Wednesday, October 05, 2005

The Roads Run Red

I knew it would come up in the paper’s letters section again sooner or later, assuming I hadn’t missed it.  A Smart car owner saw fit to display his utter stupidity for the readers of the Citizen to see.  

This was in the weekend edition of the Ottawa Citizen.  Our beloved, frugal and eco-conscious driver waxes poetic about his love of his new car.  Then it turns ugly.  It seems this person goes out of his way to be in the way of SUVs and larger so-called gas-guzzlers.  Understand that the Smart is not a high performance car by any stretch of the imagination, but our hero is determined to prove it to the world at large.

He goes on to say that he will deliberately let slowly off corners, for example, if an SUV is following him.  And finally will flip a bird to any one who gets annoyed at him.

He is so very proud of himself.

At first I was thinking this simply has to be satire.  After looking all around the pages at the other letters expressing serious opinions on various serious subjects, I came to the conclusion that the Citizen staff must now be pissing themselves laughing at this twit.  The editor obviously has a mean streak a mile wide, and is quite proud of facilitating Darwinian theory to work its magic.

Again, assuming it was not satirical, this brings to light a truly awful problem on our roads.  It has been touted, routed and blared for all of the world that road-rage is a serious issue.  Publicity campaigns have been undertaken, warnings & tickets have been issued, for dangerous driving due to road rage.  But what of the cause?

It was obvious to me that the campaigns were directed towards the enraged and not so much the enragers. Sure the wording said to be courteous and respectful and whatnot, but the focus always seemed to remain on those enraged.

We’ll assume that our hero in his Smart drives completely within the law, yet will initiate more road rage in 10 minutes of driving time than most of us will create in a lifetime.  One’s patience is short at the best of times, but when someone out there deliberately starts pushing buttons, carnage is bound to ensue.

Luckily, if we look at this with a cool head, there are actually very few of these drivers trundling about.  Given ten car trips out, we might see but one.  Given a week’s worth of driving, we may be directly impacted once.  Considering the sheer quantity of cars and their drivers all around us, this is thankfully an extremely small ratio.  I’d guess at much less than 1 percent, maybe less that one in a thousand.

The problem is that this single entity triggers a domino effect that can last hours, even days.  As one fool creates rage and dangerous driving in 10 or even more drivers, they in turn will trigger deleterious response in 10 others and so on.  In case you haven’t noticed this is exponential.  

There are two dampening effects: the first, most of us will declare “this guy is an idiot” and do our level best to ignore the situation, the second is rush hour is a finite time where commute comes to an end, thereby allowing the enraged to cool down for 4 to 8 hours.

Given the exponential growth in enraged drivers, the above isn’t quite enough to nullify all road rage and we’ll keep seeing it throughout the day.  Then nighttime comes and the rage generated during the day winds down.  Only to be triggered by a select few the very next day, and thus we make the news on a semi-regular basis.

Roads are not a good place to teach lessons, yet there remains those few who are determined to be right-and-by-god-they’ll-show’em.  Like our Smart-car driver of the Ottawa Citizen, there are many who think that setting a self-righteous example will somehow cure all road ills.

You know who you are:
  • This road should be posted 60, not 80 so I’ll drive 50 to prove it;

  • I’m driving my OWN speed, say 40 below the limit, I’m safe and I’m in control;

  • Everyone around me is going too fast.  I’m determined to stay safe at my own speed;

  • There’s a gas guzzler behind me, I’ll make sure to drive slowly to allow him to save gas;

  • That semi-trailer is going way too fast, I’ll pull out in front of him and slow him down;

  • The car beside me is going at the same speed, so I must be at the right speed;

  • I’ll take time to make sure no one is crossing the intersection on my green.  A two or three second wait should do it;

And the Homer Simpson gambit: That guy in his 100K$ sports-car thinks he’s so big, I won’t let him pass!  

If you agreed with ANY of the above, I’m terribly sorry, but you are the middle finger that pushes at the first domino and you should take the bus.

Back to our Smart-car driver, I hope he’s got a trip to Montreal in his near future.  That should take care of him quite permanently.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have read the mentionned article as well but I hadn't giving it a lot of thought. You quote on a few occasions statistics that would need to be proven. Otherwise I pretty much enjoy the analysis

October 05, 2005 11:36 a.m.  
Blogger Steve said...

Oh my no... no statistics, simply wild-assed, but empirical, guess.

October 05, 2005 6:13 p.m.  

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