Article first published as Driving With Familiarity; What Does it Really Breed?, by Linda Voss, on Technorati.
The saying goes “Familiarity breeds contempt”. Lately I have been wondering if it breeds something else.
There has been a lot of road construction happening on our freeways of late. It has become apparent that we are busting at the seams and need more lanes. While this construction is going on there are a lot of road detours, orange barrels, and wonky lane changes. There are sections of the freeway where you will have narrowed lanes, others where you will make a curve to the far right then a curve back to the left, and times when you will actually be driving on the other side of the freeway.
When the construction first started it was scary driving on these new sections of the freeway. You weren’t exactly sure where you were supposed to be going. The cement barriers that were put up along the sides of the lanes made you feel boxed in and like you were going to crash into them. (Ok, they make me feel that way).
The posted speed limit in these construction zones is 55 mph (miles per hour). In the beginning that speed was all too fast. Now that construction has been going on for several months people are more accustomed to the changes and know to expect the unexpected. Mostly we keep an eye on the traffic ahead of us, watch for speed traps, and slow down when we see a friendly policeman reminding us of the speed limit.
One day I was driving home on a straight section of freeway that wasn’t actively being worked on. I was driving a little faster than the posted limit, 80 mph, when in my rear view mirror I saw a big truck coming closer and gaining on me. I was just about to turn on my blinker to move into the middle lane, because I am a considerate driver like that, when he zoomed into the middle lane, passed me, zoomed back into the left lane and sped off into the horizon.
Remember I mentioned I was going just a little teeny bit over the speed limit? It makes me wonder how fast he was going. This is when I started thinking about the familiarity thing. It bred something in him but I am not quite sure what it was. Apathy, confidence, stupidity, or was it just plain familiarity. At times we get so familiar with things that we become comfortable with them. In that comfort we stop being so careful.
Maybe this is why teenagers text while driving. They are so familiar with one thing that it doesn’t seem like adding it to another will do any harm. That and teenagers tend to feel invincible.
An accident injury law firm cites the following statistics of accidents in highway construction zones: “Crashes in highway work zones have killed at least 4,700 Americans – more than two a day – and injured 200,000 in the last five years alone.About 85% of people killed in work zones are motorists, not workers.”
You would think that this thought process and my knowledge that I am NOT invincible would make me more wary of driving fast. I was on the freeway again yesterday and thought I would stay in the right lane and go slower. That lasted about 15 minutes. I can relate to Sammy Hagar when he sings “I can’t drive 55”. Going 55 mph stinks.
I speak with that bravado now but wait until it snows. Maybe then I will be back in the right lane.