The Duncan Banner

August 25, 2013

It’s kinda scary out on the open road

Jeff Kaley
The Duncan Banner

DUNCAN — It’s been over 10 years since I moved out of sports writing and began writing a column for the editorial page. Every so often this year I’m rerunning a piece from the first year of the transition. This column fired appeared in The Duncan Banner in July 2003.

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Going solo on a 2,000-mile drive through America’s Great Middle gives one a lot of time to observe and ponder.

Recently, I motored from Duncan to the soybean and corn fields of central Illinois where I grew up. The trip took me over virtually every road surface known to humanity — two-lane blacktop, four-lane state highways, interstates, eight-lane city freeways, village streets and gravel roads.

I was on five different interstates during the drive, and every time I came to a construction area (approximately every 32.6 miles), one thing I used to preoccupy myself was to grade the driving ability and knowledge of fellow and fellowette motorists. And let me tell y’all, there are some scary things happening on the open road.

By the time you’ve completed 2,000 miles, realizing how others drive and/or don’t understand basic rules of driving helps you understand road rage.

Here are just a FEW things that drive me crazy about other drivers:

n Turn Signals: That doodad on the left side of the steering column is a TURN SIGNAL! Push it up, it indicates a right turn; push it down, you’re turning left. If you don’t use it when suddenly hanging a “Roscoe” or a “Leroy,” I don’t wanna listen to you whine when the front end of my Thunderbird ends up as a backseat passenger in your BMW!

n Four-Way Stops: Most of us learn the procedure for negotiating a four-way stop in high school driver’s ed, but apparently there’s a retention problem. And I don’t now which is worse, the jerks and jerkettes who go out of turn or the clueless folks who don’t know when it’s their turn.

OK, the rude jerks and jerkettes who roar through a four-way with no regard to other drivers are worse. They shall burn in Hades. But when it comes to maintaining a flow of traffic, the greater sin may be cluelessness.

The goober who sits at a four-way waiting for ALL cars in ALL directions to stop until they can finally figure out it’s their turn to go can be VERY IRRITATING!

Wake up! We alternate! Duh.

n Right Lane, Freeways: It’s the merge lane! Make room!

It’s the duty of people coming down an entrance ramp to reach freeway speed so they can merge smoothly. It’s the duty of people in the right lane to adjust their speed to make room for those merging. Try it. It works!

n Right Lane, Surface Streets: Sorry to dis my elders, but folks from the rumble seat generations have the most problem with this. See, here in the 21st century there’s this thing called “right turn on red.” If you’re going straight, get out of the right turn lane. If you’re in the right turn lane, turn right. That way there aren’t a dozen drivers behind you, cursing the fact you were born.

n Senior Citizens: Once again, forgive the disrespect, but if you’re 80 and are driving 8 miles an hour on a city street — and you’re not looking for a garage sale — I suggest letting a younger person drive. And if driving 40 to 45 miles an hour is your idea of “zipping right along,” please get off the interstate or freeway. Leave the interstates to the Speed Demon Whippersnappers.

n Speed Demon Whippersnappers: It’s amazing any of us — especially teenage males — survive the early years of driving. We do so many foolish and dangerous things.

Note to teenage drivers: Don’t weave through traffic! Back off! Slow down! I don’t really care what your Hemi sounds like! Save some tire rubber and some lives.

n Wreck Rubberneckers: You’ve seen flashing lights before. You’ve seen crumpled cars before. What exactly are you hoping to see while inching your way past an accident? A dismembered head on the highway? Would that make you happy?

n Digit Danglers: Yeah, it’s irritating when another driver isn’t going as fast as you’d like or they stop suddenly or make an unexpected swerve into your lane. But when you flash them “the finger,” all you reveal is your IQ level.

n Sticky Note Chroniclers: When you approach someone who’s driving 78 mph down an interstate, while writing down observations and ponderings on sticky notes, steer clear of that whacko.

Oh, wait a sec. That would be ME!

Uh, never mind.

jeff.kaley@duncanbanner.com