Near Miss Heightens Driving Paranoia

adventure-automobile-automotive-787476BY KATHY P. BEHAN

I almost lost someone I love today through the ignorance and impatience of a 17-year-old girl. She decided she had waited long enough at a stop sign, and accelerated right into the oncoming traffic. By good fortune, the only casualties were the cars involved in the crash — not their occupants.

My relief at knowing that my “friend” and this girl were all right, quickly turned into a burning and consuming rage. How could she do something so stupid? What, if anything, was she thinking? And so, for the rest of the day, I alternately gave thanks to God for sparing my loved one, and watching the drivers around me with a suspiciousness that bordered on paranoia.

For the next few days, I witnessed several horn-blaring, tire-screeching, wild swerving near misses in the time that I drove. People, what is going on? To begin with, tailgating seems to be as common as collisions (501 car accidents last year just in our town alone, according to a recent report). It seems as if you can’t drive for more than five minutes without some moron zooming up and trying to impale him- or herself on your rear bumper.

Young drivers aren’t the only ones guilty of this. I’ve seen everyone from middle-aged housewives to business people to oldsters engaging in this reckless practice. It’s more understandable but still not condonable, when the car being tailgated is going below the speed limit, but I’ve been in cars traveling at a high rate of speed that were still being harassed by the driver behind them.

Another peculiar and treacherous practice occurs when you’re on a main road but are trying to make a left-hand turn onto a side street. A driver stopped, but about to come out of that side street, expects you to let them make their own left turn in front of your car. How did this ridiculous behavior begin, not to mention, become so widespread?

Drivers, we really need to take stock here. We need to become much more conscious and careful of our behavior when we’re at the wheel. Does it really matter if we arrive at our destination a few minutes later because we drove without speeding? Can lateness for anything really be more important than our lives, or those of the people we love? Just think of what it would be like to know you’re responsible for someone’s death, especially that of a child.

So if you’d ever like to pass me on the road, go right ahead. I’m busy taking care of the infinitely precious people in my car, so I really don’t care if you get ahead of me. But if you do drive as if you’re out for blood — just make sure it’s your own.

Kathy P. Behan, a mother of three, is a nationally published freelance writer, specializing in health and family issues.

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