“Since the general civilization of mankind, I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpation” -James Madison

Friday, August 26, 2005


Yeah, gas prices.....

Forget the fact that when adjusted for inflation, we're nowhere near a "record" (see policies, Carter, Jimmah; 1979 and 1980; ~$3.00/gallon).

Forget the fact that everywhere are monster vehicles running huge V-8's at 80+ mph with AC blasting full, tailgating anyone with the Nerve to drive at anything under c.

Forget the fact that, like air accidents, the majority of auto accidents can be prevented with breaking 1 link of a chain of consequences.

I grew up in rural Kansas. I know there are people who NEED trucks and SUVs. I now live in Atlanta, and I know that if you have more than 2 kids then governmental interference has created a false need for the SUV. Some businesses require vans, pickups, SUVs. The average family driver does not, and the behemoth-mobile is vanity.

One claim is the alleged safety of the SUV. This is a silly argument -- if one avoids having the accident in the first place, then it doesn't matter whether your Explorer has a higher crash rating than my Civic. To PLAN on an accident (i.e., buying the insurance policy in the form of a bigger, heavier vehicle) is illogical, and gives one a false sense of security. Having a behemoth doesn't free one from the laws of physics, a fact that seems to escape many drivers of these things.

I have yet to encounter a need for a Hummer in Atlanta (or any other city), unless you count the ice storm of 2000, which is irrelevant because everything was shut down anyway and roads were choked with crashed cars. Yeah, your Hummer could go around 'em in the ditch, BUT TO WHERE?????

Anyway, this little diatribe is brought to you as an appeal. An appeal to common sense. An appeal to manners. An appeal to community safety.

What exactly is wrong with driving the speed limit, especially in the slower lanes? What exactly is wrong with slowing down to 25 in the school zone when the lights are on?

I drive a 2001 Honda Civic -- 4 cylinder gas (not hybrid), manual transmission, cruise control. Not huge, not powerful, not fast (although quite zippy eventually if one is so inclined). As the result of gas prices starting to rise a couple of years ago, and a couple of excessive-speed and tailgating scares on my part, plus previous tickets for speeding, I decided to try a bold and daring experiment in summer 2003:

I decided to try driving defensively and within the speed limit.

My results have been quite successful: Efficiency of mileage has gone up (38 MPG city, 43 external highway), stress has gone down (no longer "jockeying for position"), and shock of shocks: it doesn't take me any longer to get anywhere than it used to. I used to HATE driving, and I'm still not a huge fan of it, but the daily commute is no longer the chore it used to be for me, and my overall stress in life has gone significantly down, and it is attributable to this change in behavior. The recent spike in gas prices is but a small annoyance to me, as it costs me approximately $10 more per month than it did 2 years ago. Big deal.

Please don't misunderstand my stance -- I'm not anti-SUV, and I'm not an enviro-weenie (quite the opposite; I wish I had some oil under my yard so I could drill for it), and I'm not out to be a renegade driver.

Just try it for a week or two, perhaps start at your next fillup and keep the behavior till the following one. Drive the speed limit and no faster (maybe +5 if you must). Stop tailgating -- everyone will be happier and safer. Cool it with the NASCAR driving; take your time, and let someone merge in front of you. It's not going to take you any longer, and if the guy in front really is too slow, THERE WILL BE A GAP that you can pass in. Forcing it is dangerous and moronic.

I actually am for local and state crackdowns on speeding and dangerous driving. Once the tickets start, the behavior changes. Works every time it's tried. I'm not a fan of Big Brother, but roadways are public places and if the people can't govern their own behavior then it is a matter for The People to do so.

Hippie? Nope.
Nerd? Probably.
Nice guy? For the most part.
Conservative? You bet.
Libertarian? As much as I realistically can be.

No tickets, no accidents, no real scares (other than those caused by other drivers) since my self-governing behavior has started, and my insurance rates have lowered while the fuel efficiency has risen.

What do you have to lose? You're gonna be stuck in traffic anyway; may as well relax a little and not be a headache or danger to yourself or others.


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