Thursday, May 17, 2018

Driven to Distraction

     I set myself up for a problem. I made a plan to drive 3,000 miles from my home outside of Philadelphia to Seattle, WA. Then I remembered:  I hate to drive!

     As I've related in a number of posts, including What Me Worry? I believe the biggest threat to our everyday health and safety is not high fat or cholesterol, not a lack of exercise, not the prospect of Iran or North Korea developing a nuclear bomb. It's the danger posed to each and every one of us when we innocently climb into our cars and drive out onto the road.

     I'm used to making long trips up and down the East Coast on I95, which is the Wild West of interstates. People speed, tailgate, pass on the right, change lanes without signaling -- and they do it all in heavy traffic and possibly talking on the phone. It's not unusual to see a line of six or eight cars in the left-hand lane, all going 70 or 75 mph, and all about five feet apart. They're just asking for trouble, aren't they?

     Well, after driving a little over 700 miles through Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana, I can report that Midwest drivers are a little more courteous. And perhaps a little smarter. They don't speed as much, don't tailgate as much. They're simply not as aggressive.

     Except for the trucks. And it's not just the semis that barrel downhill at 80 mph, it's the pickups as well. Any number of times I've looked in my rear-view mirror to see the grille of a pickup looming up behind me, only a few feet from the back of my car, before it swerves out to the left to pass me by.

     Also, the traffic mix is a little different. In the Midwest at least half of the traffic consists of trucks, of one sort or another. Most of the rest are SUVs of one sort or another.

     I feel a little out of place in my Honda sedan. But then I pass the big Exxon and Shell signs posting gas at 3.09 a gallon, and I'm glad I'm getting 30 miles per gallon ... actually, better than that on the highway. (It also helps that I don't go 70 or 75 mph, which eats up gas at a faster rate.)

     Ford, with its impeccable timing, just announced that it will no longer produce passenger sedans in this country -- with the exception of the budget car Focus and the muscle car Mustang -- preferring to concentrate its efforts on "better selling" trucks and SUVs. Of course, Ford is probably right in projecting high SUV sales when gas is selling at $2.00 or $2.50 a gallon. But what about when gas is $3.00 or $3.50 a gallon, or possibly more?

     I myself have always resisted the siren call of the SUV. I don't think they're any safer than a solid IIHS five-star- rated passenger car, and even the new, smaller ones use up more gasoline. And if you're worried about global warming (as I am) you don't want to use up more gasoline.

     I am one of those in favor of raising the gasoline tax, which has been set at 18.4 cents per gallon since 1993. Accounting for inflation, that tax is about half of what it was 25 years ago.

     I saw former PA Governor Ed Rendell (Dem.) and former U. S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood (Rep.) on TV the other day, pushing for a higher gas tax to fund improvements in our infrastructure. I think it's a good idea. It might help us repave some roads, rebuild a few bridges, and modernize airports and other public transportation. And it might just help save the planet too.

16 comments:

DJan said...

I agree with you about needing to raise gas taxes everywhere. Our gas is already over $3 and heading towards $4. I also love my little Honda Civic that gets great gas mileage. Anything that deters people from driving is a good thing. I love the bus system we have here, which allows me to ride the bus at least half the time. :-)

Anonymous said...

Washington drivers are pretty dadblasted rude, seattle horrible and the price of gasoline in Vancouver is almost $4.29 a gallon..I walk and bike everywhere since I am older than dirt I can ride our bus system on the cheap..I just don't get it why people here don't scream about the price of gasoline and ride their bikes and walk more, they don't! It is pretty cold, rainey and windy most of the year then it gets to be 90 in a new York minute, those days I get out very early and get whatever I am going to do early or just forgettabout doing much as the humidity just sucks the life out of people, I live across two bridges from God-forsaken Oregon they don't fund schools, and they don't care about taxing anything so people pay huge income taxes, business taxes and many think they will find family living wages in our tiny town..NOT..we escape to the beach with childhood friends who own prius or electric cars we carpool but we would not settle here if we knew what did happen to this lovely town, crime and crap came here!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Rian said...

