Assertive Driving

night_high_speed_car_driving-HDI’m an assertive driver, like my dad was.  Assertive mind you, not aggressive.  Per the unwritten allowance, I tend to drive four miles over the speed limit (usually ten on a deserted highway).  I rarely leave the recommended two car-lengths between me and the driver in front of me (though I don’t tailgate).  I also don’t wait a full car length before passing in front of another car, but I make sure that I’m driving fast enough that said car doesn’t have to slow down for me.  And I do all of this while maintaining a stronghold on the defensive driving techniques and safety lessons I learned both in school and from my dad.

There are some people who would classify some of the above activities as aggressive.  In fact, I recently got into a debate about this with one of my neighbors who is an “overly cautious” driver; her words.  She admitted to driving a few miles under the recommended speed limit and stated how terrified she was of people who tailgate.  While I agree that tailgating is extremely dangerous–you never know when the car in front of you might need to stop abruptly–the further into this debate we got, the clearer it was to me that she probably considered anything less than a full car-length “tailgating,” and that she seemed terrified of driving, period.

This woman then went on to give the reasons why she felt that everyone should follow her “safe” driving practices.  At that point I clammed up, because 1) I knew she wouldn’t truly listen to anything that wasn’t in agreement with her thoughts, and 2) the less I said, the sooner she’d stop her lecture and I could get on with my day.

It’s been a few weeks since the conversation, so I don’t remember all the points she made, but here are two that I do remember and my thoughts on them:

1)  It’s safer to drive under the speed limit.  I do not see any merit in driving slower than the posted speed limits, regardless of what the “experts” say.  In fact, I feel it’s less safe for someone to drive, say, 20 mph in a 25 mile zone, than to drive 27 or 28 mph.  It seems to me that people who drive below the posted limit are generally more tense and therefore going to make knee-jerk decisions that could cause accidents.  Besides, 25 is the lowest speed limit you can get on the road (only parking lots post signs reading 10 or 5), so if someone is too scared to drive that slowly, then I don’t think they should be behind the wheel in the first place.

2) Tailgating is unsafe.  Yes, I agree wholeheartedly with this one.  However, when someone is driving the speed limit (or a few miles over), and a slower driver decides to pull out in front of them without giving enough room to safely slow down, tailgating is what you get, for a few feet anyway, until the other driver can safely give enough distance between the two cars.  And for a slower driver to pull out in front of someone is dangerous also because of how angry we get at being cut off like that.  If you know you’re a more conservative driver, PLEASE don’t pull out in front of someone, unless you can see several car lengths between your intersection and any oncoming cars.  I personally wouldn’t ram someone’s car for it (though I will lean on my horn and cuss them out quite a bit), but I can’t say that I’d convict someone who would.  It’s frustrating, dangerous, and just plain rude.

My neighbor’s entire lecture revolved around one theme; that all drivers should be just as cautious as she is when behind the wheel.  This is a point I vehemently disagree with.  No, not everyone can handle being an assertive driver and still be alert to any possible situation.  Thankfully, my dad was an excellent driver and taught me well (even teaching me how to put my car into a deliberate spin, so I would learn how to get out of one), but I realize not everyone gets that same education.  However, I don’t think there will be less accidents if the assertive drivers started to be more cautious/timid, like my neighbor.  There would still be people driving at 20 in a 25, and the overly-cautious ones would probably slow down again to 15 or 10 in a 25, and then be offended at the others and expect them to slow their driving again to match.  And so on and so forth until we might as well just be walking everywhere.

Besides, why should others who are able to handle it better have to go down to the same level as the more cautious drivers?  This kind of ties in with what I was talking about last week; a group of people thinking that everyone else should be at the same level that’s comfortable to them.  If that’s what was meant by “The meek shall inherit the Earth,” I want no part of that.  To me, meek equals scared or timid, and great strides in life are never made by being scared or timid.  They’re made by being a bit riskier (though not reckless) in your dealings.

At least that’s how this assertive driver feels.


9 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Craig
    Feb 22, 2013 @ 08:30:03

    Besides, when a slower driver purposely pulls in front of a faster driver (to attempt to force everyone else under the speed limit) it just ticks off the other driver(s). Then, they will want to whip into the other lane to pass so they can get out in front again, then whip back again to show their displeasure. Creating very unsafe conditions. It WILL happen, and to expect otherwise is to believe thousands of years of human nature will have changed instantly. And don’t fool yourself by thinking the faster driver was to blame. The situation was caused by the slower (not safer) driver.
    Aside from the distinction between assertive and aggressive drivers, another factor of decisiveness is involved. There are drivers who can assess the situation, what they want, how to do it, and act in much faster times than others. Just because a car does something that happens quickly and decisively does not mean it was done recklessly.
    We all just have to watch out for the idiots that did do it recklessly.


