The Old Coot is a nervous passenger

I can’t ride with anyone! Not as a passenger. They follow too close, a lot closer than I do. They wait too long before stepping on the brake for a car slowing down or stopping in front of them. I’m sure we’re going to crash, and I am constantly bracing for the impact. They take their eyes off the road and wander out of the lane, usually when they stare at the touch screen in search of an icon to adjust the fan speed, change stations on the radio or some such task. Things we used to be able to do by feel. 

But, not any more. Today’s cars force you to focus on a screen or a pressure sensitive button you can’t find by feeling for it. Drivers aren’t focused on the road ahead; they’re focused on the dashboard. Cell phones get the blame for distracted driving, but automobile designers are responsible for as much, if not more.

When the people that “I can’t ride with,” aren’t staring at or punching the touch screen, they’re looking over at me to say something, or worse yet, turning a full 180 degrees to converse with someone in the back seat while I’m staring straight ahead, ready to scream if brake lights come on in front of us. They also drive much faster than I do. Add it up: follows too close, goes to fast, wanders out of the lane, eyes roaming every which way but the road ahead; it explains why I’m a little wobbly when I step out of a car that someone else was driving.

My wish, when I ride with someone, is that they look over to me and say, “If there is anything I can do to make you feel comfortable with my driving style, let me know; I know how it feels.” I used to do this with my son when he was a new driver and we were on a road trip. I’d ask him to increase the space between our car and the one in front. He thought (and did) have better reflexes than me and would always be able to stop in time if something happened, but he agreed to back off, if I agreed not to drive like an old man when it was my turn. That worked pretty well, except I was a little uncomfortable when I was behind the wheel with him watching to make sure I complied with the agreement.

Unfortunately, I haven’t solved the problem that my wife has with “MY” driving. “You follow too close! You take to long to react to brake lights ahead of us on the highway. You mess around with the smart screen too much, blah, blah,” she claims. I don’t know what her problem is. I’m a great driver! 

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