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Driving can bring out the worst in some of us

Some drivers’ short fuses are leading to long-term consequences. Others just don’t seem to be thinking clearly when they get into their cars. And for others, life may just not have caught up with them ... yet.

It doesn’t take a hardcore sociologist or psychologist or traffic cop to make the case that more and more drivers are acting more aggressively. You see displays of angst and other emotions from fellow drivers almost every day, be you driving on Country Club, Highway 43 or Interstate 5.

Drivers can be in such a hurry at times when conditions call for slowing down. Little things anger some, and those can add up, and before you know it, people have reached their melting point.

In a non-scientific approach to helping calm us all down along life’s highways and byways, here are some observations based on actual happenings on our community roadways:

Road rage. If a fellow driver’s actions can throw you into a rage, well, then truth be told, you probably shouldn’t be doing a lot of things, especially driving. If seething and anger accompany you when you get behind the wheel, then seek out counseling and leave the driving to almost anyone else. Take public transit. Take your meds. When you talk to police officers about road rage, it is clear that it is a growing problem. More and more people are bristling, screaming, following other drivers and just going bonkers. And the anger seems to be escalating.

Comedian Louis C.K. does a bit about road rage, pointing out the obvious: Some people become completely different when they sit down behind the steering wheel. They become nasty, they yell insults and four-letter words that are out of character, they even tell people they should drop dead. If this hits close to home, do something positive to make it better.

Late turns. Here’s the scenario: You know as you head down the hill on Country Club that when you get to the bottom, you will be turning right onto Kruse Way. For some reason, you and a number of other drivers feel compelled to stay in that left lane all the way down, racing to pick up speed before trying to cut in front of the vehicles on the right. Don’t do it. It’s dangerous and it can lead to road rage (see above).

Turning right from the left lane. We will just keep this creative use of scenarios going for a while: Imagine that you are driving up A Avenue from State Street and you are in the left lane as you approach Fourth Street. This is neither the time nor place to make one of your patented right turns into the Safeway parking lot. Way back before Second Street, you should have safely angled over to the right lane. Cutting across two lanes of traffic to make a turn is not only dangerous and foolish, it’s against the law.

Running stoplights. Think about those colors of green, yellow and red. These are not just the colors that make up the national flags of Benin, Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Republic of the Congo, Grenada, Guinea, Lithuania, Mali and Senegal. These colors have meanings and here’s a hint: When green turns to yellow, that’s not the time to gun your SUV and see what happens. This is an accident waiting to happen. Yet, with a bit more patience on your part, it can become a non-issue.

Rolling stop signs. Similar to running stoplights, this is another bad practice that just begs a knock on the noggin. Actions have consequences and the consequences here can have life-altering results.

Bright beams. Come on folks. Seriously. Just because you have fog lights, high beams, 2 million watt halogen over lights and all sorts of other bright lights on your car doesn’t mean you need to use them all. Especially when you are driving behind a small sedan on Iron Mountain Boulevard after the sun goes down or heading home down Kruse Way from a long day in Beaverton. Sure, it’s great for you to see everything including the number of nose hairs in the oncoming drivers’ nostrils, but it’s blinding and maddening to those forced to try to see the road. It used to be that the universal signal to alert oncoming traffic about high beams was to flash your lights. Now that can lead to a recipe for raging (again, see above). And nobody has developed a signal yet for how to handle those bright lights coming up behind you. Recognize yourself here? Then dial back your lights.

Following too closely. Remember back in the days when you had to study to pass a test to get your driver’s license? Remember studying that little formula about the number of car lengths you should stay behind the vehicle in front of you to keep things safe? Remember how many of you now throw that formula out the window as you drive closer than some dentists get to their patients’ mouths? It’s a real problem. It’s wrong. It’s illegal. And it’s dangerous. Give your fellow drivers some space.

And while technically not on the emotional side of the driving spectrum, here are a couple more things for motorists to think about:

Don’t drink and drive. International campaigns have been dedicated to this topic yet still people persist in combining these two things that definitely don’t go together. When you read the Lake Oswego Review police log every week, you will see a number of folks you might know who have made this very mistake. It can have deadly consequences. It’s stupid and drunken drivers can end up paying for their mistake for the rest of their lives. Or with their lives. Or with someone else’s life.

Car fixes. Some items on a vehicle can wear down and it’s no big deal. For instance, your radio can stop working or your backseat DVD player can get jammed or your air conditioning can come out a tad too warm. These are little deals. Big deals are those things that affect public safety and other drivers. For instance, a fairly common solution to having a light go out is to put the remaining light on bright. No kidding, the answer to not buying a new light is to blind your fellow drivers? Brakes not working? What could happen there?

And on and on.

Be smart. Be safe. Be vigilant. And be aware.

And slow down, turn it down, stop when appropriate and pay attention. People are precious. Don’t get in a car, turn the key and watch yourself turn into an idiot.




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