So my regular followers (and anyone who has known me for more than a few days) know that I’m kind of a car junkie.
Well, a fast-car junkie, anyway.
I like to drive fast. And I like to drive aggressively.
But I live in Vegas, where we have traffic. And those pesky laws.
And a lot of really, really stupid people. Who don’t know how to drive. And no, I’m not talking about driving in snow or anything like that. Obviously people who live here, and didn’t move from Alaska or Maine or some shit, don’t know how to drive in snow (although someone remind me, I have a hilarious story about the first time I ever drove in snow. I was 23-ish).
But people irritate the fuck out of me. And yes, dear reader, chances are, you have fallen into the category of stupid drivers who irritate the fuck out of me. Because the number of people who truly understand the shit you really should understand before operating a 4,000-pound pile of metal and gasoline is terrifyingly small.
So what are the things you should understand?
We’ll start with the big one, the one that influences every other thing.
1. Recognize that your car is a deadly fucking weapon.
How deadly? I’m glad you asked.
They are literally the deadliest weapon known to mankind.
Don’t believe me? Let’s look at some facts. There are 253 million cars on the road in the US. Comparatively, since this is a current hot-button issue, there are 300 million guns in the US.
50 million more guns than cars.
There are 50 million fewer cars than there are objects created and designed for the exclusive purpose of harming or killing something or someone.
Of making something alive no longer alive.
Sounds super scary, huh?
In 2015, 13,471-ish (some sources state that number, others state a number slightly lower, but still above 13k) people were killed by guns. Scary, right? Like, that’s the entire population of some towns.
Except that 38-fucking-thousand people died in automobile accidents in 2015.
And serious injuries? 4.4 million Americans were seriously injured by cars in the 12 months that comprised 2015.
4.4 million. Just FYI, the entire population of the Las Vegas valley (including Las Vegas, North Las Vegas, Henderson, and all of the areas within the county) is 2 million and change.
M’kay, so take the entire population of everyone who lives in this valley, double it, and you’ll almost reach the number of people seriously injured (as in requiring hospital care or sustaining life-long injuries) by cars.
Wanna know how many Americans were injured by guns? Quick, wanna take a guess? Come on, throw a number out there. See if you’re right.
Did you guess a million people? 3 million less than cars?
If so, you’re wrong. By a lot.
27,025. Nope, not millions. Twenty-seven thousand, twenty-five. More people actually lost their lives in car accidents than people who were injured (serious or otherwise) by guns.
To be clear, I’m not saying that gun violence is not a problem. We’ve still got the rising number of mass shootings here. We’ve still got the loophole allowing people to buy guns without background checks or waiting periods. Yeah it’s a problem.
But the fact that there are 50 million fewer cars than guns in this country, but 3 times the number of deaths (and 163 times the number of serious injuries versus the number of all gun-related injuries) is something we need to look at.
But no one is looking at it.
And that is just the US. When you look at car fatalities across the world per year, you’re looking at a number closer to 1.2 million.
Cars have killed more people in the last hundred years than any other weapon, war, or natural disaster in the entirety of human history.
There is literally no other invention ever created by mankind that is as deadly as cars. This is not an exaggeration, and it’s not skewed facts for the purpose of shock value. It is 100% undeniable, unequivocal truth.
Why are cars so much more dangerous than actual weapons?
Mostly because we don’t see them as weapons.
If you’ve ever been around guns, and people who know about guns (I am not one of those people, by the way. I’ve shot rifles before, and that’s it. I don’t know much about them other than the fact that bullets come out of the long pointy tube part) you see that there are precautionary measures taken.
They are weapons, and they’re handled like weapons.
Everyone who touches a gun knows that it can take life. Even accidentally. Precautions are taken by responsible gun owners to insure that accidents don’t happen. There are policies and procedures in place in an attempt to keep dangerous people from owning them. They are treated with respect for their capacity to kill.
Cars are not. Sure, there are rules for safe driving, but the respect for its capacity to kill doesn’t exist.
Would you brush your hair or put on your makeup or play with your phone while swinging a loaded AK-47 around? Probably not. But you do it while controlling an exponentially more dangerous weapon.
Because you don’t see it as a weapon. You take it for granted. You forget that it’s a two-ton, sophisticated piece of metal and machinery capable of going truly dangerous speeds.
Ask any baseball player if it hurts to get hit by a 6-ounce object traveling at 80 miles per hour (they’re often hit by balls going much faster, but it’s more common for an average driver to go 80mph than 95mph). Shit hurts.
A car going 80 mph hurts a lot more.
You can’t call yourself a good driver if you don’t understand the danger of the weapon you’re wielding. You can’t claim proficiency with it if you don’t understand it.
