Fast and slow drivers are like oil and water. Cruising is pretty easy to enjoy when those two types of drivers don’t mix. But they do millions of times every day. To drive in the other car, speeders seem impatient and wreckless, while slowpokes seem incompetent and obnoxious. Safety improvements can easily be made. If the speed limits along Highway 97 were cut in half, we could drastically reduce the rate of automobile fatalities, but for anybody travelling at 40 to 50 kilometres an hour, it would take three hours to get from Oliver to Kelowna. An even sillier idea is to double the speed limits. It would be extremely dangerous to allow motorists to travel Highway 97 at between 160 and 200 kilometres per hour. However, if you somehow manage to survive traveling at those speeds, a trip to Kelowna would only take 45 minutes from Oliver. In Canada, civil engineers have done a pretty good job striking a good balance between speed and safety. The rate of automobile deaths per 100,000 people is extremely low here compared to the rest of the world. Still, it’s been decided that we can spare a bit of human life in order for the rest of us to get to our destinations at a reasonable pace. They’re working on it though – engineers are always figuring out new ways of building safer cars that don’t require lower speed limits. But no matter how much ingenuity can be applied towards cars or the physical infrastructure of roadways, our stubborn attitudes makes driving deadlier than it needs to be. When everybody on the road goes with the flow, there’s never any need to rage. But as drivers, it can be tough to synchronize our sense of urgency. Impatient drivers who make unsafe passes are imposing grave risks upon innocent people, whereas the people who drive at unnecessary slow speeds are provoking others to make more unsafe passes. When my mom is approached by a dangerous driver, she tries to make the roads safer by muttering “I hope the cops catch that idiot.” It might be awhile before the cops catch all the idiots. The toxic mix of slow and fast drivers will probably continue causing trouble until the advent of driverless cars. Oh well. Awful drivers, summer traffic and the monotony of a daily commute can make driving feel pretty miserable at times. When that happens, it’s good to take a step back and appreciate the big picture – we belong to an very small fraction of human history that has the ability to travel anywhere along the continent with the automobile in our driveway. A few bad drivers are worth it.
Dan Walton, editor, Peachland View