Street Smarts: Stay calm, driving is tough enough

Too often there’s someone pushing on your bumper, swerving to get around you or cutting you off as you try to get where you’re going on our traffic-choked highways and streets.

It’s road rage.

And it’s getting worse.

“People always ask me why we have so much road rage,” said trooper Kirk Rudeen of the Washington State Patrol. “All you have to do is look at what traffic is like now. There are more cars on the road. (Drivers) are sitting in traffic longer. They’re trying to make up time. The only place they can make up time is on the road.”

So they start slicing and dicing, cutting their way through traffic, forcing others to make room. When you don’t get out of their way, they become enraged. Their irrational behavior threatens the lives of everyone on the road, including any of their own loved ones trapped in the car with them.

On Friday I watched one angry soul put the fates of several people in his hands.

As I walked up California Street in Everett, an eastbound car had stopped. The driver was apparently rubbernecking at demolition that was going on at the site of the old Elks Lodge building. There was lots of activity with two large front-end loaders smashing stuff.

A driver who came up behind him, apparently in a hurry, laid into his horn for more than 30 seconds, a continuous, angry cry for help.

Finally, clued in and panicky, the rubbernecker pulled into the alley to get out of the way. The angry driver hit the gas and swerved like he was going to go into the alley after him. At the last second he swerved back onto California Street. He then sped off, probably full of indignant rage.

How did we get to where it’s OK to run someone off the road because they’re delaying you for just a few seconds?

Rudeen believes that drivers need to remember what being polite means. Make room for your fellow drivers. Leave space for people to merge in front of you. Move over when you make a pass so that traffic can sort itself out.

“These are the roads we have now, so let’s all make the best of it,” he said. “If you can drive with courtesy, things would be so much better. Traffic would be flowing a lot smoother.”

I can only look at myself.

I know I’m always in a hurry, trying to push ahead to get home to my family, to make it to work on time.

It’s time for me to slow down, and let go of my go-go angst. Who needs the stress anyway? I’d rather take my time and get there safely.

I just hope I don’t trigger any road rage incidents as I dawdle along.

Vanity wins

Drivers with an independent streak now have new options for personalizing their license plates.

It used to be that you could only emboss the traditional Mount Rainier license plate with a personal message.

Starting this month, nearly all of the state’s 31 specialty license plates – ranging from plates to help make kids safer to honoring lighthouses to protecting fish – can now be personalized, said Brad Benfield, a spokesman for the state Department of Licensing.

You pay an extra $40 to get your speciality plates and an extra $30 fee each year thereafter. Add another $40 to put a vanity message on your specialty plate, a cost that also drops to $30 per year after you buy the plate.

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