A few weeks ago we got a book in the mail called “Why We Feel Road Rage… and Why It’s Your Fault!” by a guy named David Allan. In it, he writes exhaustively about the stupid and annoying habits people tend to have while driving.
“Exhaustively” might not be exactly the right word, but the large-format paperback is more than 220 pages long. Granted, it’s also filled with diagrams and illustrations, so it isn’t all prose. But Allan clearly has a beef with the American driving public at large.
I don’t blame him, because I’ve got the same beef. Americans on the whole aren’t very good drivers. Allan essentially breaks the human race into two people “types”: Type A, and Type F. You can probably figure out what both of those letters represent. The Fs, Allan argues, can be subsequently be classified as one of three sub-classes: morons, who are basically just clueless nitwits; twits, who are essentially just inherently inconsiderate; and jerks, whose sole mission in life is to intentionally piss people off.
I don’t really agree with the Two Type system, because I don’t things are quite that black and white. I really think the root of the problem is that Americans on the whole simply weren’t taught how to drive. I really think it comes down to a lack of training and discipline. I do not think American driver-licensing programs are out to teach people how to really drive, well and efficiently; as with so many other bureaucratic government programs, this one is just out to make a buck. Therefore the training is very cursory, not at all as in-depth as it should be, and as a result invariably turns out unenlightened, substandard drivers.
If you want a good illustration of just how bad our driving is, check out Germany sometime. Germans have got to be the best and most disciplined drivers on the planet. Most German autobahnen are only two or three lanes wide, and yet I’ve never been stuck in slow-moving traffic in Germany. Contrast that with a highway like the Golden State Freeway, Interstate 5, which in places is up to five or six lanes wide in both directions and has the potential to be one of the most nightmarish drives you’ll ever face.
See, the Germans employ a rather foreign concept known as lane discipline, in which the leftmost lanes—especially the very leftmost lane—is used only for passing. Slower traffic stays right, and if a fast-moving vehicle comes up on you as you’re in a lefthand lane, for whatever reason, you get the hell out of the way the second it’s safe to do so.
Lane discipline is just one example of Germany’s utterly efficient driving philosophy. Then again, acquiring a driver license in Germany is an arduous and expensive process. As with so many other things, we as Americans are simply spoiled by a cursory licensing process and relatively cheap fees. But the more drivers the system can churn out, however inadequately trained, the more those fees add up. Not to mention a deplorable unfamiliarity with the vehicle code—which our licensing process by and large affords American drivers—leaves you vulnerable to citation by various law enforcement agencies. And then the fees REALLY start to add up.
Conspiracy theory? I don’t think it’s really all that far-fetched.
In the meantime, if you need some humorous bathroom reading material, check out Dave Allan’s book at www.roadragebook.com.