Our gas prices aren't that high... yet. And we do drive a Ford F150 which doesn't get great gas mileage, but to be honest, its almost a necessity to have a truck in Texas. One of the family (or more) have always had one and it's constantly being borrowed for uses only a truck can handle. I don't envy your long drive. I still drive, but have stopped driving on the highways as I'm no longer comfortable driving 70 mph. I could if I had to... but since I don't have to... don't!

Barbara said...

I'm with you on the curse of the road. I long for road trips but am just not happy sittng in a car anymore. Glad I had the trips I did. If this big trip is your last "big" trip, it will be well worth the telling for all the sites you are going to see

Barbara - said...

I of course,prefer long over the road trips and have never had an accident or a close call in 20 years. I agree that there should be a higher gas tax, but as a happy SUV driver, folks like me are not liable to downsize. I can see the break lights a half a mile ahead and more, which makes defensive driving easier.

You'll know when you're a true cross country driver when instead of fearing the trucks you embrace them. 80 percent of car/truck accidents are caused by the car, not the truck. I would be much happier if it was just me and all the trucks (which happens often early or very late).

If you're taking the higher road on 90, it is so e of the most beautiful cou try in Western Montana...where I was able to drive 90. Have fun!

Wisewebwoman said...

I'm with you on all you wrote there Tom. I drive a Yaris, marvellous on gas and quickly responsive which has helped me so many times when trucks, SUVs and rigs surround me. In a finite planet this is madness indeed especially on long road trips which I used to make frequently in the past. And yes taxes should be higher.

We are headed to Armageddon and this whole Iran mess is about the oil, we are insatiable.

XO
WWW

Olga Hebert said...

I have been horrified at how cracked and pot holed the Vermont roads are since I returned from my winter in Florida. Frost and road salt take their toll.

Michele said...

I also agree with you about the gas tax should stay high and be raised. Are we the only country that posts gas per gallon where most countries post gas price per liter which is a quart.
I drive a Mazda CX 5 SUV that gets 34 to 36 mpg. I love being a little bit higher up on the road and the SUV is easy to get in and out.

Still the Lucky Few said...

We have a sedan as well, and I feel we are taking a big risk driving on highways among the huge trucks and SUVs. I do know though that SUVs are not safer, however, the hype has been convincing. Thanks for writing this, and bringing attention to the issue of driving on our roads.

retirementreflections said...

I love how you admittedly hate to drive...but still took on a 3,000 mile road trip. That's impressive (and beats the alternatives of staying home, taking the bus, or taking an expensive flight). It's also very true how drivers seem to behave differently in different parts of the country.

gigihawaii said...

Well, we can't drive much because we live on an island in the middle of the Pacific.

Tom Sightings said...

gigi ... lucky you!

retirementallychallenged.com said...

I love road trips but I'm not crazy about driving (if that makes any sense at all). Distracted driving in the age of smartphones (the phones being smarter than the drivers, I think) really scares me. My car was totaled when someone ran a red light... and he came out of his van with his phone at his ear. Yikes! I agree with you about gas taxes, though. I'm not sure when everyone got so down on taxes yet still expect all the services they "deserve".

Kathy @ SMART Living 365.com said...

Hi Tom! Here in California we pay really high gasoline taxes but I'm all for it. We Californians love to drive our vehicles and that is the price of the privilege. I'm not really into LONG stays in the car but because I love to travel just about any time any place I will do it. And we actually just traded in our Ford C-max hybrid and are DONE with Ford. We liked the car but it didn't get near as good as gas mileage as was originally advertised (they gave us a $500 rebate because of it) but the real kicker was they announced that they won't be making them anymore and the price was dropping like a rock. We had the car for 5 years and it was no longer in warranty so we started looking around. So we bought a Subaru Outback that is DEFINITELY safer on the roads that that C-Max was....and the proof is that even though we bought a brand new car that was obviously worth a LOT more than a 5-year-old C-Max...our insurance dropped by over $200 a year. That's right! It dropped! The stats are amazing on a Subaru for safety...lots of bells and whistles...and our gas milage is an average of 28 mpg! So while we aren't getting the 38 that we got with the C-Max hybrid, it's not too bad. Of course you'll have to ask me in 5 years what I think to know for sure, but so far we are happy. Good fun on your road trip!!! ~Kathy

Linda Myers said...

There is nothing like a road trip! I suspect you're past the worst of the traffic.

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