Friday, September 16, 2011

Overheard in the car:

After an annoying experience with a bumper sticker slathered commutermobile:
Me: "If more of these idiots would spend as much time worrying about using their turn signals as they do worrying about what other people are doing in their bedrooms, this would be a much better world!"


Bubblehead Les. said...

Didn't you get the Memo? We're supposed to use our Spidey Senses to figure out which way they intend to go in the near future. Don't worry, it'll be Tweeted to you from one of the Clueless as they go 80 through a School Zone, right after they download last nights "Dancing with the Stars" vid to their Magic Elf Box, while drinking their Half-Caf Latte with Light Foam.

Anonymous said...

"worrying about using their turn signals ... worrying about what other people are doing in their bedrooms"

And all I hear is Paul singing "Why don't we do it in the road"

Sansam von Virginia

Brad K. said...

@ Tam,

I drive a Toyota pickup, and not a new one. And I don't drive over the speed limit. And I get *very* nervous about the turkeys in their Tahoes and Dodge Ram pickups camped on my back bumper at 45 or 65 mph, or whatever the posted speed is. *I* know the law requires a 100 foot separation where the speed is posted below 45 mph, and 200 feet above 45.

One uncle pointed out (from a Ma Bell safety lecture, back when it was still Ma Bell) that most accidents in intersections happen within the first three seconds after the light changes; so don't enter the intersection those first three seconds (if you aren't trying for a quarter-mile racing start, that isn't an issue).

Another uncle (an Army warrant officer at Ft. Hood, some 50 years ago) pointed out that when someone is tailgating, the only safe maneuver is a very slow and gradual *decrease* in speed: 1) If you are going to get hit, the slower you are going, the more survivable the experience; 2) It gives the following driver a better and safer chance of passing you, and you are much saver with a reckless and dangerous -- and criminally negligent -- driver ahead of you than as a pissed off driver behind you, and you can let the bozo search out the waiting radar trap ahead; 3) If the bozo is intent on going faster than the posted speed, usually no safe speed will be enough to make the bozo feel content and back off, so speeding up will *never* make you safer -- just the first driver that speed control officer picks up.

Some folk see their vehicle as a minimum cost machine to transport them to work. Others find driving a recreation regardless off their destination. Some are intent on how much admiration they are receiving at every moment they are near their vehicle, others dread the police notice them and ask for registration or insurance papers, or complain about that missing light, bald tire, or rotted out muffler.

Some people hire their vehicle out to post stickers and ads to bring in income; others feel the stickers they put on their car further their beliefs or interests, and publicly define who they are (someone that uses others' agendas to define themselves?).

That is, there are about as many purposes for any given driver to be on the road at any time as there are drivers. I have a neighbor going through chemo therapy, and every time the doctor asks whoever drove him down how his driving is, each one lies and claims it is unimpaired -- though his eyesight has markedly deteriorated, and he never really drove as well sober as not.

Getting upset because another driver doesn't use the skill and experience we expect of others in order to share the road safely is a waste of time -- and a form of distracted driving. Of course, so is avoiding an accident, as you focus on one hazard and hope another isn't developing.

I tend not to worry about other folks in the bedroom. What matters to me is whether they are raising their children to serve their nation and community in a respectful and honorable fashion.

Kristophr said...

Are you going to put that on a bumper sticker?

Dave H said...

I've been this close to getting a "Visualize Using Your Turn Signal" bumper sticker, but the idiot in the car ahead couldn't see it even if I put it on the front bumper. (Check the mirror? Why? My makeup's fine!")

Brad K. said...

@ Kristopher,

I have two bumper stickers, neither have ever been applied to anything.

"Don't meddle in the affairs of dragons, for you are crunchy and good with ketchup."

(Picture of harnessed team of sled dogs) "Unless you are the lead dog, the scenery never changes".

@ Tam,

A quick PS. I am not sure I want *every* driver out their teaching their kids how *they* drive.

>> A good old boy told his son, "Kid, it's simple. Put that left tire on the center line, and you'll be fine." Other drivers routinely gave the son lots of room, and he had no problems. Until the night he ran into Dad coming back from town. << (i.e., there are no easy answers, and it hurts the worst when your kids do listen to what you say.)

NotClauswitz said...

There's one of those cars around here that I've seen for a few years, a little yellow Toyota Tercel from the previous century, covered in MEAT IS MURDER and other vegan-fascist food symbols with a big Pop-up sign on the roof - before I spied it parked at Orchard Supply and was getting out of my truck... And then a/THE dude walks up to it and gets in - and he's mid 40's, 6-1" and wearing a polo shirt with the collar flipped up and chinos - it was a complete and total disconnect, or else he's driving his mom's car...

og said...

