Drivers Ed

Standard

As a paramedic I do a considerable amount of driving, not only the forty minute commute to and from work, but also the 12 hours of driving an ambulance all over the county during shift. I’ve begun to see patterns in driving behavior and today I’d like to share the categories I’ve created for lane changes.

When driving the ambulance, I get cut off on a regular basis. The truck is slow to accelerate-especially w/a pt in the back-and slow to brake as well. People don’t want to get stuck behind an ambulance. With that in mind, I will begin the categories with the rarest of all lane changers. SO rare, I think I’ve only seen it ever happen a handful of times. I can’t come up with a fancy name for this type of lane change so I shall simply label them:

The Correct Lane Changers: These very rare breeds are going at a moderately faster speed than you are, ensure that they are a few car lengths in front of you and no red lights are changing in the near path of travel before indicating with their turn signal for a few seconds and then smoothly changing lanes. I believe these drivers lead well adjusted happy lives with good stress coping mechanisms and are always punctual. Perhaps that is why they are so rare.

The Drifters: These lane changers have their head in the clouds. They don’t use turn signals, I don’t think they’re even aware of the lane change until it’s over-if even then. These drivers sometimes indicate their lane change by slowly hugging the dotted line for a few feet and then tire by tire they just…float…across…The dangerous thing about drifters is they’re often prone to slam on their brakes when they finally do realize they’ve cut off an ambulance, but thankfully this is usually quickly followed by flooring it. My theory is it’s a delayed guilt reaction. Drifters, I feel, are generally good people and not horrible drivers, but they’re tired, or they’re preoccupied and they just aren’t entirely paying attention.

The Dragonfly: These are the ones your parent used to mutter “THOSE are the drivers the police should be pulling over. That is so reckless.” But secretly, most of us are a bit jealous. These drivers don’t use turn signals, they don’t have the time for them. They dart in and out of traffic, squeezing in front of you so briefly you barely have time to flick them off before they’re gone. Yes, they are a speeding, yes, they are reckless, yes-as a paramedic-I’m already thinking about having to backboard them when they eventually wreck…but for the moment, these quick changing dare devils make rush hour traffic look so easy.

The Self Righteous: I had a personal run in with one of these a few days ago. These drivers have both hands on the wheel, a seatbelt is on every person in the vehicle, back of the seat is straight up and down, turn signal is ON! And on….and on….and on… The Self Righteous truly wants to be a correct lane changer, but they invariably forget two key points. One, when you put on your turn signal, it is indicating you are moving in that direction in the immediate or near immediate future…not ten minutes down the road. When you don’t move, people stop believing your turn signal. Also, although the Self Righteous check their mirrors religiously, they don’t check their blind spots. So these dangerous bad boys are the epitome of unpredictible. They say they’re getting over with their turn signal, but they dont, did they just forget its on? are they going to move now? it’s been three minutes and they’re slowing down with that lane of traffic but they still haven’t gotten over…BAM! They make a mad dash for the other lane, without checking to see if a car is next to them. Sometimes they notice in time and swerve just as violently back into their original lane of travel gesticulating wildly, or in my case, they run into the other car. The driver was extremely irritated, got out of his car and yelled at me “I had my turn signal on!” Yes, you did, but see I was actually driving in the other lane…

The Red Light Thief: A very popular one for cutting off the ambulance which is really not a good idea since ambulances take a bit of time to stop… These lane changers are also often habitual tailgaters, but not always. They are a beast to be taken into consideration every time a stop light is approached. These drivers decide on impulse that the other lane will move faster when the light changes. So, even though they are practically stopped and there is a car (or ambulance) fast approaching the light in that other lane, this driver decides to make a break for it. Light Thieves are a nuisance.

The Lazy Boy: These drivers are cousins to the Drifters-they take their sweet time crossing lanes. The distinguishing factor, however, is the turn signal. Lazy Boys will briefly flick the turn signal on after almost completing the entire lane change. It’s a brief flicker, only a tap, and seems to indicate not so much “I am going to move to the left” as “I moved to the left, oh yeah, here’s my signal.” Lazy Boy’s often drive pick up trucks or utility vans.

The Procrastinator: This driver often ends up in serious accidents. The Procrastinator is in the farthest possible lane from the direction he needs to turn in less than fifty feet. The Procrastinator also tends to frequent major highways with 6 or more lanes. These drivers don’t exactly change lanes, they cut through them at an almost perpendicular angle to make an impossible turn on two wheels. The Procrastinator uses his turn signal like the Lord’s Prayer, hoping that the blinking will stave off disaster as they fly across the lanes. A particular annoyance-although it is slightly amusing-is when a procrastinator needs to turn left while I’m driving lights and sirens down a highway. The Procrastinator flies across the lanes and cuts off the ambulance then realizes we’re driving emergency traffic (I liberally use the air horn to emphasize this point) and the Procrastinator either flies back across traffic (again, without really paying attention to other drivers) or slams on his/her brakes right in front of the ambulance. Not your brightest driver, Procrastinators are often intoxicated or hopelessly lost or both.

Me First: The Me First driver is, in my opinion, one of the most frustrating lane changers to experience. These drivers hate to be passed, they-like their title says-have to be first. So even if the car in front of them is going five or more over, these drivers simply HAVE to speed up around them and cut them off. Whats worse, after they pull in front of the other driver they often slow down, ambling along at inconsistent speeds between slow complacency and race car driver to ensure that other car doesn’t pass them. I loath Me First drivers.

These are all the categories I have for now, they popped into my head while driving routine to the hospital and witnessing two Drifters and a Red Light Thief change lanes in front of me. Anybody have another category?

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