Everyone is in a hurry these days. I’m just as guilty as the next driver — for the love of Pete, don’t put along in the left lane of I-95 — but I instinctively drive more cautiously in residential areas, parking lots and other tricky areas.
This didn’t make a difference to three drivers within the last 24 hours.
On a clear sunny afternoon, I braked suddenly on a wide 2-lane road. By habit, I glanced at my rear-view mirror to confirm that mine was the only car on the road. As I began accelerating five seconds later (after the squirrel made it back to the sidewalk), I saw a car advancing quickly behind me. Without slowing down, the driver passed me on the right. Ahead were two lanes, and I hoped he was turning right. When he turned on his left blinker and cut in front of me to the left lane, I honked and raised my hands in question. He could not have seen a child or animal in front of my car, and yet my brake lights were not enough of a warning.
At dawn the next morning, as I drove on a 2-lane road in a residential area, a car behind me was not pleased at my rate of acceleration from the stoplight. He zoomed up behind me close enough to where I couldn’t see his front grille and, as soon as a second lane became available, he cut over and took off.
Finally, at the same intersection later the same day, another vehicle did the same thing soon after I merged into traffic. I accelerated to five miles over the speed limit in response to her tailgating, and within seconds she passed me in the left lane like I was standing still.
I’m no innocent. I’ve spent my time on Washington roads. I’ve commuted on the Beltway. I've been in the "parking lots" known as Route 50 and Route 236. I’ve done my share of short merges, cutoffs, accelerated passing, blocking “the box” and even once, to my horror, passed a stopped school bus. I’ve left late and tried to make up the time with creative weaving through traffic. I know the difference a few minutes can make — the road outside my house at 8:25 am turns into a different world five minutes later.
However, I also know how long it takes to wait for a police officer to arrive on the scene after my car is hit by a speeding driver, an inattentive driver, a harried driver who thought his car could “make it.” I have helped a friend find out how long it takes for a child to come out after surgery due to an auto accident.
When I drive, I try very hard to remember that for every bonehead thing I’ve done, there’s someone out there not only trying to do the same thing, but possibly with a bigger car and very likely with less driving experience. I am not perfect, but I try to be cautious because I know how precious the other drivers or their passengers are to someone else — and possibly even to me.