The only bumpersticker I ever put on any vehicle was a Gut Rumbles one, sent to me by Mr Smith when he was still around.

The number of stickers on a vehicle is usually the measure I use of liklihood that I'll urinate on the door handles.

Joanna said...

I have a "My other pro-tolerance bumper sticker is also condescending" sticker, but I haven't applied it yet. It'll go next to the yellow square with the snake on it.

Old NFO said...

Ain't THAT the damn truth...

Dave H said...

I have to giggle whenever I think that every one of those earth-worshiping, tree-hugging, cud-chewing stickers was sold for a profit by a filthy capitalist.

Okay, so I have a warped sense of justice. At least I can drive the speed limit.

John A said...

Turn indicators...

If I don't alredat know, I can tell whether I am in Mass or RI by the reaction to my use of the indicator. In Mass, every other driver reacts to the challenge by trying to beat me to the corner and cut me off. In RI, it's great because everyone stops: the only time they've ever seen a flashing light on a vehicle is when an ambulance is passing or a cop is stopping them.

New Jovian Thunderbolt said...

Don't like THOSE kinds of bumper stickers? We don't have much of them around here on the MD side of the DC suburbs. We get the other kind. But, the grass is always greener, I guess.

global village idiot said...

Only two things on my car - a Masonic emblem and an "ARMY" star decal.

All anyone really needs to know about me, I figure.


Roger Ritter said...

That reminds me of my thought when a car with a "WWJD" bumper sticker turned in front of me without signaling: "Jesus would have used his turn signal!"

OtherWhiteMatt said...

Brad K- No, the safest maneuver is do the courteous thing and pull over and let the car pass.

Its annoying to follow people who go the speed limit and even more annoying to follow people who go UNDER the speed limit. Especially when speed limits are routinely set 10-15MPH too low. I always go the safe speed, not the speed limit (and that's usually about 10MPH over the posted limit).

I never understood why common courtesy goes out the window when people get behind a car. In a store, if you are in somebody's way, you get out of the way, usually with a "Sorry!". In a car, people make it a point to get in your way and even slow down!

I'm always away aware of cars around me- if I'm turning right, I get into the shoulder. If I'm turning left, I get over far enough to let people behind me pass. If I'm going to slow, I either speed up, or I let a car pass.

Its not that hard.

Cormac said...

Tam...You're not in DFW, are you?

Eric said...


The speed limits are not set 10-15 too low. The roads (typically) are designed 10-15 too fast. The posted speed should be the appropriate speed for the area (taking into account ped traffic/crossings, cyclists, etc.)

Engineers, almost without fail, design roads with 14' lanes in a 35mph zone... that's why it feels like you should go 55 mph. You've got interstate highway width travel lanes. That width doesn't help a driver stop in time to avoid hitting a pedestrian in the crosswalk or a cyclist on the road.

There's a growing body of research that says design speed that matches instead of exceeds posted speed is much safer as you don't have to decide between the legal limit and the speed of traffic. 11' or even 10' wide travel lanes in a ~30 mph zone have been shown to significantly reduce crashes and to make the ones that do happen much less severe.

I am in total agreement with you on the courtesy thing. I wish we had Germany's "drive right, pass left" mentality (and law). I think if police started routinely ticketing camping out in the left lane, as well as passing on the right, we would see a huge drop in accidents, road rage, and I would enjoy being on the road (in my car or on my bike) a lot more.


Buzz said...


It IS the law in Indiana to drive right and pass left, 'cept it's not enforcred that I've ever seen.
I can usually tell a Chicago 'burbian on I65 by whether he's camped in the left lane with nothing in the right lane. It's about a 70% success rate to guess, but Indiana drivers are the reason the rate has gone down from 90%, not improvement by our Illinois guests.
My morning commute road was widened from two lanes to four. Guess which lane has 95% of the traffic? I stay in the RIGHT lane, where I'm supposed to. Inevitably, traffic clogs up in the left lane and slows it down. By staying in my proper lane, I usually pass the whole line at a stoplight. Passing on the right? No. I'm where I belong and I'm certainly not going to slow down just because of the morons all stacked up in the left.

Brad K. said...

@ OtherWhiteMatt,

A couple of things occur to me. One, is that I lived in Minneapolis, MN, for a year and a half. My sister lives south of there, and I visit occasionally. And Minnesota has a history some thirty years long or more, for ticketing people driving 1 or 2 mph over the posted limit. This surprises many visitors; the natives are used to it.

