You got a fast car
But is it fast enough so we can fly away?
We gotta make a decision
We leave tonight or live and die this way
Tracy Chapman, Fast Car
I never said I was a patient driver. There have been times where I *may* have used an expletive or two while driving, or even implored one of my fellow citizens to “move it along, buddy”. I knew I had an issue when my then 2-year old son mimicked me by shouting “Ass!” and fiercely pointed to the car next to us. Yes, that was not a “mother of the year” moment.
I like to drive defensively and even though I only go 5-9 miles over the speed limit, my friend Jaime has likened my driving to that of a cab driver. She lived in New York City for years, so to compare me to a cabbie? Well, she has cred. And, I got a little secret joy when she said to our friends, “There is a different kind of Elizabeth behind the wheel”.
Then, the pandemic hit.
Since March, I have not been in my car regularly. When I do get in my car, I am acutely aware of my driving and well….the pandemic has me driving like a grandma! I am finding myself driving slowly and deliberately – and even under the speed limit at times. Unheard of!
I think it started when I drove my son to his first orthodontist appointment in months. I was turning left at a very challenging intersection near my home. I thought I had plenty of room to make the turn, but a truck that was in my intended lane sped up dramatically and then slowed down to block my entry into the lane. I had to slow way down and finally got into my lane. My son and I were paralyzed with fear with this intentional road rage out of nowhere.
This is not the first time a Chevy truck has bullied me on the road. You see, I drive a Prius. Apparently, my choice of automobile ticks off several members of the truck driving guild. I am regularly tailgated, honked at….people who are Prius owners understand. I have asked them and each person has corroborated my experience. My husband also drives a Prius and we often wonder why our choice of car somehow insinuates how we vote or what we believe? Did we buy a crystal ball Toyota?
When I shared my incident with my sister, who is in insurance, she noted that insurance providers are having several meetings about COVID driving – where there has been a significant uptick in speeders and aggressive driving as a result of the pandemic. A news station in Washington, D.C. notes “In the District, AAA cited a Forbes study that said despite an 80% drop in congestion, ‘the number of speeding tickets issued has reportedly jumped by 20%, with violations for going 21-25 mph over the limit up by around 40%’” (Woodfork).
Some officials are making impassioned pleas for COVID driving to end, “Whatever impulse it is that’s motivating some uncaring drivers — with no particular place to go — to turn roadways into speedways, this must stop,” said John B. Townsend II, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s manager of public and government affairs” (Woodfork).
This is a difficult time. Admittedly, people are finding out that loved ones are sick, that they have lost their jobs or someone in their family may have even died due to COVID-19. Distracted and emotional driving is the residue of these painful situations.
In a way, I feel like my calm, collected – albeit slow – driving is like a victory garden. I am contributing to the pandemic effort in keeping people safe. And, my husband has noticed. Just the other day, I was driving him around and he said, “Honey, I was able to read that whole article. You are driving so smoothly. I feel like I’m in an Uber.” So, I have a career to fall back on…Uber driver of my crystal ball Toyota.
The one thing that unites all human beings, regardless of age, gender, religion,
economic status, or ethnic background, is that, deep down inside,
we all believe that we are above-average drivers.
Dave Barry, Dave Barry Turns Fifty
Woodfork, Rob. “‘This Must Stop’: Reckless Driving Soars amid COVID-19 Closures.” WTOP News, WTOP, 5 May 2020.