On Driving

Written by Mike Parish, Illustrated by Dan Tarnowski
On Driving

Dangers Of Driving

Every year in the U.S., over 40,000 people die in driving related accidents. That’s about 120 people per day. If somebody told you that over a lifetime of driving your chances of being one of these people was 1 in 100, would you be all right with that? Is it morally acceptable to allow people to drive as much as they want with the known fact that a certain amount of people are going to die? Are you all right with the chances?

Down The Street

Only for the past one hundred years have people really been driving. Like with other shared cultural behavior, it is interesting to wonder how much driving has changed people. For instance, has driving made life more stressful?

Our lives today must be very different from those of our great-great-great grandparents. We are much more mobile and have the ability to travel long distances and arguably are able to do more because we can drive. Our culture has evolved as cars and driving has evolved, and the development of roads, as discussed yesterday, is a visible artifact of the change.

On a cross country trip in an automobile, one quickly notices how the entire landscape and highway system revolves around refueling, eating and sleeping. Trucks transport goods, especially food, across the country, and if it weren’t for driving we would not have as many choices at the supermarkets and department stores. It is actually quite dumbfounding how much our lives have been benefited from the ability to drive materials around.

The Act Itself

Driving is a complex operation disguised as a simple one. From the way that a car is built, we are able to manipulate the machine easily; it really does not take any special skill to drive other than practice. Some people are worse at it than others, and these are the people you have to watch out for, but nearly anyone who is not afraid of the road can perform the task with a fairly high success rate.

It’s all about coordination. Some people are so coordinated, (or believe themselves to be), that they can operate all sorts of other devices and perform additional functions while driving, such as text messaging, listening to music, talking to others, talking on the phone, eating, drinking, and some people even do all of these things while intoxicated. We’ve become a society of multi-taskers.

On the road, my mantra goes something like this: I could be the best driver in the world, but if the guy next to me isn’t, I can still get into an accident. It is not so much myself that I have to worry about, but everybody else. If you get a few multi-taskers together who misperform one of their tasks, there could be trouble.

Sometimes I make stupid moves while driving. Sometimes people around me do. Sometimes I am able to cover for those people and sometimes those people are able to cover for me. People can react in a fashion that averts disaster; if somebody makes a left turn and an oncoming vehicle slows, crisis solved. But accidents seem to occur the most with two drivers who are both stubborn or who both misjudge or who both make a poor call. But this isn’t to say that one person can’t cause a problem as well.

Road Rage

I have personally never been nor witnessed other drivers possessed by the phenomenon known as road rage. But judging by the amount of stories I’ve heard, about people pulling guns on others or people following other people back to their homes to scream at them, road rage must be a frightening experience.

The speed at which we travel could potentially be speeding up something in our minds or bodies. At certain points when driving down the road, I’ll get an adrenaline boost if it looks like someone is about to careen into me or cut me off. Can this be considered a natural reaction?

This is an example of how something humans have created has effects on the human mind and body that could not be foreseen at the time of its creation. If those moments of near collision induce an adrenaline response, it is possible that eventually, only moments that are equally as intense will garner the same response, making humans less sensitive to other situations where adrenaline is also required.

While road rage may not have to do with an adrenaline reaction, it is something that some people, who I imagine are already prone to madness and bad tempers, are more susceptible to. Again, the speed at which these people are “called to arms” over what they perceive to be offensive traffic maneuvers seems to correlate with the speed of today’s world.

Phantom Drivers

A car seems to give people a license to do all sorts of things that they would never do elsewhere or in public. Most people are not as aggressive when face to face with others, but put them inside a car and watch a new personality develop. Cars and driving become an extension of people. We are the souls of cars. Driving is an experience we share with a car: imagine all the cars at rest parked on all the city streets at night; they have no ability alone.

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