Drive nicely, or GET OFF THE ROAD

I used to be a good driver. At least that’s what I thought.

Other than  a minor fender bender in the middle of rush hour traffic in West L.A. when I was in college a very long time ago that was never even determined to be my fault, I have suffered no major car accidents

The only speeding ticket I ever got was in the spring of 1991 when I was driving the almost 200 miles from Kansas City to Omaha for my Uncle Buddy’s birthday party.

I had never driven that far by myself, but my mother did not want me to miss the party and my work schedule was not conducive to me riding with her or my sister. So I chugged my little rented Geo Tracker (remember those) along the highway as fast I as I possibly could so that I would arrive in time.  That’s when I got pulled over.

I still made it to the party and my family’s side with moments to spare and my mother, in a gracious gesture of understanding, paid the fine. It was altogether a very long time ago.

I do not think that either of these incidents even remotely suggests that I am in any way a bad driver.

It was not until I married my second husband that I got the slightest inkling that I might not be up to standard, in the driving department. According to him, I might even be considered a traffic hazard. But certainly not for going too fast. Speedy Gonzales is not my MO.

He never commented on my skills. I don’t even think he realized this particular shortcoming. It was I who brought it to his attention.

When we got  hitched a few years ago, my husband was an Assistant Professor of Military Science at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. He commuted from Kapolei to UH each day which meant he was often stuck in traffic. Yes, Hawaii has traffic, in abundance.

This gave him plenty of time to reflect on the deficient skills of the drivers around him who created much of the congestion that was so understandably annoying.

The drive home was the worst. What should normally take about 30 minutes to drive the 23 miles between our house and the university could easily suck up 90 to 120 minutes of his afternoon. That’s how bad the traffic can get. It totally sucks. Thank goodness he doesn’t have to do it anymore. Now he works  in another direction and comes and goes in about 20 minutes. He is a much happier man.

I noticed that the frustration induced by the demanding commute translated into him becoming a slightly more aggressive driver.

One of the things that I liked about him when we were dating was that I felt safe in his car when we were on the road. He never seemed to be in too much of a hurry. He did not tailgate. He kept two hands on the wheel (most of the time) and his eyes on the road. I’d had a few scary incidents in my past and it was comforting to be in a man’s car with whom I felt safe.

I still feel safe in his car. I simply saw a shift in his driving habits when he worked at UH. Mostly he drove faster and was more likely to change lanes to get around somebody who was traveling too slowly.

Over dinner is when I heard his complaints. From his perspective, a majority of Oahu’s drivers  do not understand what is considered common rules of the road, especially when they are  on the freeway. Due to their lack of consideration for the flow of traffic, they create more congestion than necessary.

As he delineated the details of their violations, his description of how each lane should be traveling faster than the one to the right of it, allowing for lane changes as drivers accelerate or exit, his complaints about people who brake in the middle of traffic for no discernible reason or to look at something happening on the side of the road and the subsequent chain reaction this braking causes for miles behind, hit home.

“That’s me,” I thought–except the “Lookie Loo” part. I do not slow down to look at other people’s problems on the side of the road. I have always thought it was an invasion of their privacy at what is usually a very stressful time.

What I had perceived as protecting the safety of me and my children, my cautious, defensive driving was actually causing problems for others and creating minor hazards on the road. HELLO!

With my new-found  understanding of the rules of the road, I changed several of my habits with great success and little compromise.

Turns out I get places faster these days as I move with the flow of traffic. I still boast a clean driving record. I can also add to that list  that, even though I know he was not directing his criticism at me, I am completely confident that if my husband and I were to meet on the road, he would feel no nagging annoyance at my ignorant driving habits. Instead, I would garner his admiration and appreciation anywhere we go.

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