Readers, I’m going to share with you a message that I sent to AAA spokesperson John Townsend on March 20 in reaction to his comments about a shocking ticket-issuing. Some of you may agree, some may disagree. But I need to put this out there because sentiments are high on both sides, and I want to know what you think. Let’s continue this dialog. Please see below:
Greetings! I politely disagree with your comments in this news story that this ticket is sending the wrong message to the public.
I think it’s sending exactly THE RIGHT message — one that we should have been sending for a very long time now — that it is completely unacceptable to impede traffic in the left lane.
Too much emphasis is on the fact that the lady was adhering to the speed limit and shouldn’t have been given a ticket. I’ll give that she was not exceeding the speed limit (I will come back to this in a minute). But, she was also impeding the flow of traffic, which is a much worse offense. The main reason is that it incites road rage — guaranteed every time. Drivers get very aggressive and start to jockey for position to go around her, which has the potential to cause many horrible/fatal accidents. Her actions were disturbing to what would ordinarily be a calm driving environment. Her actions created a hostile atmosphere that put everybody around in real danger. THIS KIND OF RECKLESS DRIVING IS THE REAL CAUSE OF TRAFFIC ACCIDENTS, NOT NECESSARILY DRIVING FASTER. Realizing this, AAA should support and speak out in defense of driving habits that are safe, not incitable.
Coming back to the point I was making earlier, the real problem is that we have traffic laws that are totally contradictory in this country. On one hand, we have laws that permit and encourage officers to issue tickets for “speeding” because “speeding” has been demonized and oversimplified as ”dangerous driving.” To support this, people drive the speed limit in all lanes and feel justified in doing so — after all, they are just obeying the law. On the other hand, we have always been taught that the left lane(s) should be preserved for those who are passing all traffic on the right. In order to obey this law, you will have to surpass the speed limit. Further, we also have laws that permit officers to issue tickets when drivers are impeding the flow of traffic. These contradictions make the whole ding dang proposition flawed! Who should be considered right under any of these circumstances???
To drive on certain European highways, drivers are required to take more classes to handle their cars SAFELY. They are trained to be better drivers, not simply penalized for driving faster. They support the mantra that highways were built to move people/goods in the most expedient way possible, so the unhindered flow is maintained by always urging slower traffic to keep to the right, regardless of speed. Consequently, there really is no speed limit. But they do have an advisory speed limit. European authorities are also more enlightened in that they realize the term “reckless driving” should be assigned to someone who is carelessly driving, not merely driving faster. You can adhere to lower speed limits and still kill/harm people due to inexperience and driving in ways that disregard the safety of all who are around! Hello, cellphones!
By saying this, however, please note I am not saying that higher speeds are not a contributing factor to worse accidents. I am also not saying that there should be no speed limits on U.S. highways. I am simply saying that U.S. authorities are causing major problems because they are contradicting themselves, oversimpifying the issue, and encouraging worsened traffic congestion by en/forcing everybody to drive slower because of lower highway speed limits. The focus on speed has been all wrong for too long! And the problem has gotten worse as populations have increased!
Rather than saying this ticket issuing sends the wrong message, how about looking at this using the Europeans’ model, which would argue that this woman’s actions were reckless and inconsiderate to all the other drivers on the road. And, if she wanted to drive slower to feel safer, she should just keep to the right. The solution to this problem is higher quality, continued driver training and enforcing the law that “slower traffic keep right” on our highways instead of issuing tickets to and demonizing those who are just trying to expediently get from Point A to Point B.
By the way, I am a Premium AAA member, I maintain a blog that discusses these and similar issues, and I passionately advocate for expedient travel that gets everyone from Point A to Point B SAFELY.
Nneka Jenkins (trafficfrustrationblog.com)
As of the writing of this blogpost, Mr. Townsend has not responded to this letter.
Thinking about driver aggression, there is something I’ve been really wondering about recently. Do other people’s bumper stickers, window tchotchkes, and rear mirror hangers make other drivers act aggressively towards each other? I think it’s a really fair question, given all the factions in modern society. Think about that political bumper sticker on the back of your car that screams your chosen political affiliation. Think of that religious trinket that you have dangling from your rear view mirror that shouts your devout religiosity (or lack thereof). Think of that all those stuffed thingamajigs that you’ve got sitting in your rear window that might be objectionable to others. Think of that rear license plate frame/surround that practically cheers for the undergraduate/graduate school you went to.
These things can act as conduits of information about the driver that — I submit — may or may not make you a target for aggression by other drivers. Everybody has a favorite — and a “not-so-favorite.” At the very least, everybody has an opinion/generalization of people who make any of these associations. You could be making enemies on the road and not even realize it!
The reason why I brought this up is not long ago, I was wondering about who I could be personally offending with the stuff I’ve got on/inside my car. Not many drivers have probably even given this kind of thing much thought when choosing their bumper stickers, et al. But I thought I’d bring it to your attention for your feedback and thoughts. Just one of those things that make you go, “hmmmmm.”