2. Know your damn car.
Know what your car feels like, how it drives, what it’s capable of. I can tell even before my car’s sensor goes off if a tire has less air pressure. I know my car.
I also know what it’s capable of, what it was designed for, what its strengths are, and what its weaknesses are.
You need to know whether it’s front or rear wheel drive. Or all wheel drive. You need to know if your car has a higher rollover risk.
If you drive an SUV or some types of pickup trucks, you have a higher rollover risk. You need to know that.
And speaking of pickup trucks (and a select few SUVs), you need to know that they are designed for hauling shit. Which means the suspension is designed to hold a shit load of weight.
Here’s a good way to think of it:
We all know semi trucks are dangerous, right? They’re big, they’re heavy, they can’t make sudden moves or stop on a dime. But do you want to know when they’re the most dangerous? To the point that some truck companies won’t even allow them to be driven this way?
When they don’t have any weight, or any trailer, at all.
It’s called driving “bobtail,” and a bobtail semi is a thousand times more dangerous than one weighed down with 80 thousand pounds.
Wanna know why?
Because of the tires, and (particularly) because of the suspension. That spot on the back end of the truck, those axles (called the drive axles), are designed to have 34 thousand pounds directly on top of them.
It was built specifically for that purpose. The brakes, the suspension, the axles themselves, are all built specifically to handle that much weight.
When they don’t have that weight, that pressure pushing them down, the tires can’t grip the road as well. It is prone to excessive skidding, to the point that countering it is a big fucking deal. It takes twice the distance for a driver to safely stop a bobtail than it does to stop a fully loaded truck (keep that in mind the next time you think it would be a good idea to cut off a semi. Even a bobtail weighs about 20,000 pounds. Wanna take a guess who will win the battle between a Kenworth and your Prius? Or your Focus, or your Jeep, or your Silverado, or even your Hummer? ‘Cuz you do realize that the Hummer you bought is not the same as the Humvee used by the military, right? But quick, wanna take a guess who will win the battle between a Kenworth and a Humvee? The Humvee is 5,000 pounds and made of aluminum, and most of them aren’t armored. Kenworth is 20,000 pounds and made of steel. If the most iconic military truck can’t stand up to a semi, do you honestly think your sedan could?).
To a lesser extent, pickup trucks are the same way. Some more so than others. For example, my dad had a 2004 Dodge Ram 3500. He bought it specifically to haul our horse trailers. It had a diesel engine and stiff suspension. Like, really stiff. To the point that if you weren’t hauling anything, it was so bouncy it was just awful to drive. When I started driving it, I took to throwing a few hundred-pound sacks of grain feed in the bed, to keep the rear tires from skidding and bouncing, and to make it smoother to drive.
All pickup trucks are designed to haul things. All of them are built for that purpose. And when there’s no weight on that rear axle, spinning out is a risk. Especially since all but the smallest, lightest trucks are rear wheel drive.
Rear wheel drive + stiff suspension + tires that can’t grip the road all that well = bad m’kay.
SUVs have become passenger cars more than anything else, but they’re still tall, and heavy, and you need to know whether they’re all-wheel drive, four-wheel drive (you need to know the difference), or front- or rear-wheel drive.
You need to know how long it takes your car to come to a complete stop. If you need to brake suddenly, you need to know how to do that, in your specific vehicle, without fishtailing or losing control or locking the brakes.
Know your damn car.
3. Know your surroundings.
Most drivers look ahead 3 to 5 seconds, and they only check their mirrors when changing lanes, and they hardly ever check their gauges.
This is unsafe. Look up. Know what’s happening a quarter mile down the road.
This goes for road signs, as well. If you see a sign that says the lane you’re in is closed, and you need to merge, why in the hell would you wait til the last minute? Trying to get in front of other cars?
You’re either a moron, or a moronic asshole. Doing this slows down the flow of traffic, and causes an even bigger traffic jam. Stop it. Be aware of and prepare for lane closures or construction signs.
4. Be fucking courteous.
Don’t wait til the last minute to try to merge. It’s a dick move, and when I see you do it, I assume you have some kind of developmental or mental disability that prevents you from understanding what the sign meant half a mile back.
I will also go out of my way to run you off the road. If your lane is about to end, and you decide to pick the last minute to merge, and I’m anywhere near you, I will adjust my speed as much as is safe for the other drivers in my lane to make you unable to merge. Because (surprise, surprise) I’m kind of a bitch, and you’re a fucking moron, or a fucking asshole, or a fucking moronic asshole. And I can out-asshole the biggest asshole.