    • Alyx Morgan
      Feb 22, 2013 @ 08:33:34

      Thank you, Craig, for adding the distinction about being decisive to the mix. Yes, some people can assess situations faster than others & take action, but like you said, that doesn’t make them reckless.

      Thanks for stopping by today.


  2. Dana Fredsti
    Feb 22, 2013 @ 11:46:49

    I think a lot of drivers are not paying attention to anyone else around them, like the ones who pull into lanes where other drivers are going faster. I tend to drive more quickly, but I will say NOTHING pisses me off more than if I’m already going over the speed limit and with the flow of traffic, to have someone roar up on my ass and expect me to move over just because they’ve decided they want to be in that lane. Often there is no place to move over to. This is the sort of tailgating that is not only wrong and dangerous, but likely to cause me major road rage. No excuse for it. If I’m in the fast lane and see someone coming up quickly a ways behind me, odds are I’ll just move over and give them the lane so it’s not like I”m an asshole driver either. Going too slowly is DEFINITELY as dangerous as going too quickly…


    • Alyx Morgan
      Feb 22, 2013 @ 12:28:23

      I agree with you, Dana, that people who burst up behind you & immediately expect you to move are quite angering. I’ll admit to being impatient in many things, but if I see that I’m moving faster than someone, I’ll temper myself to give them time to move safely, just as I would do if I see someone quickly approaching me from behind. This all ties into what you said about paying attention (as does Craig’s comment about decisiveness). And again, if you’re not going to truly pay attention to everything that’s going on around you on the road, then you SHOULD NOT be on the road! It’s a very serious undertaking, to be behind the wheel of a 2,000 pound piece of metal.

      Thanks for stopping by today.


  3. H. S. Stavropoulos
    Feb 23, 2013 @ 09:30:11

    I have lived in areas where the residential streets were so narrow that 15 mph was the posted speed limit. But otherwise, I agree with your post and disagree with your neighbor. I hate drivers who mistake assertiveness with recklessness and who believe they are being cautious when they are in fact, fearful and are such bad drivers that they endanger the rest of us. But by far, the worst drivers are the entitled ones, who drive as if the rules do not apply to them and as if they are no other cars on the road. They really are dangerous.


    • Alyx Morgan
      Feb 25, 2013 @ 12:31:14

      Thank you for letting me know about the slower speed limit areas, HS. If I’ve encountered one of those, I don’t remember it. Thanks, also, for the explanation FOR the lower speed limit. It’s always nice to know the reasons behind things, in my opinion.

      I agree with you that the “entitled” drivers are very dangerous as well. I actually witnessed someone the other morning who blatantly ran through two red lights. He paused before running them, but still, they were red. THAT’S dangerous, & I do wish a cop had been by to see it.

      In that same vein, I totally know that going 10 miles over the speed limit on highways is against the law. Were I to be stopped by an officer & given a speeding ticket, I would accept it with as much grace as my embarrassment would allow. Yes, I’m thankful that I’ve never gotten a ticket for speeding, but I do accept that I could have & maybe should have once or twice.


  4. Kathy
    Feb 26, 2013 @ 09:18:39

    I too agree with the comment about entitlement. The rules of the road are written for everyone; a chosen few are not exempt.

    I think driving at a speed within the law where you feel in control of your vehicle and you have the ability to accelerate out of a situation if needed is a good practice. The slow drivers, aggravating, annoying, and dangerous as they are, could be a greater hazard if they drive faster than they are comfortable. That tension in your shoulders, and white knuckles on the steering wheel, interfere significantly with your spine’s ability to feel what’s happening with the car, and therefore with your ability to drive safely.

    Personally I think every driver should be required to take a defensive driving course from their local racing school before they can get on the road. And that particularly applies to young drivers.


    • Alyx Morgan
      Feb 26, 2013 @ 09:36:25

      What a great recommendation, Kathy, about the defensive driving course! I can’t thank my father enough for teaching me how to handle a spin or how to quickly stop in the proper manner, especially on slippery roads. Those lessons have saved me & my car on more than one occasion, & because I know how to handle myself in those situations, I feel more secure behind the wheel.

      I also agree that slow drivers shouldn’t be forced to drive at speeds that they’re not comfortable with, & I’m not asking them to. I just don’t like them expecting faster drivers to slow down to their speed just so they’ll be more comfortable.


  5. Trackback: The Answer Lady | Droppings From the Mind of Alyx

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