Speeding, Tailgating & Road Rage, Oh, My!

Now this is far from an isolated incident, but it’s an excellent example of one of the things that really torques me, and it just happened minutes ago.We live in a sprawling residential development with miles of twisting roads all posted with a 30mph speed limit. Now, I’m no goody two-shoes and I’ve bent a few laws, including traffic laws, now and again like the next guy, so don’t think I’m looking down my nose at drivers from a gilded pedestal, but why must people treat those abiding by the speed limit like they’re assholes?

First some background. At some point in my late twenties I outgrew the thrill of speeding for fun, and believe me, I enjoyed that adolescent phase like any other new driver drunk with the freedom of a shiny new driver’s license. So while I’m only in my mid thirties, I can often be seen grandpa-ing along city streets & interstates at the (gasp!) posted speed limit. And it’s not that I’m worried about getting a ticket, afraid of losing control of my car or altruistically devoted to obeying the law, I just don’t see the need to speed. And there are two basic reasons:

  1. Scientifically Unnecessary Being the nerd I am, I’ve actually timed trips I take frequently (to/from work, other side of town, etc.) both strictly following and then exceeding the posted speed limits. I’ve found that once you factor in a traffic light or two, even going 20mph above the posted limits you never arrive more than about 2 minutes ahead of just following the limit.
  2. Lower Stress Level It happens to everyone, I think. You crest a hill and spot a patrol car parked in the median and the I-got-caught adrenaline reaction kicks in: the hair on the back of your neck stands up, your heart leaps into your throat and whether you’re speeding or not, your foot instinctively taps the brake. I hate that feeling! I have plenty of unavoidable stress in my life without the panic attack of wondering if over the next hill is a traffic citation with my name on it. My self-imposed personal rule of obeying the speed limit means I never worry about where cops might be hiding with their radar guns. Shoot me with it, I don’t care. I’ve got my cruise control locked at the posted speed — but you’re welcome to pull over the guy behind me acting like I’m a prick.

So back to what happened this morning. I was taking my daughter to school, which is only about two miles away through strictly residential two-lane streets all posted with a 30mph speed limit. So up behind me comes Mr. Peppy who has made either a conscious or uniwitting decision to go as fast as possible through my neighborhood without actually spinning out into the ditch. Now again, I’d rather he slow down on general principle, but I don’t begrudge him the right to speed and take all the associated risks if he wants. What I do take exception to is running right up on my bumper and looking all distraught and peeved because I had the audacity to get in his way.

Try to picture it: I’m crusing along at 30mph and Señor Speedy is accellerating & braking behind me like a yo-yo hooked to my trailer hitch, craning his neck and weaving back and forth looking for a chance to pass me on the double-yellow lined no passing area, and intermittently throwing both hands in the air in disbelief that the gods have thrown such an awful obstacle in his path.

Get it through your skull, Bob Breakneck, I’m the one who is following the rules. The reason you’re inconvenienced is not my choice to go 30, but your choice to go 50 in a 30 zone until you run up behind someone who is not dismissing the law. I’m not the jerk in this scenario, and in fact, until you started acting like I kicked your puppy, you weren’t either. Understand that the only reason you’re on my bumper right now is not because I’m going too slow, but because you were going so damned fast you caught up with those who were going the appropriate speed and now you’re stuck.

This certainly won’t be the last I have to say about driving, just wait until I get started on turn signals…

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