The next thing that occurs to me is that I have never heard of an accident report mentioning "not following closely enough". Mkay?

The posted speed is "good" driving conditions. The assumption, to drive the posted speed, is that the road is in good condition, nothing is littering the road, weather is reasonable (not heavy rain or other impediments to good traction), visibility is pretty good. Otherwise the ticket with the accident reports "unsafe speed for conditions at the time." For my money, if I have someone 20 or 50 feet behind my car -- in violation of the law in any state, at any posted speed -- then by definition someone is driving recklessly (the driver with the ability to obey the law and back off), and acting. When you tailgate you degrade the "maximum safe speed for the conditions at the time" from the posted speed downward.

If I see someone wandering from lane to lane, driving markedly below the limit (part of the profile for drunk driving), then I and most drivers will slow, will pass cautiously -- in other words, the maximum safe speed is determined by a driver violating the law. Like a tailgater.

I will give you a hint about the anxiety of driving really close to the car ahead -- back off a couple hundred feet, and you don't feel so anxious. You aren't *living* in that driver ahead's head, anticipating any slowing or speeding up, any distractions or changes in direction or lane. Don't drive slower, just a bit further back from the vehicle ahead. Who knows? You might not count the rock chips in the windshield you *didn't* experience, because you weren't close enough for the pebble to hit your windshield. Maybe.

Following too closely is as much against the law as speeding. I consider it sheer negligence that it isn't enforced, in town and on the open road. In fact, I would rather see following to closely enforced than speeding. Speeding wastes gas and only puts the driver at risk. Following too close always risks another vehicle.

YMMV. Especially if you tailgate a lot.

WV: SpePud. Think about it.

Cybrludite said...


Traffic must be very light where you are. If I left 100' between me & the car ahead of me on my morning drive home, the space would fill up with at least half a dozen cars in a heartbeat.

Anonymous said...

Brad K.:

I ride a motorbike. A Lot. I watch out for people like you religiously. It has saved my life more times than I can count.

By far the most dangerous person on the road is one going at or just below the speed limit. At those low speeds, they can do anything. Like a u-turn in the middle of the street, a left turn from the right lane, a right turn from the left lane, or a u-turn across all lanes of traffic. All of which has happened in front of me, after I ignored the good sense to go around them immediately on recognizing their zombie-like adherence to driving at or under the limit, and/or not using their mirrors, and/or slowing down when approached from behind.

If one of these bozos are in front of me, they can kill me. If I am far enough behind them so they can't, the person behind me can. I don't have the luxury of using my vehicle as speed limit enforcer as you seem to advocate, from the front, or the rear ("..if they hit you going slower .." - are you frigging insane?) If you think there is even the slightest possibility someone might hit you, get out of the way or get off the road! It's why they have passing lanes on hills, and pullouts on mountain roads.

If I'm in front of them, they can't get me. Even at an intersection. Like I said, I watch out for people like you religiously, front, back, and sideways.

In my 36 years of riding a motorbike, I have only had two people actively try to kill me. Both of them drove exactly as you describe you do. At the speed limit or slightly below, slowing when I approached from behind, while using their mirrors. And when I tried to go around, they tried to kill me.

I'm not concerned with people who know where they are going, how to get there, or how fast they go. They are very predictable, and can't do the stupid if they are moving quickly.

I am concerned with staying alive. Slow drivers are the single biggest threat due to their unpredictability, their predilection for doing the stupid, their slow speed, which allows them to do the stupid, and their sanctimonious moving road-block behavior, the sole purpose of which seems to be to hack off the long line of vehicles stuck behind them.

If it seems that someone is always tailgating you, then nine times out of ten, you are going too slow. If you don't think you are going too slow, perhaps you aren't up to the task of herding that door-slammer of yours around on public roads. Think about it. If it seems to you that you are the only one that travels at what you consider to be a safe speed, maybe you are the one that isn't safe.

You need to sit down, be honest, and have a long think about your driving ability. Most people are fair-minded about their actual skill level, and allow for their deficiencies, like senior citizens, who recognize their diminished skill levels and make allowances by only driving when traffic is light. As a famous dude on the big screeen once said; "A man's got to know his limitations."

Do everyone a favor. If you drive the way you do because you are afraid to, are physically incapable of, or don't have the skill to move along with the flow of traffic, take the bus.

If you have a high opinion of yourself and your personal capabilities, and think most other drivers do it unsafely, perhaps the scale against which you are measuring yourself is a scale of one. There's a chance that not only are you not as good as you think you are, but that everyone else really is a better driver than you. I've run into this with highly educated people that have low physical skill sets. Yes, they have a doctorate - no, they can't use a screwdriver or hammer to save their life. And yet they think they are the cat's meow when it comes to driving.

