Heyl: Courteous drivers tying up traffic?
Time to slam the brakes on all of this civility. Good manners are the foundation of a civil society, so courtesy usually is a trait we admire. But not necessarily every time you get behind the wheel.
Too often, we blame Pittsburgh's challenging topography for people's inability to quickly get from one locale to another. We must negotiate winding curves, climb steep hills and cross scary bridges — many of them over water.
But perhaps a far more compelling reason why traffic congestion here appears greater than it should be for such a modestly-sized city might be that motorists are too tolerant of bone-headed drivers.
That's the implication in a study by AutoVantage, a Connecticut-based roadside assistance service. Pittsburgh came in second only to Portland when it comes to having the nation's most courteous drivers.
The rankings are based on driving activities that participants in a survey acknowledged performing and observing, such as tailgating, abruptly changing lanes and, presumably, running other vehicles off the road.
We're more courteous now than we were in the last AutoVantage study, in 2009, when we finished fifth. But is our politeness enabling us to reach our destinations more rapidly?
Those of you reading this while stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic with two miles to go before reaching the Squirrel Hill Tunnel have your answer: Nope.
That's because driving courteously often equates to driving passively, which increases travel time. Sometimes people need to be made aware that their negligible driving abilities are tying up traffic. That can be accomplished most easily by resorting to rudeness.
Because we're reluctant to embrace churlish tactics, we are late for appointments and lose irretrievable moments to such things as:
• The left-lane hog
An army of (primarily) seniors exists that believes the passing lane is solely for motorists maintaining a consistent 35 mph speed. Courteous drivers unfortunately refrain from continually flashing high-beam headlights at the hogs to remind them the passing lane is for passing; in their attempt to avoid appearing impolite, they don't realize the headlights are a far gentler reminder than firing a flare gun.
• The premature yield
This occurs when a lane is ceded to a vehicle whose oncoming headlights are barely identifiable blips in the distance. Courteous motorists behind them would rather let traffic back up than deliver the loud horn blasts premature yielders desperately need to startle them into accelerating.
• The tunnel turtles
Although it's hardly their fault, courteous motorists probably blame themselves if they inadvertently tailgate people who de-accelerate in tunnels. Horn blasts or high-beams are equally appropriate to the drivers for whom the phrase “maintain speed through tunnel” might as well be language as dead as ancient Macedonian.
You don't need to resort to road rage, but occasional road rudeness might get you home quicker.
When courtesy prevails, free-flowing traffic fails.
Eric Heyl is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7857 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pirates say goodbye to veteran leaders Burnett, Ramirez
- South Fayette extends winning streak in dominating fashion
- Franklin Regional runs past Hampton
- Gorman: WPIAL must answer with power move
- Penn-Trafford QB Laffoon sets career TD pass mark in rout of Hempfield
- Steelers notebook: Starting DEs not leaving the field
- Cole working to become Penguins’ next Martin on defense
- Opposing TEs took differing paths to greatness
- Rock Steelers Style, other fashion events team up for a good cause
- Freeport takes chances, cashes in during shutout of Highlands
- NFL notebook: Cardinals to stay in W.Va. ahead of Steelers game