What happened to driver courtesy?

By David Redman • Guest Columnist

When did we, as a nation, transition from courteous and abiding by the ” laws of the highway” drivers to drivers who are aggressive and “to heck with speed limits and other laws and rules?”

At this writing I’m on southbound on I-81 nearing Wytheville, Va. So far this trip’s total mileage is approaching  2,000. Haven’t seen one law enforcement vehicle in two days. However, I’ve witnessed more aggressive drivers and nuts than the miles I’ve driven … and that’s just in the past eight hours.

Why has exceeding safe speeds and aggressive driving taken over our driving mentality? Is it the lack of law enforcement? Can we shift blame to NASCAR? Seems as if our roads have become more like a Daytona 500 on the 4th of July.   

In reality, the root  of the problem is the individual driver — nothing else!

Speeding is a choice. Tailgating is a choice. Aggressive lane changing is a choice. Each, however, is illegal. In North Carolina driving in the left (passing) lane at a speed slower than the posted speed limit is illegal as well.    

I reported a speeder last school year to Jackson County 911. The driver’s estimated speed at the Smokey Mountain Elementary School area in Whittier was 75. Deputies stopped the offender several miles past the school. The driver’s reason for driving so fast in a school zone was “I was running late for class at Southwestern Community College.” Good grief!  

Today an older Suburban loaded with a family and towing a travel trailer passed me on I-81. However, it tailgated me for about a mile and then passed me doing about 80 mph. Did the driver feel that tailgating and excessive speed was necessary to get to his destination, especially with his cargo of family?

Whatever happened to the “rule of thumb” safety margin of staying one car length behind the vehicle in front for each 10 miles of speed? No wonder accidents are so horrific on our highways. Common sense has been blown out the tailpipe when it comes to our collective driving habits.

Parents are teaching children that not obeying laws of the road is acceptable. Thus, we have an upcoming generation of probably more aggressive and less law abiding citizenery in the making. Being allowed to drive on the nation’s highways is a privilege which has laws governing same.

Give me a radar gun and authority to issue tickets with a commission of 20 percent. Station me at the bottom of the either hill coming into Dillsboro. Bet my annual income could easily reach $100,000 on speeding and reckless driving fines.    

It seems either people can’t read numbers and match speed limit signs to their speedometer or the signs are useless. I’ve often thought that speed limits should be painted on the highway, just like the stripes.    Business signs, highway signs, and political signs during election, are distractions for the driver.   

Our court system is burdened with traffic offenders. If you’re a good driver, you should attend one of the traffic court sessions to see what law enforcement and the courts are dealing with. I encourage it. Get to the courtroom early and stay late. Get ready for a jam-packed room.   

Request a copy of the docket for that session. Read the arrest reports published in the area newspapers. Make a list of the offenses by category. Listen carefully … the courtroom is an very interesting place.

Like Jon Stewart of the “Daily Show” and his “Restoring Sanity to America” rally, I encourage all drivers to “Restore Sanity to America’s Highways”.

(David Redman is a Sylva resident.)

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