This is a common issue in marriages, but I’m not sure I’ve ever mentioned it.
This comes to mind because of what I saw driving home from the store with my bride this evening. We go to the “big city” twice a month to shop, and to have a meal and a movie date. The 20-minute drive home is on a mostly two-lane highway with a 60 mph (95 kph) speed limit. There are two stretches where there’s an extra lane for passing. There is usually someone who wants to go well under the speed limit when there is one lane each direction – resulting in a backup. Many of these slowpokes then speed up when there are two lanes, making it difficult to pass them before going back to a single lane, when they slow down again. Alternatively, someone who wants to pass when there are two lanes does it so slowly those behind them don’t get a chance.
Today we had both. The car three in front of me was moving slowly. When we got to the passing lane, the slow car speed up some, and the bus behind him moved over to pass. The bus never got up enough speed to pass, and never moved over so those behind him could pass. When we went back to a single lane, moving 10 miles under the speed limit, the car in front of me started to tailgate the bus – and did so for the next five miles until the bus turned off. Since the bus was not the slow vehicle, but stuck behind the slow vehicle, tailgating had no chance of causing the bus to speed up. It was rude, and it was dangerous to the bus and the tailgater (did I mention it was dusk and raining?).
Why did the car in front of me put his own life in danger for no reason? I understand how he felt because I’ve been there. I used to be the one tailgating or trying to pass when it was neither safe nor sane. I was not as bad as some, but it was stupid. I would have told you I have good reflexes (which is true) a huge number of miles driven with no accidents my fault (also true) and I have avoided several accidents many would not have been able to avoid (maybe true.) However, none of that made my actions safe, or smart, and none of it made my wife feel better when my driving scared her. In short, what I stood to gain was little to nothing, while what I stood to lose was everything. Looking at it now, I wonder what was wrong with me.
I have since learned why we do this, and why men as a whole are far worse about it than women as a whole. When we get into these situations, a part of our subconscious mind sees them as life and death. This is kill or be killed, defend or die; it’s a full on fight of flight situation. Adrenalin starts to pump, blood pressure and breathing go up, and your mind is screaming for you to “do something”. Backing off and following at a safe distance does not feel right, while tailgating or passing on the shoulder seems not only right, but necessary.
Having learned the why, I have chosen to stop being stupid. I am not going to let my subconscious mind push me to do things with big risks and very little reward. I acknowledge what I am feeling, and why, and then choose to act differently. It might save my life, and it will certainly bless my wife.
If you are an aggressive driver, ask yourself why. Are you being led around by your subconscious mind like a dog on a choke chain? Is that how you want to live?