The other day, I had the blessed privilege of riding in the car on the way home from work with my mom. With my sister's vehicle out of commission, and my dad needing to get to the airport during the day, it was necessary for my dad to take me to work and my mom to drive me home. I could care less how I get to work most days as long as I get there. However, after working 9.5 hours, the drive home can be rather irritating. It was more so riding with my mom. I very rarely go anywhere in the car with my parents anymore, and now I know why.
My mom is the opposite of an aggressive or defensive driver. I'm not exactly sure what the word is for how she drives, but I know that it made me carsick (although admittedly, it doesn't take too much for me to get carsick). She's already keyed up from the stress of being at work (and it takes awhile for her to relax), and driving home in the traffic leaving Boulder is almost too much for her. Having been working in Boulder since I was 20, I have had plenty of time to get used to the traffic in and out of Boulder during the rush hours, but she's only been working here for about a year and a half, so I think she's still trying to cope with it. On top of that, my mom is one of the very least patient people I've ever met in my life - and I don't mean that offensively, she just doesn't like to wait. I suppose that much of her impatience has been imparted to me, from growing up in an environment where finding the quickest and easiest way to do something was the norm. As I get older, I'm learning to slow down and not be so preoccupied with how long it takes to do something, but I think as my mom ages, her desire to lose as little time waiting as possible is increasing.
Anyway, on the ride home on Monday night, my shitty mood from the weekend was only beginning to dissolve, and I was still grouchy, so there was tension in the car. Plus, both my parents listen to talk radio in the car instead of music and I'm much more partial to music. I sat there the entire way home having to listen to Dave and Lois on 850 KOA and trying not to get physically ill, as the suburban jerked forward. For some reason, and I don't know what exactly that reason is, I noticed that instead of following at a safe distance from the car ahead of us, and paying attention to what the vehicles ahead of that car were doing, my mom would be following way too closely, and then whenever the car in front of us put on it's brakes, my mom would stomp on her brakes. I've learned from lots of experience that forceful driving like that is what is most likely to make my stomach upset. Anyway, I found it reasonably disturbing that my mom wasn't really paying close attention to what else was going on around her, but only watching the one car in front of her. As a suburban is a vehicle that's lifted off the ground quite a ways, I could easily see the traffic ahead of the car immediately in front of us, so I have to assume that she was able to see it as well. It is people like her, the brake-happy, that I absolutely revile being stuck behind, especially in traffic. Their excessive use of brakes only exacerbates the traffic problem.
When I am driving, I'm always watching as many cars in front of me as I can see, because I find that I'm slamming on the brakes less if I can see far enough ahead to know that the cars 500 feet in front of me are already braking, even if I don't see the brake lights of the car in front of me. I also follow the 2(ish - I think I am usually at 1) second rule, where I allow a full second to pass between the car in front of me passing a stationary object and then passing it myself, which gives me a considerable advantage to being able to brake sooner to avoid slamming on the brakes at the last second. I also try to limit my brake usage (and in an automatic transmission, it's harder to do, though not impossible), and following at a 1 second delay gives me ample time to see the brake lights in front of me and then make a decision as to whether or not I also need to use my brakes. Sometimes my foot just hovers over the brake pedal, but my theory is this: brake lights dictate traffic, not the actual physical movement of vehicles. As soon as most people see brake lights in front of them, they also apply the brakes, which is not always necessary. If half of the drivers on the road were paying attention to the actual movement of the cars in front of them, they'd be able to judge whether or not they needed to use their brakes. Brake lights are the cause of most traffic jams. If I'm in the right lane on the highway, and there are cars merging onto the highway, I don't necessarily need to brake to decrease my speed to allow a car in front of me. Natural geography and the ability of the other driver to gauge my speed should allow the car to move onto the highway without either of us using our brakes. If I need to change lanes, I'm not going slow down or come to a complete stop to do so; I will either lay off the gas or speed up in order to prevent the car I'm moving in front of from having to slow down.
The next night, Tuesday night, I was in a better mood, but I was still annoyed by the amount of traffic on the road and feeling some residual annoyance from the ride home the night previously, so I spent the entire 30+ minutes it takes me to get home coming up with a book or a manual in my head for others to read to educate them about how to PAY ATTENTION WHILE DRIVING. By the time I got home, I was hardly aware of how long it had taken, nor that I was home already because I was so absorbed in my thoughts.
I have a couple of friends whose experiences has led them to become rather perturbed by the state of the world and the lack of common sense in it, so they've started writing a blog that focuses on the specifics that they've noticed about people functioning without using common sense. I like it. It seems to me that common sense should dictate that people give their full attention to driving when they get behind the wheel, because the several-ton-moving-object that they are in control of can seriously injure and hurt people. It also seems to me that there are many, many things in this world that require that we pay full attention to as we are doing them, and driving should be at the very top of that list. Think about it - how would we feel if we went into surgery knowing that the surgeons would be texting whilst performing the operation? Or if our barbers and hair-stylists were splitting their attention between cutting our hair and something else? As a whole, we generally require that others give their full attention to us if what they're doing could seriously alter our lives, and I feel like the same amount of attention should be given to driving!
I'm seriously working on this how-to guide for paying attention while driving manual or book thing. It's apparently all I can think about when I'm driving home from work. Ironically, since I was getting carsick on Monday night, I had to ride with the window down, so I was able to hear the piercing screech of the brakes squeaking every single time my mom put her foot down on the brake pedal. It was all I could do to keep my mouth shut about why, perhaps, it seems that her brakes are perpetually squeaky, even if she's just had them fixed....