When referring to my number of years on this planet, I often say I’m “of a certain age.” But the more times I get behind the wheel, the more I feel like it’s “a certain age that remembers when driving was fun.”
The actual act of driving is still a blast for me, whether it’s a supercharged sports car or a heavy-duty work truck. And I live in the rural outskirts of a city, where I can turn north and find a day’s worth of empty roads—most of them arrow-straight, alas, since you can’t have everything.
But if I go south into the city, or sideways into the encroaching suburbs, everything falls apart. Some days it’s actually exhausting, because not only am I handling my own vehicle, I’m also driving for everyone else—adjusting my driving so they don’t hit me.
Bad drivers aren’t new, of course. Back in 1904, when there were only two cars in all of Kansas City, their drivers still managed to hit each other. But throw in people in a hurry, the prevalent “me-first” attitude, poorly-trained drivers, people with their hands full of coffee and sandwiches instead of steering wheels, too many smart phones attached to dumb drivers, and it’s a jungle out there.
Some 35 years ago, I actually got a ticket in Toronto for running a yellow light (which I still say was green when I entered the intersection, of course). Today, I’m scared to brake not just for yellow lights, but for red ones, because the guy on my back bumper figures I’m going to run it and he’s going to stay with me all the way.
When my light turns green, I never take off until I’ve looked in both directions, making sure that someone isn’t running the red on the other side. Turning on an advanced green? That’s upside down now. Everyone on the green arrow has to sit while cars turn in front of them on the red, and then when their signal turns red, they make their turns and block the other side’s green.
Drivers race toward stop signs and stop at the last possible minute, often halfway into their turns. I’m absolutely sick of driving with my foot prepped for the brake, waiting to see if drivers coming out of side streets are going to pull into my path. And if they do look to the left to see if anything’s coming, they never think to also look to the right, to see if a pedestrian is trying to cross on the right-of-way.
The sheer volume of stop-and-go commuter traffic saps any enjoyment out of a manual transmission, while the pitiful state of road repair means I’m constantly dodging potholes that could twist a rim or break a component.
I don’t know if there is a solution. No one seems to care about becoming better drivers; our governments won’t risk losing votes by tightening driving test standards; and drivers don’t seem to realize they could kill somebody because they’re preoccupied with their phones. Maybe it’s all over. Maybe I really am from the final generation for whom driving was fun.