Technology, driving style and love

It was a MIRACLE. A sudden power outage in downtown Dallas had darkened all the traffic signals. In New England, my stomping grounds, this would have been akin to waving the start flag at a demolition derby.

Instead, I watched in awe as drivers took turns going through intersections. This civilized behavior made me wonder if I’d been beamed to a better world.

It appears that one key to safety is knowing where you are (you’d a thunk I’d have learned that years ago).

In New England we treat stop signs as suggestions and feel that using directional signals is giving Big Brother too much information.

While driving a coach on the crowded Brooklyn Queens Expressway (BQE), an SUV began merging from my right, assuming he could muscle the bus over into an occupied lane. He kept coming until the bus’s trim knocked off his exterior mirror (you know the $800 heated, electrically adjusted type). The coach’s rear duals quickly ended its misery.

Two lessons learned… BQE drivers apparently think SUVs trump buses, and… DO NOT stop to exchange papers during the afternoon commute. Even the SUV guy thought it was folly. Apparently mirrors are “wear items” and he had a box full of spares.

I had just moved to Atlanta in 1968 when it snowed nearly a half-inch. This being the South, virtually every car cowered in its garage. I OWNED that town with a rear engine VW Beetle. Sissies.

Every region has its driving quirks, so, even at my age, I try to remember where I am.

Technology has introduced new wrinkles to driving style, too. In ye olden days, with tepid brakes, manual steering, stick shifts and tiny weenie engines, good drivers gave consideration to things like merging, stopping, turning and passing. No need to employ thinking today. Modern coaches do all that stuff like a race car.

Eagle had installed an (illegal) 550-horsepower 8V92 in a 40-foot demo. Exiting a toll booth, a new BMW tried to beat me to the lane merge. WHAT was he thinking? The Beemer won, but it was close.

Flinging passengers around the interior of a coach, no matter how luxurious, impairs their ability to tip, so new technology can be a mixed blessing.

Fast forward 30 years and now we have driver’s seats that vibrate if you change lanes without signaling. Took a while to get used to that shaking seat. It seems likely it was prototyped on Sing Sing’s Death Row. It’s taught me to use directionals the same way an electric fence teaches cows not to stray.

Adaptive Cruise Control pays attention to following distance even if we don’t. The trouble is that, if we get TOO close, it sometimes makes embarrassing noises and flashes red, interrupting our nap and pointing out our folly to front-row passengers. When irritated, it can apply the brakes in a way guaranteed to tick off cars following us while flinging all our customers about. Refer back to the sentence about tipping.

A friend who drives ships off the Alaska coast pointed out that a key to not bumping things is predictability. She points out that navigation is both universal and subject to local custom and conditions. You really DO want to have some idea of what folks are gonna do.

The electronic nannies seem to be changing my style. I’ve been signaling more to avoid the driver’s seat imitating an electric chair. I watch following distances so the cruise control doesn’t slap me (and my passengers) around.

Someone famous once said “You can’t legislate love,” but apparently you can engineer it.

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