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Rachel Responds

Distracted drivers endanger others on road

Rachel Woodman

September 27, 2012

In a recent Facebook status on the Rachel Responds fan page, Gordon Root emphasized his frustration with bad drivers.

Root has a good point, why do people drive so badly? Have you been there? Driving along with some bozo moving at a snail’s pace where passing isn’t an option because there are people on either side of them, someone else is swinging into your lane with clearly no idea you’re there and then some other nincompoop is riding your back bumper?

I’m as frustrated writing that as you are reading it. But that is nothing compared to the stress I felt reading posts on Angry.net. Angry.net is a website for people to rant about everything they hate and bad drivers is a topic that sees a lot of posts.

So we’re faced with two questions here: first, what causes people to drive so ridiculously? Second, why the heck do we all care so much?

Experts say Americans are more distracted drivers than those found in other countries. Sascha Segan reports in “Why Are U.S. Drivers So Bad?” on ABCNews.com, that more than 41,000 deaths occurred on American roads last year. Robert Sinclair Jr., spokesman for the Automobile Club of New York, feels American drivers would never survive on German roadways.

German roadways can have speed limits up to 140 mph and good safety records. Why? Because German drivers have both hands on the steering wheel and are attentive and predictable.

It doesn’t take watching 15 “Don’t Text and Drive” PSAs to know that people text and drive. Texting isn’t the only thing people do when they’re driving. They’re up to all sorts of distracted behaviors. Some of which I wouldn’t even be comfortable writing about.

Texting, talking on the phone, eating, smoking, doing make up, putting on nail polish, tuning the radio, looking for something under the seat or glove compartment, rifling through a wallet or purse and writing a grocery list are just some of the many things many people try to multitask while driving. I’m just as guilty of distracted driving.

I’m a car karaoke-er. And by trade this means I jam out to music at the top of my lungs like a boss. And if I’m cranking, “I Know How to Say” by 3OH!3 I’ve nearly fist pumped myself off the road.

We’re all guilty of distracted driving.

Driving distracted can be very dangerous and it’s very annoying to everyone else on the road. However, the reaction of fellow drivers can get pretty intense.

So-in-so and such-and-such are in a huge debate in their car causing their car to swerve up ahead which causes you, Sultan of Driving Excellence, to become very angry. Hot headed, your mind spins. Why are these back-stabbing-roadcrowding jerkfaces up in my space?

I’m clearly going the fastest so I should be in the far left lane. Since when did the far left lane become a pasture for laziness and stupidity?!

But think of this: When was the last time you blew up on someone for bumping into you in the hallway?

It probably hasn’t happened to you. Today, I had two people almost plow me down in an entryway and a quick “I’m sorry” from them and I shrugged it off. Sound familiar?

The reason frustrating situations like waiting in lines or being bumped into doesn’t enrage you is because the deed is very human. Ryan Martin, Ph.D. shared, in “Why Driving Makes Us So Mad” on psychologytoday.com, that because other drivers are anonymous we are much more likely to be upset with them.

A student who bumps into you in the hall is a student. A student is someone you can relate to. A student is a person. When driving, we depersonalize the other drivers. We tend to forget that they’re people.

Martin explains that if someone is driving under the speed limit we’re likely to decide that person is an idiot and get angry. Martin says, “imagine that you found out that the person had recently been in a terrible car accident and that this was his first time back on the road.” We don’t know who other drivers are and, if we did, our perspective would likely change.

Reacting emotionally and driving erratically because we feel other drivers are unsafe isn’t making us safer. Those other drivers are real and do have families. And accidents can happen.

So be attentive when you are driving, put off looking for your SpongeBob pen until you’ve reached your destination. Remember that your behavior affects other drivers. Driving in the left lane slowly, as you text, affects others. But so does tailgating and passing others angrily because you’re upset.

Rachel Woodman is a senior majoring in marketing communications and minoring in journalism. She loves to work hard, play hard, and use clichés! Look for her Facebook page “Rachel Responds” and email her your questions or topic ideas to QuestionsForRachel@live.com.