Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. was in private practice for more than thirty years. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the states ...Read More
After completing our annual drive across country from the East Coast of the United States to Colorado, in the Far West, I found myself asking why people are in such a hurry that they do dangerous things. My experiences and observations, as I drove, were of drivers tailgating, weaving in and out of lanes, passing cars from the right lane and going at alarmingly high rates of speed and well beyond speed limits.
In order to illustrate what I mean by this, I will describe one interval of driving during a thunder storm. I can honestly say that, after 50 years of driving, including through all types of weather, this was the worst thunder storm imaginable. The windshield of my car was being hit with sheets of rain. Visibility was no further than a few feet ahead. Many drivers, like myself, opted to pull off the road and wait out the storm because conditions were dangerous. I was horrified to see other cars speeding by at 70 miles per hour, the legal speed limit under normal conditions but these were not normal conditions. This was but one example driving that was dangerous for others just as much for the driver.
The reader might think that state troopers are present to stop, ticket and inhibit crazy driving. I did see examples of the police issuing tickets to these drivers. traffic would slow down as if everyone was now alerted to the dangers of driving. However, once out of sight of the officers, reckless driving would resume.
Of course during a long trip drivers pull off the road to refuel, get some lunch and stretch their weary and still limbs. Many of the cars were recognizable as the autos seen on the road. Yet, the people in those autos appeared very nice and respectable. Among them were folks who were elderly, middle aged, fathers, mothers, children and business people. It was hard to imagine that among these were people who’s driving was dangerous. Why would such average, smiling and pleasant people put themselves and others in danger?
In my opinion, stress plays a big role in this behavior. There is something anonymous about the highway that, much like the internet, permits people to put aside good judgement and engage in reckless driving. All the aggravation that comes from coping with a difficult marriage, problematic children, unemployment, financial issues and both depression and anxiety are express on the highway. In other words, people are releasing pent up frustrations from their lives. That is not to say that anyone is doing this deliberately. While there are a few people who are aware of driving recklessly, most are totally unaware of what they are doing. For those who are aware, there are always excuses and rationalizations such as another is driving too slowly or there is an urgency about getting some place quickly. My guess is that most would not admit that they are expressing helpless, hopelessness and rage in the way they are driving.
In many ways this essay is not only about traffic and driving but about how we live our lives. People are in a hurry to get to their first and second jobs. They are in a hurry to complete tasks at home, in school and at work. People rush from one place to another but rarely take time to think about what they are doing. I have a good friend who is working endless hours to put his son through a top notch college so that he can go to medical school. He is living life at a break neck speed and is not taking time to think about what he is doing to himself. This good friend already suffers from high blood pressure, and high cholesterol,n addtion to several other health problems.
My hope is that I might succeed in getting at least of few of you to be aware when you are driving so that you will slow down and think about your well being and safety as well as that of other people in your car and in the other automobiles. In the same way, my hope is that some of you will slow down your daily lives so that you live in the moment, appreciating that moment rather than continuing to rush.
There are healthier ways to cope with life’s difficulties such as getting plenty of exercise and using yoga and meditation to release tension and getting in touch with living in the moment rather than hurrying. Remember, when driving, when living, being in a hurry can result in never getting there.
Your comments opinions and experiences are encouraged.