Think about it.


Stretch said...

Tailgaters backed off once I posted the "The Voice Said To Clean My Guns Today" sticker next to my NRA decal.

Brad K. said...

@ BoxStockRacer,

Wow. Taking a discussion about whether to choose to obey the law, they way you pledge to do when you get or renew your drivers license - and turn it into a personal character assassination.

I recall driving 85 mph when the laws in Iowa were 70/night and 80/day on the Interstate, maybe even 90. I have commuted across St. Louos, MO and Philadelphia, PA leaving room ahead for two cars to pull in.

I found that commuting from Colorado Springs to Denver, that drivers clump up. No matter how fast one drives, there will always be a turkey behind wanting to go faster. When a clump driving 5, 10, 15, or 20 mph with a string behind all anxious to get around encounters a car driving slower than the leaders -- the clump has a chance to re-form and let the most anxious go on their way to find a new clump. The odd car driving just a bit slower than a clump leader lets other drivers find their own place, dissolve the clump, and reduce anxiety. I noticed this while driving in clumps -- and stopped resenting the "slowpokes". Note this isn't true in town where a 'clump' is city wide.

If I find myself on a two-lane road in good condition, good visibility ahead, and in a passing zone -- I have zero tolerance for any bozo behind me that thinks *I* should take responsibility for my driving.

If I am driving a tractor or farm implement -- or a bicycle -- I have a complete and full right to my lane -- and I will still pull over if there is a safe place to do so that won't wreck my vehicle (a surprising caveat to some drivers, I know, regarding farm equipment). In Amish country horse and buggy are more common, but you can encounter horses and other vehicles on about any road except posted interstate and limited access roads.

Drivers driving the speed limit, whether to honor their sworn word, to save on insurance and fine fees and costs, to keep from running up any more points on their drivers license, or because they consider driving the limit an important degree of driving skill.

As for your riding skills, please drive safely, you cannot assume everyone out there is awake and sober.

Brad K. said...

@ BoxStockRacer,

I meant "When a clump driving 5, 10, 15, or 20 over the speed limit"

Joanna said...


I think I know what BoxStockRacer was getting at, and that is that you seem to have a very high opinion of your own driving skills -- and that nine times out of 10, a driver with that high an opinion of his/her skills is a terrible driver. And not "doesn't follow the rules" terrible; "doesn't have the faintest idea what's really going on around them and how to react to it" terrible.

I know someone who thinks of themself as an exemplary driver, but they consistently cut people off, wobble back and forth within the lane, change lanes without signalling and never check their blind spots. But by golly, they follow the speed limit, and they never tailgate.

Safe driving is less about laws and more about situational awareness. You may be doing the speed limit and leaving 100' in front of you, but that may in fact make you the most dangerous person on the road because everyone around you is following a different set of behaviors. As my grandma always said, "The guy who had the right of way is just as dead as the guy who didn't."

(And for the record, I do my best to drive the speed limit and to leave appropriate stopping distance. I also do my best to go with the flow, and to not be a jerk or a pedant about it.)

Joanna said...

Also, this: "I have zero tolerance for any bozo behind me that thinks *I* should take responsibility for my driving."

Please tell me you meant "take responsibility for his driving."

OtherWhiteMatt said...

Eric There's a growing body of research that says design speed that matches instead of exceeds posted speed is much safer as you don't have to decide between the legal limit and the speed of traffic.

Exactly, that's why the speed limit should be that- the maximum safe speed limit for the design of the road. So the speed limit should be set 10-15MPH high.

Most roads should be set at what 85% of people drive- because most people are pretty good at driving a speed that is safe (because that's where they feel comfortable). You will always have that 15% that won't- but that isn't a reason to punish the majority.

BradK- And? That's just stupid to ticket for one or two over. (Though it does help that the limit is supposed to be at 85%- but who knows how well that is applied)

Again, the posted speed usually is NOT for good conditions. Its mostly set for political conditions. Most roads can handle a lot more than the posted limit.

Also, the most dangerous person- especially in places over 40MPH- is someone going a speed that most people aren't going. That's why tailgating happens. For example on a highway- a person going 65 in a 65 in the left lane can be ticketed for disrupting the flow of traffic. I believe Washington State cops will do that.

Tailgating is a sign you are going to slow. Pull or get over, and let those people pass. You are only endangering yourself if you don't.

I'd rather seeing somebody going to slow and forcing tailgating enforced. That would eliminate tailgating all together. It would help if the speed limit was set sanely.

