Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Why Older People Drive More Cautiously

When I was young, I was a speed demon.  I clocked 140 MPH on a major freeway in 1985.  I was pulled over for going 101 MPH on the 405 in Westminster, California in 1989 (I got the ticket revised down to 75 MPH by using some twisted logic presented to a traffic clerk that I will not explain here).  I was one of those lane switching assholes that would come up from behind you and then pass you on the left or right at the first opportunity, no matter how fast you were driving.  I once drove from Quebec City to Boston in about 5 hours.  In Rhode Island I was pulled over, not for breaking the law, but for driving like "a Masshole", as the cop called me.  He was right.

The last time I received any kind of traffic violation was in 1994.  I was flying through Pennsylvania at high speed when a cop pulled me over in the middle of the night.  He was very professional.  He calmly told me that he wasn't concerned about my life, but the life of the deer that lived in the area.  I laughed.  He was right too.

After the last time I was pulled over, back in 1994, I had an epiphany.  Driving fast is not really cool.  Cops don't want us to obey the law so much as they want to ticket us.  The truly defiant thing to do is not to speed, which denies the police a chance to exercise their egos, puts one in a situation where a cop may do something insane, like murder someone for speeding, and it is disrespectful to others around you.

When you drive through someone's neighborhood at an unreasonable speed, you endanger their children, their pets, and their property.  In short, you are being disrespectful to the people that live there.  When you weave around cars in traffic, you risk the lives of others on the road.  That is selfish and disrespectful.

That epiphany was just the beginning.  Over the years I've seen many accidents, some with bodies still inside the cars, bodies on the highway, and other horrific sights.  I've seen cars slam into each other right in front of me on the highway in Texas, where I survived only by luck.  Recently I saw a Turkey attempt to fly, only to be slammed by the cargo carrier on top of the car in front of me on a country highway.  I just dodged the careening ball of Turkey by inches.  A deer leaped across a mountainous desert road in front of me in Arizona.  Had I been one second ahead of where I was, I would have been decapitated.  While driving the PCH through Big Sur, a bird crashed into my windshield at sun set while I was driving along a cliff and got stuck on my windshield wiper while driving a stretch upon which I could not stop, smearing blood across my windshield as a drove that windy and dangerous stretch of road.  In Mexico I've seen many trucks impaled on rocks on the sides of mountains below the roads on which I drove.

People I knew were killed in car accidents, not one, but several.  My ex-girlfriend Rosemary died when her motorbike hit a tree.  The neighbor across the cove from my parent's lake house has a plate in her head from an accident.  She is so fucked up in the head now that she ran over a young man, the father of children, killing him and then drove off to a church event without calling the police (for which she was sentenced to house detention for a long stretch of time).

I've missed a tree while spinning on two wheels upon not seeing a curve in time on a dark country road covered with sand.  I've had so many of these experiences, I wonder why I am alive.

As the body count grows and the number of near misses soars, who can blame an older driver for being more cautious?  Unlike the younger driver, we know the score.

Also, as you get older, you realize how much time and money you waste recovering from all the things that go wrong with your car.  You begin to baby your car and keep her in better shape because you know the cost of treating it like a toy.

About a year ago in Los Angeles, an asshole screamed at me from his car, "Nice driving old man!"  I was doing nothing wrong, just following the law and being cautious.  I remembered back to when I was young and when I thought older drivers were simply impaired by age, had slower reflexes, and shouldn't be allowed to drive.  Perhaps that is true for some, but my reflexes are as fast as they were when I was young.  I can still drive with awesome skill.  The difference is that I know the value of life, the value of my car, the stupidity of luring the attention of cops, and I have a strong respect for the well being of those around me.  I'm not slow because I have no choice, I do have a choice.  I'm slow because I'm smarter than the young arrogant driver that has a good chance of never making it to my age.

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