“Drive Friendly”: Or, how Not To Die on the Texas Highways

I’m a crap driver.

But I’m an awesome commuter.  I’ve had people spontaneously gush about how I somehow manage to drive as if my car were surrounded by a “bubble of peace.”  I’m pretty sure it’s because my Dad, whose job it was to drive multi-thousand-ton ships, constantly emphasized that the technical skills of driving are the least important part of the job.  That’s the easy part.  In addition, one needs to develop:

  1. A sense of what other drivers are going to do.
  2. The ability to consistently perceive “1” and make decisions that minimize conflicts while driving.

Well, after years of griping, I’m going to bite the bullet and put up my own humble contribution — driving problems for teenagers /new drivers.  A lot of the traffic and commuting problems out there are caused by drivers making their commute slower for themselves by failing to observe some simple principles.  Especially around Dallas.  Texas is known for its courteous and friendly drivers…. except for Dallas, where Chaos Reigns and you routinely see drivers pulling the weirdest crap… that gets people smashed-up and killed.

Well, here goes:  DF#1 — The Pitfalls of Parcheesi

Scenario #1:

df-1.JPGYou are cruising along the highway in the green car (center).   Relatively speaking, you’re going slightly faster than the blue car way over in the slow lane (you passed her about a quarter mile back), and about the same speed as the yellow car.

There is a red car in the fast lane coming up on you, and there isn’t room for it to get over (safely) between your car and the yellow car.  What do you do?

 Answer:  Lay off the gas and slow down for a second.


The Red car is going faster than you are.  It’s not likely that he’s going to slow down, especially as he’s continuing to accelerate into a pocket formed by you and the other car.

df-1-best.JPGIf you slow down and Yellow is a good driver, then in your best case, you get this:  Yellow will make room for Red (partially because you’ll have made it easier for her to do so), and Red will zoom along to the hospital or party or speed trap up ahead, and everybody’s happy.  Optimally, Yellow won’t have changed speeds, so you’ll be able to resume your own speed easily.  If she slowed down, you can easily choose to piggyback on Red and pass into the fast lane.

df-1-likely.JPGProbably what will happen is this:  Yellow didn’t move, and therefore she probably feels like she has a Special Decree From God that she’s allowed to camp out in the passing lane, whether or not she’s actually passing somebody.  This would rain on Red’s parade, except that you made space,  so he can pass you and get around Yellow.  At this point Yellow may then come to her senses and realize that she’s being a Big Yellow Roadblock, and get over.

But probably she won’t.  Either way, at the cost of 1 m.p.h. for the duration of about thirty seconds, you’ve avoided thisdf-1-worst.JPG

The worst thing you can choose to do in this situation is to decide “well, I was in front of Red, therefore I should stay in front of Red, and pass Yellow.”  You won’t make it.  Remember, Red is going faster than you.  Unless you’re driving something Very Fast and Expensive(tm), your need to beat Red in some non-existent race has just created a classic Parcheesi Roadblock.  This means that Red will

  • A, have to wait until you pass Yellow, and then execute an inside pass (whenever, that is, that you give him enough space to do so),or ….
  • B, Red really is late for work, and has a boss just waiting to can him if he’s late one more time this week, at which point he’s likely to pull something dangerous and stupid (but seen incredibly often on I-75 in Dallas).

In the latter case, his swerves are likely to put everybody in danger, and there’s no guarantee he can actually pass, because if you’re in an SUV or truck, he can’t see whether there’s somebody up front in the slow lane.  If Red’s going fast because he’s not paying attention, somebody’s going to get nailed.  If he tries to pass extreme right, then you get three cars side-by-side, at which point nobody can pass on the highway, and one, or more likely, two slow cars up front forces everybody into a great big uncomfortable knot until everybody can figure out their moves.

Which sounds incredibly stupid, and it is, because the only reason it happens (and you’ll see it, time and time again) is because neither Yellow nor Green “Drove Friendly.”  Don’t plug up the road… Red’s going fast?  Help him! 

The farther he is down the road, the less traffic you have to deal with, and the better the chances he’ll pop your speed trap for you and let you keep on cruising.

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  1. Mike

     /  October 18, 2007

    I would expand your range of idiot drivers to include Austin, which has the problem compounded by absolutely terrible road conditions, construction and road layout and patterns so bad that Satan said “damn, I can’t top that”.

  2. Well, you hit my #1 hang-up right there. I hate parcheesi drivers.

  3. You mean that I’m supposed to let the other guy win Death Race 2007? I lived and drove in Los Angeles too long to let that happen!

    Seriously, my first instinct is this ridiculous, competitive one, but I try to suppress it as much as I can, which unfortunately is not always.

  4. geewilakers

     /  October 18, 2007

    Theres the other option of do nothing let the guy hit you hope to live and sue him on judge Judy XDDDD

  5. You mean the LA-lottery? It’s awfully hard on one’s spouse.

  6. happycrow

     /  October 18, 2007

    I’ve got possibilities for DF #2 and #3, respectively, but suggestions are welcome…

  7. I believe in Texas it’s prudent to park yer monster truck right between the white line and remove your foot from the gas as you slowly coast to 35 Mph. Kudos if you slowly swerve left to right.

    It helps to have a couple of guns hanging on the gun rack, and a black Stetson upon your shaven head.

    And lastly – it’s always a nice effect to have a couple of beer cans bounce out of the truck bed when you hit a pothole also.

  8. happycrow

     /  October 19, 2007

    Now now, convivial, you know that’s West Virginia… (actually, my experience is that drivers in Texas are really good, as long as you’re nowhere near Dallas/Austin…)


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