Anonymous said...

Brad K.:

I ride the way I do to stay alive. That means hyper-attentiveness, my head on a swivel, a very aggressive case of the Messerschmitt Twitch, and avoiding slow drivers like the plague they are.

You have the luxury of an armor-plated door-slammer surrounding you if you screw up.

I do not.

If you think I engaged in character assassination, then you've been living in a coccoon for too long. People that drive like you describe have actually tried to physically kill me. It only has to happen once to get one's undivided attention. When it happens twice, then all who do likewise are suspect. NOT giving a third person the chance.

I do not have the luxury of assuming that someone who behaves differently than everyone else is doing so for my benefit. There are no do-overs.

Some comments:

You said: "...I recall driving 85 mph when the laws in Iowa were ..."

I don't care how fast you've driven in the past. I care about what you are or are not doing when you are in front of me, and whether or not it makes it easier for you to do me damage.

You said: "...I noticed this while driving in clumps..."

It is far more dangerous to drive in a "clump", than not. Pull off, or drop out, but stay out of clumps.

You said: "...I have zero tolerance for any bozo behind me that thinks *I* should take responsibility for my driving. ..."

If someone attempts to pass you, fails, and dies, because you have "zero tolerance", and you say that in a court of law, you will be prosecuted for murder. Never assume that the person who wants to pass you doesn't have a real emergency in their life. People trying to get around you are not all bozos.

You said: "...If I am driving .... or a bicycle -- I have a complete and full right to my lane...and I will still pull over if there is a safe place to do so. ..."

That attitude will get you killed. Around here it is legal for bicycles to use the full lane on 50mph two-lane highways. It is both stupid and dangerous. You may be dead right, but you'll still be dead if someone comes around a curve behind you at the same time a car is coming the other direction at 50mph.

You said: "...or because they consider driving the limit an important degree of driving skill.

Unless the speed limit is placed absurdly high, driving the limit is not a skill, it is an act.

You said: "...As for your riding skills, please drive safely, you cannot assume everyone out there is awake and sober."

Forgone conclusion. I assume that people who slavishly follow the speed limit to the exclusion of all other factors are neither awake, nor sober.

And for the record? I never said I violated the speed limit on a regular basis. I just said I watch out for people who stick at it or below it. It's a driver trait that stands out like a sore thumb. Most people vary their speed depending on conditions, one of which is not slowing down when people come up behind them.


Will said...

I'll second what BoxStockRacer has said about drivers to watch out for on the road. Actually, it even works for the track, too. Slow riders/drivers can do some stupid things there, also.
I've had several people try their damnedest to kill me on the road. Deliberately. Had a few more attempt mayhem/maiming. I say that because I suspect they weren't really looking to kill me, as much as to knock me off my bike or cause me to crash. I state this by looking at how/when they made the attempt.
To paraphrase BSR, there are a number of attitudes that people put on like a suit when they climb behind the controls of a vehicle. They don't always seem to correlate with their normal personality, or public persona.

I should point out that the .gov's own statistics show that cops patrolling to write speeding tickets actually raises the accident/fatality rates. Speed limits in the states are set to produce local .gov revenue from fines, not to make the roads safe.

Justthisguy said...

The closest I came to dying in a motor vehicle was at the intersection of Piedmont and Monroe in Atlanta, back in the early eighties.

We were heading south on Piedmont and some stupid bimbo from Assachusetts turned left across us, and forced me to drive straight into the steel pole holding the Walk-Don't Walk sign.

We were strapped in, at least in the cab. The Sweetie and I looked at each other and said simultaneously, "Oh, your glasses flew off, too!"

The guys in the back did not do as well, having disobeyed my orders to sit in the front of the truck bed. One of them seriously reduced the salvage value of the camper shell when he thwacked it with his head.

Justthisguy said...

I wasn't going to comment again, but the WV was irresistible, that is,


Zendo Deb said...


When driving the interstates, I usually go the speed limit or just a bit faster.

I will never understand why, on a 4-lane-road (or better) someone going 70 MPH will race up behind me the right-hand-lane and then tailgate (even when there is no traffic stopping them from passing). But they do that.

I usually have to slow down to 55 or 60 before they will finally realize that they can pass me.

(Incidentally, I do this because I am a cheapskate. The cost of fuel goes up exponentially above 65MPH - at least in my car, and yes, I have measured it. Put some extra air in the tires, drive 65 to 70 and I get 30 miles per gallon. Given how much I drive between Ohio and Illinois and Ohio and Florida that is a consideration.)

Otherwise, I do agree that in cases on single-lane roads, people should pull over.