Living (Driving) Dangerously…

I’ve been living in Southern California for nearly 27 years. 

I will admit it—I’ve never enjoyed living here.

There, I said it…

I am here because career brought me here. 

Great weather… Alternative Society…

When I moved here for the second time in 1994, I had to ask myself why I came back. Most disturbing to me about Los Angeles was the reckless nature of the way people drove here.  Unsafe speeds.  Distracted driving.  Cutting one another off at any price including getting your ass kicked at the next traffic light.  That “me first…” demeanor.  “I’m late-I’m late—for a very important date…” and my needs are more important than yours.  Everything, including one’s self, is more important than doing what you’re supposed to be doing at the time—focusing on driving and making safety your highest priority. 

Gotta make that next appointment in Anaheim.

I’m an East Coast boy who has always believed Californians drove at outrageously high speeds and rather recklessly at that.  We maim and kill a lot of people here—with spectacular freeway crashes, road rage shootings, red light runners, distracted driving, pedestrian hit and runs, and the rest of it.  Irresponsible driving and reckless disregard for traffic laws seems to be what we are in California. 

Rolling stops or what’s known as a “California Stop…” 

Yep, there’s a ticket for that…

However—reckless driving isn’t just for California anymore.  California didn’t invent reckless driving either.  Dangerous driving is a given from coast to coast and border to border hence the great advances in automobile safety.  Automakers have become obsessed with taking control of an automobile away from motorists in order to make driving safer. We cannot be trusted at the wheel anymore.  Automatic braking and steering.  Warning lights and chimes.  Air bags.  Three-point shoulder belts.  Padded dashboards.  Flush door handles.   

Yet, there’s always some idiot out there among us who believes they can beat the train or make the red.

I’ve traveled this nation extensively and have been in 49 out of 50 states.  North Dakota remains unexplored.  I’ve never been there.  I’ll bet North Dakota’s roadways are a whole lot safer than California’s or Florida’s.  The reasons for that are obvious.  There are way fewer motorists on North Dakota’s roads.  People tend to be more civilized in North Dakota.  As you wander the Northern Plains, it’s challenging to find anyone.  It gets lonely up there and there’s always some poor slob chanting, “Where is everybody?!!!”

Just kidding…  I love the great American heartland.

My travels have taken me to a lot of great—and not so great—American cities.  In each place, I’ve found the roads have become more dangerous.  There’s less focus on safe driving and greater attention paid to getting there fast.  Plenty of distracted driving.  Always someone on your back bumper, which reminds me.  I have a passive-aggressive approach to tailgaters.  I obstruct…  I don’t jump on the brakes—nah—that can get you a bloody lip or a gunshot wound. 

I slowly ease off the accelerator and let the eternally frustrated pass. 

The most aggressive driving I’ve seen anywhere is Detroit and the I-90 corridor between Toledo and Cleveland.  I love Detroit.  However, there’s a mean spirit around Motown. People are just plain frustrated and angry.  However, Detroit is slowly coming around and heading back toward being the great city it used to be.  True Detroiters care about this city and are infusing new energy into the troubled community. 

Quicken Loans is leading the charge. 

Detroit will be great again…

Friends, seems we’ve forgotten the primary reason why we’re behind the wheel—to get there safe and alive.  Baby Boomers remember Driver’s Education in high school.  I’ve never forgotten what I learned in Driver’s Ed 50 years ago.  We got classroom time, drove simulators, and navigated in large full-size battle wagons.  We were shown the “guts in the gutter” crash films.  We were educated in the proper way to operate a motor vehicle.  Those basic fundamentals of driving have never left me.  They’re as automatic as that waltz to the bathroom to pee at 3 a.m. 

Rules of the road—traffic laws—are there for the safety and wellbeing of the citizens of any community.  These laws haven’t changed much nor have the fines and points for those who’ve chosen to ignore them. 

There for a reason. 

The most dangerous people I’ve seen on the road are young millennials.  I don’t want to sound down on young people. I’ve been a young people. I’ve also been young and stupid.  However, whenever I see some crazy stunt on the freeway, like passing on the shoulder at 100 or roaring through heavy traffic like it’s a video game, it’s a millennial.  The difference between a video game and the freeway is—when you crash at 100, you get dead.  Game Over…  Your parents, grandparents, siblings and friends get to grieve when you’ve passed all of us up. 

No time to drive with civility…

However, it is time to slow down and enjoy the drive.  I am preaching to the choir because boomers remember and understand the rules of the road and how to behave behind the wheel.  And, as we grow older, we grow smarter and remember what we were taught a lifetime ago.  We were raised by a largely responsible generation of great Americans acquainted us with the consequences of behaving irresponsibly. 

We got our butts kicked.

We also remember the emotional pain of burying our dead from traffic accidents back in the day.  My graduating class witnessed the deaths of two fellow students to traffic accidents.  One was killed right in front of his house in a drunk driving accident.  He was a passenger and the victim of a night of “hacking” with buddies. 

We were young and foolish too.   

We’ve just forgotten that we were.

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