You’re Only Making Things Worse

Today just seems like the right day for a “Damn kids, get off my lawn!” post.

“We only have two seasons around here: Winter and Road Repairs.” I’ve heard that saying applied to several different places in various parts of the country. The Bay Area, though, is blessed–or in this respect, cursed–with a comparatively mild climate. As a result, road repairs are more like a standard feature of the freeway than a seasonal event.

That means I’ve had plenty of opportunities to witness what “typical driver” means today. It’s not a pretty picture.

Mind you, I’m not talking about the idiots who weave through traffic at high speed. They’re more common than they used to be, regrettably, but they’re still not in the majority.

No, my gripe today is with the mentally and emotionally stunted people who have forgotten the one basic unwritten rule of the road: “We’re all in this together.”

The ones who try to minimize their drive time by switching lanes whenever the adjoining lane is moving faster. Not only do their antics force everyone behind them to slow down and adjust spacing, but they even shoot themselves in the foot: the diagonal of a lane change is longer than the straight line of staying in the lane you’re in. More territory covered, more time taken*. Simple math.

* Yes, I know it’s less than a second of additional delay. So? Half a second here, three-quarters there; it adds up. Five lane changes going across the Richmond-San Rafael bridge probably adds as much as two seconds to the commute (and costs you a couple of pennies in the most expensive gas in the U.S.)

But IMNSHO, the biggest offenders are the ones who are so impatient that they can’t manage a simple merge. Not a merge onto the freeway, the kind where two lanes turn into one, as happens when a lane is closed for road work.

Remember how merges are supposed to work: first a car from the left lane proceeds through the choke point, then one from the right. One from the left, one from the right. Left. Right. So easy, even preschool kids can handle it*.

* On foot. I’m not suggesting that five-year-olds should get driver’s licenses. Though, come to think of it…

Instead, we get drivers in the left lane riding the bumper of the car in front of them so the guy in the right lane can’t take their turn or racing to the choke point to piggyback on someone else’s turn. (The extreme form of this is to pull onto the shoulder and floor it to jump ahead of two or three cars waiting their turns. Fortunately, this approach appears to be an aberration, common only in areas where weaving through traffic at high speed is common.)

And it’s so pointless. The reason those cars are waiting to take their turns is that traffic is being slowed down or blocked by the ones who won’t take turns. And that’s even before the thoughtless drivers cause an accident that completely blocks traffic.

Hey, I’ll make a deal with y’all: remember your manners, take turns at merges, and I promise I won’t foist milk and cookies on you. Agreed?

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