Anytime before that, I’m the most courteous driver around, and will happily slow down to let you in (if you use your turn signal and I know you’re wanting to get over). But if you wait til the last minute, I’m an unapologetic bitch.
As far as passing goes…
I drive fast, m’kay. But only when there’s no one else in the car. When I have passengers, I rarely go more than five or ten miles over the speed limit.
If I’m in the fast lane, and I see a car coming up behind me (because I check my mirrors), I move over to let it pass. Making cars pass you on the right is dangerous. To the point that semis are not allowed to do it at all.
If you want to travel in the fast lane (or passing lane, depending on where in the US you live), then fine. But don’t be a dick. Be aware of people going faster than you, and get the fuck out of their way as soon as you can safely move over.
One of my favorite tricks when I was younger and driving to see my family or friends in California was to drive at night and keep my brights on. You’d be surprised how quick people (who shouldn’t be traveling in the fast lane, anyway) are to get out of your way. I could set the cruise control at 90 and just coast on through. And on the rare occasion a car, going faster than me, came up behind me, I’d move over for him, let him pass, then get back in the lane and continue on my way.
And I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but turn signals come standard in every car. Use them.
Not just as a courtesy, but for safety reasons as well (you know, it’s the whole respecting-the-fact-that-your-car-is-a-weapon thing). Let people know what you’re doing.
If I’m going 80, and you’re going 60, and you suddenly decide to cut in front of me, and I hit you going at 80 miles and hour, because I didn’t know and couldn’t prepare for you to merge, wanna guess how many of us are going to walk out of that, as opposed to being carted into an ambulance?
Also, wanna know who is going to be at fault for causing the accident?
It’s not me. I’ll be cited for speeding, sure. But the accident will be your fault. Because of a little thing called lane control.
I was in my lane. I had control of the lane directly in front of and behind me. You were merging between two lanes. You did not yet have control, did not check your mirrors, and made the unsafe and reckless decision to move over into the lane I was in control of. It’s your fault, and you’ll be on the hook for the injuries I sustained by hitting you.
However, if you decide not to be a stupid dick, and use your turn signal, I can see that you’re looking for an opportunity to move over. I can prepare for your merge by slowing down or moving to the next lane over, to give you the space you need to merge and gain the proper lane control.
If I’m behind you and you suddenly slow down to make a right hand turn, I have no idea why you’re slowing down, or if your gradual brake will turn into a sudden one. Sure, you could be braking for the turn. Or maybe there’s something in the road you can see, but I can’t. Or maybe there’s something wrong with your car. Or something wrong with you. Emergencies happen. Sometimes they happen while you’re behind the wheel of a car.
I have no idea what is going on. I don’t tailgate people, so I can prepare for any of those options, but it’s still a dick move. Tell me why you’re slowing down. Use your goddamn signal.
Oh, and don’t tailgate. I have and will brake-check you (‘cuz I’m a bitch, if you’ll recall). And if I’m alone in the car, I’ll slam on my brakes, and you can either swerve to avoid me, or rear-end me. I find both highly entertaining.
And in the case of the second, wanna guess whose fault that accident will be?
Yours. Because of a little thing called adequate following distance. You never know what could happen on the road. Maybe a kid or a dog jumped in front of my car. Maybe I thought the car in front of me was going to suddenly brake.
The rule is that you need to be far enough behind me to be able to avoid a collision no matter what happens. If I slam on my brakes and come to a complete stop, you need to be far enough behind me to avoid hitting me. Of you’re not, and you hit me, you’re at fault. Back the fuck up.
5. Don’t be fucking timid.
Okay, so I have officially made it a rule that, when we take family trips to California, Kazander is not allowed to drive once we get to any kind of densely-populated area. Los Angeles? Dude, he’d never survive. Either he’d be hit by another car, or I’d toss him out of the car.
California is not a place for timid drivers. The only place I’ve ever been that’s worse was China, where those pretty white lines are just decoration and cab drivers literally get offended when you wear a seatbelt.
But if you don’t know how to be assertive, then don’t fucking drive. Take a bus. Or an Uber.
Would you like to know the purpose of a freeway entrance ramp?
Entrance ramps exist so that you can accelerate to the proper speed by the time you get to the freeway itself. So you can safely merge at the speed of established traffic.
If I’m stuck behind you and you’re at 50 mph by the time you reach the freeway, I think you’re a moron.
Gas pedals. They’re the long, skinny pedal on the right. Fucking use it.
Because trying to merge into traffic that is going 65 miles per hour, when you’re going 50, is stupid, and reckless, and dangerous, and you’re a motherfucking idiot. The world doesn’t revolve around you and your timidity. You’re not the only person on the road. When you merge into traffic going at deadly speeds, you don’t have the right of way. The cars going 65 do. Don’t do stupid shit.
