Driving down the road? It's a democracy

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By Angye Morrison

I’ve been experimenting over the past week. I decided to drive the speed limit. No pushing the limit, no the-cops-won’t-notice-if-I-go-a-mile-or-two-over attitude...none of that. I’ve driven the speed limit wherever I’ve gone, no excuses.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m as guilty as the next person of pushing the speed limit. When I’ve run late, I’ve driven faster than I should. I admit it. But this past week, I decided to do the right thing.

And it’s been a real education.

I’ve seen that there aren’t many folks around here who adhere to the speed limit. There are lots of folks who figure no one will notice or care if they drive a few miles over the limit. I’m not sure why they do it. Perhaps they get some sort of thrill from it. Maybe they get an adrenaline rush each time they break the law.

There are a few folks who seem determined to operate their vehicles at a speed that’s less than the posted limit. I’m not sure about that one, either. Maybe they are also thumbing their noses at authority, much like their speed-demon counterparts.

But I’ve found there are few of us who strive to hit the mark...very few.

And while on my quest to be a law abiding citizen in my car, I’ve seen some pretty interesting behavior from drivers who were, let’s just say, less than patient with me...those who drive around me at a fast pace, signaling their displeasure that I’ve slowed them down, even for a nano-second.

First of all, there are those who slow down a bit as they pass, while screaming who-knows-what at me. I could see that they were screaming at me, but it doesn’t matter what they’re screaming. I couldn’t hear it. Not one word of it. Maybe it was helpful to them to yell at me. Didn’t do a thing for me, though.

Then there are those who I call the intimidators. Those are the ones who drive around me, but slow down just enough so that I can clearly seem them scowl at me. That look is meant to put me in my place, I’m sure. I’m not quite sure where that place is, however.

My favorites are those who drive past me while giving me the old single-finger salute. You just have to love those folks. They’re so funny. Like sticking one finger up in the air in my general direction will do anything to change their circumstances or mine.

I also found, during my little experiment, that the rear-view mirror is not your friend when you drive the speed limit. You look back one second, and there’s a small dot in the distance. You look again, and there’s a monster truck right behind you, flashing his lights as if to say, “Get the heck outta my way or suffer the consequences!”

There are statistics out there that supports the assumption that either of us may one day be killed in a car accident. After my experiment, I’m inclined to believe that might come not as you would expect, in an accident, but rather at the hand of some disgruntled in-a-hurry jerk who doesn’t understand that we aren’t driving the Daytona 500 here...we’re all just trying to get from A to B.

It’s a proven fact that driving a little slower saves gas. Although gas prices are a lot easier on the wallet these days, we can all remember recent days when that wasn’t the case. It would seem prudent, then, to drive the stinkin’ speed limit.

So...let’s take inventory...driving the speed limit will save us money, save our sanity and help save lives. So why don’t we do it?

It’s because we live in a microwave society that values speed. Get it done quicker and easier. That’s society’s mantra.

So as I stared this week in my rear-view mirror at the dead bugs on the grill of the monster truck traveling closely behind me, I found myself thinking that driving is pure democracy in action. The car you drive may indicate your socio-economic status but on the road, you can’t buy rights-of-way. The Escalade is equal to the 1974 VW Super Beetle.

Your driving habits reveal a lot about you in this context. Either you see driving as ideally a win-win situation, in which we'll all get where we have to go if we are just courteous and fair to each other. Or you see it as a gauntlet, an amoral world where you either get ahead or you fall behind, where you do what you can get away with and only suckers pay attention to speed limits.

So as I continue to drive the speed limit as posted, be nice to me and I’ll return the favor. No more birdies, flashing headlights or dirty looks.

And if we’re lucky, we’ll both make it to our destinations on time and in one piece.