or shop alike or read alike or draw alike. You like shellfish? I don’t like shellfish. That doesn’t give me the right to scream at you that you’re a stupid asshole, does it?

And yet every morning, as I wend my long, long way down 422 and the Schuylkill Expressway, and then back home again each night, I encounter folks who believe that the way I’m driving is wrong simply because it isn’t the way they’re driving. I’ll admit it: I’m guilty of this, too. It makes me insane when people drive all the way out to the very very end of the merge lane before entering the highway. It makes me so insane that I once asked a bunch of driving instructors (one of whom was a cop): When’s the right time to merge? They confirmed what I’d always been taught: Get over as early as you safely can.

But, you know, I’d defend to the death those other drivers’ right to wait until the last minute to merge. That’s just the way they drive. It’s a difference of style.

Here’s another example. I like to leave several car lengths between me and the next car. It’s the way I was taught — one car length per 10 miles of speed — and it also seems sensible. If the car in front of me has to stop in a hurry, I want to have time to brake safely without smashing into its trunk. I feel more secure with those extra few car lengths. Yet there are many, many drivers who come up behind me and try to make me close that gap. They somehow find it offensive that I like a little leeway. They’re riding my bumper, and dammit, they want me to ride bumper, too. It doesn’t matter to them that I’m not slowing them down; they want me to tuck up. They believe in their hearts that the way I’m driving is wrong.

It’s not wrong! It’s different! It’s tomato and to-mah-to! Live and let live, people! C’mon! Peace on Earth and all that!

Obviously, I’m not talking about actual bad driving, like yakking on a cell phone — or, worse, texting — or reading while behind the wheel (entire books! It’s not that infrequent!), or excessive speeding (it’s a rare egg who actually obeys the limit on these stretches), or drunk driving, or driving while eating tacos, or not using your turn signals (when, exactly, did the turn signal become obsolete?), or cutting across four lanes of traffic because you missed the 10 signs warning you your exit was just ahead. That sort of stuff is illegal, or should be, and perpetrators should be taken off the roads.

But hey. You like country; I like rock-and-roll. You vacation in the mountains; I prefer the beach. Driversity. In the coming New Year, let’s celebrate it, quit giving one another the finger, and lay off our horns.

Follow @SandyHingston on Twitter.

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  • thill

    Can you imagine what traffic would be like if everyone drove like you? Take every car on the expressway and put 2-3 car lengths between them. How far would traffic be backed up? How much chaos would that cause for people trying to enter the freeway. In addition it prompts others (usually drivers from NJ) to weave back and forth between lanes which is dangerous and causes more problems. I too drive with a couple of car lengths in front of me when traffic is moving, and if that is what you are referring to, great. But if traffic is inching along and it is stop and go, keep up! Happy holidays and Merry Christmas as appropriate.

  • Friend of Marco

    It has been proven in several studies that it’s better, safer and more efficient to merge at the last minute when two lanes are turning into one lane, for example when 676W goes from two lanes to one lane right before the merge onto 76W. It’s called zippering-in and it works great.

    It is safer to merge as soon as possible when one lane is merging into a highway. This is a totally different situation than above.

    citation: http://drmomentum.com/aces/archives/003800.html

  • shannonfla

    In traffic school in Florida, you are told to enter a highway at the posted speed. On the NC written test (no driving test required when transferring your license), the correct answer is to enter at the rate the people on the highway are driving. It’s madness.