Darrell Berkheimer: Impatience is the major cause of road rage | TheUnion.com

Darrell Berkheimer: Impatience is the major cause of road rage

Darrell Berkheimer
Columnist

The recent example of "road rage" in Grass Valley has prompted me to cite the serious risks I observe each time I drive on the highways in this area — especially Highway 49.

For me, those risks are magnified by 60 years and millions of miles of driving experience.

And nearly all of those risks result from impatience, speeding, and tailgating.

Is the saving of several seconds — or even a couple minutes — worth risking possible hours of lost time, the cost of vehicle repairs, and maybe injuries and death?

“Don’t spend those three or four seconds you saved all at one place.”

Recommended Stories For You

In so many of the situations, it's really only seconds that are involved.

For example, how many times have you watched other drivers swing out to the left lane to pass another vehicle, and then immediately turn off onto an exit ramp?

When I see that, in my mind I tell that driver: "Don't spend those three or four seconds you saved all at one place."

Various other examples occur in the risks I see every time I drive between Grass Valley and Auburn. And it's all about impatient drivers trying to speed from one place to another.

How often have we watched drivers on Highway 49 pass others on the right — when they know that the right lane ends only a couple hundred yards ahead?

And what do they gain when they merely get behind another string of cars ahead of the one they just passed?

Again, in my mind — and sometimes out loud to a passenger who is with me — I remark how foolish, and dangerous, that driver is acting.

It was 60 years ago when I got my first driver's license. And I recently calculated that since then I have driven more than 3 million miles without any involvement in an injury accident — except for a minor whiplash.

Even as I report that, however, I must admit that in some instances it was more dumb luck than any other reason that I was not involved in a serious injury crash.

Nearly half of my 3 million miles experience was personal travel, with some of it back and forth across our nation — because I have lived in Pennsylvania, Utah, Georgia, Texas, New Mexico, Delaware, Montana, Oregon, and now California.

And more than one-and-a-half million miles were accumulated during the 13-plus years that I drove 18-wheelers coast to coast.

During all those miles, I have watched many drivers do stupid things. And that includes me as well.

I have seen many crashes — and many, many more near accidents. The vast majority of them resulted from impatience, speeding and tailgating.

The worst injuries and deaths that I observed occurred early in my newspaper career, when I was a young reporter who went to the scenes of some of those accidents. I will never forget seeing the body that was decapitated.

And there's nothing much worse than going to a head-on crash involving children. That's when I watched a 6-foot-plus state trooper break down and cry.

If those thoughts bother you a little — good. Think about them the next time you are in a hurry.

Of course, I've been guilty, too, of being in a hurry for no good reason. I can recall trying to speed with the big truck both ways across I-40 and I-15 east of Barstow. Yes, traffic can get heavy in those desolate areas with summertime drivers going to and from Lake Mead and Las Vegas.

Finally, I got into the habit of telling myself: "What's the hurry. At most, I could probably only save 10 to 15 minutes."

I've also been guilty of tapping the brakes and slowing down on purpose to aggravate a driver who has been tailgating me — perhaps establishing the atmosphere for some road rage.

Then there are those times in heavy traffic when we allow for a nice safety space in front, and some impatient driver speeds by, darts in front of us and takes away that safety space.

Also irritating to truckers are those drivers who travel in the left lane not far from the end of the trailer. It appears they mindlessly are waiting to trap the truck behind a slower vehicle — making it unsafe for the truck driver to pull out to pass as the four-wheeler slowly strolls by the truck.

Those drivers don't realize how dangerous it is to continue driving near the end of that trailer. Quite likely the tires on the rear of that trailer are recaps; and if a recap flies off — as they sometimes do, especially in summer — that four-wheeler could be in serious danger.

I have seen the damage those recap treads can do. They can bend thick steel beams under the trailer.

Another situation that I will never really understand is why some drivers actually will slow down when they pull from the right lane into the left lane to pass. Does that make any sense?

The proper way to pass is to pull into the left lane, accelerate, pass as quickly and safely as possible, and then return to the right lane.

Also, many drivers seem to be untrained in how to properly use a freeway on-ramp. On-ramps are designed to be acceleration lanes so that drivers can safely merge into freeway traffic.

Drivers should not wait until they get all the way out into the right lane to accelerate up to freeway speeds. Nor should they be forcing traffic in the right lane to move into the left lane as they slowly dawdle onto the freeway — most especially when freeway traffic is heavy. And truck drivers may not be able to move over because of passing traffic in the left lane — a car or two that the on-ramp driver might not be able to see because of the truck blocking that line of sight.

This is just a sampling of the many dangers that truck drivers observe and talk about. But the issues that I cannot emphasize too much are impatience, speeding and tailgating.

It's somewhat amazing to me that our traffic death rates have not soared higher on both the East and West coasts, because so many of the drivers in those heavy traffic corridors follow entirely too closely at high speeds.

And finally, there is no doubt in my mind that most, if not all, of the road rage results from impatience.

Darrell Berkheimer, who lives in Grass Valley, is a frequent contributor to The Union. He is the author of five books available through Amazon. Contact him at mtmrnut@yahoo.com.