“Aggressive” Driving

Traffic is a problem in the United States, but not solely because there are too many cars and not enough road. A large part of the problem has to do with what’s called throughput.

How efficiently – or not – do the number of cars pass through the available network of roads?

U.S. highways (and especially secondary roads) have terrible throughput. The roads are stop-and-go congealed; getting anywhere seems to take forever. Or rather, longer than it ought to.

Because – in general – American drivers are terrible.

Lazy, oblivious, often poorly skilled. Above all, they are slow. As if in a daze. They’ll pull out right in front of you – then creep forward like a glacial ice sheet – and expect you to brake to accommodate them. If you have to slam on your brakes to avoid rear-ending them, you must have been “speeding” and should “slow down.” They are indifferent to the line of cars stacking up behind them. It never occurs to them to pull off onto the shoulder. (What’s their hurry? They should have left sooner!)  When they pass – if they even make the attempt – they do so cruise control-style, just barely going faster than the car they are attempting to pass. This requires lots of time – and road. Which is why legal passing zones have been disappearing (have you noticed?)

Man Up!: 367 Classic S... Paul O'Donnell Best Price: $1.25 Buy New $2.99 (as of 09:25 UTC - Details) All it takes is one such driver to gum up the throughput of a given road – as by pulling out at a snail’s pace in front of traffic moving much faster, forcing the others cars to brake and thereby interrupting the flow. Other examples include leaving ridiculous gaps between one’s car and the car ahead when stopped at a signaled intersection (such as a left turn lane) and then dawdling for a moment or three after the green light comes on – thereby assuring that only three or four cars (instead of five or six) can clear the light before it goes red again.

It was not always this way, but since the ’80s – the dawn of the Safety Cult – it has become this way.  For a generation now at least, American drivers have been taught – hectored – to be passive, timid, slow-reacting, slow-moving drivers. And above all, to regard acceleration as the ultimate evil.

To emulate, in other words, the driving style of a glaucomic old lady.

Hence the throughput problem.

It is no different than the problem you’d encounter at an old folks’ home. Ever been to one? Try getting to the third floor via the elevator. They’re set up to move really slowly – so as not to unsettle the old people – and when the doors do finally open, you have to wait patiently for the old folks to shuffle out and in. This can’t be helped, of course. They’re old people. But if you’re not old, is there anything wrong with briskly taking thestairs to the third floor? Should you be required to shuffle along at the old folk’s pace, too?

Same principle applies on the road.

Why is everything set up to accommodate – to encourage – the feeblest sort of driving?

In Germany – which has more cars and fewer roads – throughput is much better. You get where you’re going more quickly – and much less stressfully – because in Germany, more is expected of drivers. Who are expected to not drive like glaucomic old ladies.

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