I recently changed my style of driving from a more aggressive one to a considerably more relaxed one. In doing this, I realized that it wasn’t the other people that made me hate driving – it was me.

Driving in New Jersey
I imagine that one of the reason that New Jersey residents don’t like New Jersey so much is the whole driving experience. I have lived in New Jersey my entire life, and so I am not too familiar with how things are in other parts of the U.S. I have come to understand through long-distance friends that there are parts of the country where people don’t go into the left lane unless they are passing someone, and they most certainly don’t cut you off and then proceed to drive half of the posted speed limit. 

Can this be true? 

Are there places where people tend to obey the traffic signs rather than blatantly ignore them, where people use their turn signal when they are changing lanes, where people actually stay in one lane for a period of time longer than any given one-hit wonder is adored? And back to the left lane – you mean people don’t live there in other parts of the country? People don’t leave their turn signal on for twenty minutes, or choose not to use it unless they are in a “right turn only” lane?

“I hate driving!”
I made the bold announcement quite a few times. I hate driving, I would tell people. I would really love driving, I would then add, if it weren’t for all of the other people on the road. I hated the whole being cut off experience, particularly when someone made an effort to get their overpriced “luxury” SUV into the right lane that was to merge with the middle lane, push their car to 80 or so and then (after cutting me off of course) slow down to avoid the bumper to bumper traffic up ahead. 

My brother suggested that perhaps it wasn’t the others that made my driving experience so unpleasant, but my perception of the others. My friend Asim put it another way: getting upset over things such as traffic is petty. One should not get bothered by petty matters. 

I began to toss and turn over their words in my mind.

Thoughts on my own driving style
I started noticing things about the way that I drove. I realized that I was far too competitive of a driver. Just using the word competitive is funny. Is there a real winner in driving? You get home, I get home, we both win. I saw it differently then – if someone was trying to pass me, it was instantly a competition. This was especially the case if the person was trying to pass me from the right lane. Why should they get to pass me from the right lane? The left lane is called the passing lane, and so I should do all the passing and heaven forfend they should try to pass me when the right lane was merging into the left. I am lucky that I didn’t get into any accidents with expensive German cars whose owners felt that their big wallet gave them the right to break the law and pass me on the right.

It didn’t just end with the competition. I got steamed about the most insignificant things in the world. I even penned a few songs (putting new words to old songs, that is) to air out frustrations. There were songs such as “It’s called a turn signal (try yours today)” and “The Right Lane is for Exit ONLY”, and everyone’s favourite (everyone being me, that is) “Rush Rush (and then just have to slow down).” I would get mad that people took too long to exit and that they didn’t signal before turning off a road, (thus causing a delay) and that they left their turn signal on. Driving too fast. Driving too slow. People coming from the opposite direction who were using their wipers but not having their headlights on. Anything and everything annoyed me. Then I would get where I was going and curse driving.

Change is Good
As an experiment, I decided to take things a little bit easier one day. If someone wanted to pass me, I would let them. If I was at a red light, and the person in the car next to me gave me an eerie glance (thus indicating that said person wanted to race) I wouldn’t jump on the gas pedal but would instead accelerate normally. In fact, I stopped racing to get to red lights and instead slowed down until I was moving at a snail’s pace – but would not stop. 

I thus rarely really came to full stops at red lights. If someone didn’t want to use their turn signal, I just thought about something else, something that actually was relevant to me. So what if they didn’t use their turn signal? So what if someone wanted to pass from the right? If they happened to cause an accident, they would be legally liable, and should they cause a death (in the case of right passing it is often their own death that results due to the construction of cars) then they will have to live with the guilt. I wasn’t going to be the person involved in an accident with them because I was going to slow down and let them get their ya-yas, so to speak. 

People who are passing on the right are often more aggressive on the road – did I want them to be ahead of me, or behind me? Ahead of me, I think. That certainly seems like a more safe option for me. If someone is in that much of a rush, maybe it would be best to get out of the way – they might be on the way to the hospital to see their spouse, for better or worse. I’m generally not going anywhere that has life or deathimportance. I should drive appropriately, right?

I actually enjoy driving a lot more now. Sure, I still sing the songs from time to time, but not with the same anger that I used to. Bonus effect of this new method of driving is this: because I’m not starting and stopping nearly as often as I used to, I am getting considerably better mileage than I used to. Perhaps this should be considered the next time you feel that you have to go sixty just so you can wait a minute at the light, as opposed to going thirty and not waiting at all. You spend the same amount of time spent in the car,and you get better gas usage. Of course, feeling more relaxed when you get home is also a considerable bonus.