J Thomas wrote:So I try to drive defensively, and I think about what to do if people 6 cars ahead of me make a mistake.
I drive offensively, but I'm always looking as far ahead as I possibly can- including partially entering the other lane if possible if I can't see. I'm always looking at side streets. I'm always planning what I'll do if car stops suddenly or pulls out. Its called situational awareness, and few people have it.
That sounds very good to me, except perhaps for pulling into the other lane to see. You have to be very careful to look into your blind spot....
I try to stay 4 seconds behind whoever's in front of me, and if the guy behind me gets too close I slow down.
That's exactly the wrong response to take. They are getting close because you are going to slow. You need to either speed up, or let them pass. Slowing down only exacerbates the situation, increasing the chances of an accident.
No. Lots of people think like you do. They believe that when the road gets too crowded they should move fast by getting closer and closer to the other cars. As if cars are a gas, and when they get more pressure they should increase their density. That would be fine if we had elastic collisions....
If somebody thinks I'm going too slow because I'm 4 seconds behind the car in front of me, then they're welcome to pass me and tailgate the next car ahead. I'll be 4 seconds behind them. But if they're tailgating me I need to go slower so they won't rear-end me so hard. If you think you can make me drive recklessly by threatening to have an "accident" with me otherwise, you're wrong. Rear-end my car and hurt me when I'm legally slowing down, and I'll sue. If you kill me my heirs will sue.
I never understood people's insistence that the speed they are going is just fine for everybody behind them. People on the sidewalk have no problems letting people go by them, but put them in a car and its IDONTCAREIMGOINGTHISSLOW. It doesn't help speed limits are set way too low. People should just pull to the side and let the faster cars past them.
I'll do that often on 2-lane roads. I don't want to go more than 5 to 10 miles above the posted speed limit, usually; why should I slow down the ones who want to go fast? It's between them and the cops whose primary job is to collect revenue. Local governments and police treat speeding tickets like a sin tax. It's wrong.
About the right speed limits, people tend to get upset when the death rate is more than about 0.1% per year from automobiles. Governments and EMTs and people who think about it tend to prefer that reduced to more like 0.01%, and there are fewer deaths when traffic is slower. It sounds like you'd like the rate to be somewhat higher, but I bet you'd still want it less than 1%/year. I don't have a big opinion on this myself except to note that tastes in death rates differ.
There are other things we can do to bring the death rate lower. At considerable expense we could put devices into cars that quickly test drivers for reflexes, alertness, etc. If you're too drunk or too sleepy or too emotionally upset the car won't start for you. We could have computer games for driving that encourage your situational awareness. Simulated other drivers making lots of mistakes *all the time* and unless you do the right thing quick you get smashed. If we get a baseline that shows people who play the game have fewer accidents, we could let insurance companies charge extra unless drivers show they played the game until they got a good score. An economist facetiously suggested that each car should have a long sharp spike attached to the steering wheel, so that a driver who ran into something would be impaled on it. He thought that would reduce the number of accidents a whole lot.
Speed limits aren't the only way to reduce the death rate, and they may not be the best way.
I have no problem passing on a double line if I think its safe.
I hope you're right.
People get frustrated with me when I drive, because I keep letting other drivers intimidate me into letting them get one carlength ahead while I get one carlength behind. They want me to be braver and show everybody I meet that they can't get away with anything.
I figure on an average trip it might cost me 5 to 10 carlengths. Every now and then I get stopped at a stoplight that I would have gotten through if I had been more aggressive and been a few carlengths earlier.
I would go insane riding with you. I only have a limited amount of time in this world, and I'm sure as hell not going to waste it behind the wheel of a car.
Perhaps everybody would be better off if you went fewer places in cars.
Sometimes driving agressively doesn't get me any further ahead, but many times it does. I can cut 5 to 10 minutes off every hour of drive. That adds up.
Maybe you are exceptionally good at that. On the freeway you can get that result just by driving 75 miles/hour instead of 65. In places with stoplights I notice that aggressive drivers usually get nothing. When the traffic is light I keep up with them easily. When traffic is heavy and everything slows down they usually get nothing but occasionally they get a stoplight ahead and I lose track of them. If a stoplight is one minute, do you think you get through 5 stoplights an hour you wouldn't otherwise? I doubt it, but I haven't done controlled experiments.
Driving in rush hour is miserable. I try to avoid it. But even if you're aggressive you'll probably at most get low-speed fender-benders. Possibly your car might be totaled, but you aren't that likely to kill anybody. Not like it's some big moral issue.
The Law of Fives is true. I see it everywhere I look for it.