Entrance ramps are also often called “acceleration lanes.” That should fucking tip you off.
You need to be at 65 miles per hour by the time you reach the end of the entrance ramp. Then, you have adequate time to adjust speed as needed to merge in between cars.
Press that gas pedal down. Like, down.
Your car is a complex machine. It can handle that acceleration. They are designed specifically to handle the acceleration expected to go from 0 to 65 in the span of a freeway entrance ramp.
If it can’t, then you need to not be on the freeway.
If you’re too timid and too scared to get to the appropriate speed by the end of the entrance ramp, then you need to not be on the freeway.
6. That cop doesn’t give two shits about you.
I have no idea why people slow down so much when they see a cop that has pulled someone over.
First of all, the cop has someone pulled over. He’s fucking busy. He’s not paying attention to the fact that you may be going 2 miles over the speed limit. Even if he notices, he doesn’t care.
So why in the actual fuck would you slow down to ten miles below the speed limit? No really, what’s wrong with you?
The only time you need to slow own is when the cop is behind you and turns on those pretty flashing lights. Otherwise, don’t be an idiot. He’s fucking busy.
But if you slam on your brakes and slow to 30 in a 45mph zone, and cause an accident, wanna know whose fault that is? Yours. Because of minimum safe speeds (yes, cops can pull you over and cite you for going too slow). If you’re going significantly slower than the flow of traffic (and significantly under the speed limit), then you are a safety hazard.
And an idiot.
7. If you’re stopped at a red light on an incline, back the fuck up.
If you’ve never driven a manual transmission, you may not understand why this is a big deal. And trying to explain the way a clutch works will take too long, and this post is long enough. Just take my word for it.
In manual cars, it’s common for them to roll backwards a little bit on an incline before the gear catches, and they’re on their way. If you crowd these cars, you’re a dick.
If you crowd them, and they roll back, and they hit you, it’s your damn fault.
But you know what? Even if you’re not on an incline, back the fuck up. It’s rude to crowd the car in front of you. Don’t be a dick.
8. Don’t block intersections.
We’ve all been there. Traffic sucks. You’ve been waiting three cycles at this light already. You want to get the fuck home already.
I don’t care. That doesn’t make it okay for you to be a dick.
If the light is green, but the cars in front of you aren’t moving, and there isn’t enough room for you to cross the intersection completely, then fucking stay there.
There are parts of Vegas that are notorious for this. The light is green, but traffic is backed up, and if you follow traffic, you’ll end up stuck in the middle of the intersection when the light turns red.
And you’re a dick.
If you can’t enter the intersection without coming to a complete stop in the intersection, then stay there. Wait until the cars in front of you move up. Yes, that might mean having to wait another cycle. Deal with it.
There’s no excuse for you being a dick.
9. Don’t be overly cautious.
I know I said the whole thing about your car being a deadly weapon. But in all honesty, if that scares you, don’t fucking drive.
Being overly cautious is almost as dangerous as being reckless. You’re driving too slow, you’re taking too long to merge, you can’t get out into traffic, you slam on your brakes any time someone passes in front of you. It’s more than just supremely annoying.
It shows that you’re afraid of your car, and afraid of traffic. Going back to the weapon reference, ask anyone familiar with guns if they would trust someone who is afraid of the gun more than someone who is confident in how to use it.
I know nothing about guns, and I can tell you which I prefer.
10. Don’t give up the right of way when it’s yours.
Ugh, this drives me nuts. Cars are dangerous weapons, m’kay, and they commonly go at dangerous speeds (you know, like 35 miles per hour). We have created rules and systems to minimize risk. These rules and systems have a purpose.
They’re important. And obnoxiously breaking the rules is bad.
Even if you’re “trying to be nice.”
Take a 4-way stop, for example. You got there first. You need to go first. Don’t wave me on to go before you. I will sit there and start looking through Facebook on my phone until you get impatient and just go.
Mostly because I don’t trust you.
If I go, and then you change your mind and decide you want to go, and then you T-bone me, it’s my fault.
Don’t yield the right of way when it’s yours. Don’t yield to merging traffic (but don’t be a dick during rush hour, either. Letting a car or two in front of you is fine. Letting 6 in is not). Don’t yield to people who are turning when you’re going straight. If you’re turning right, don’t yield to people who are turning left. Or making a U-turn. Don’t slam on your brakes to let that dick in who waited until the last minute before his lane ended to merge. There are people behind you. When you brake to let that dick in, it makes you a dick.
Don’t be a fucking dick.