toy car
 Maybe our most important lack is of adequate vehicular customs .

In the final analysis, driving is actually as much a social act as it is a functional one.

Whether we weep and gnash our teeth, or just splutter wearily at what we see on the roads around us, what we’re really dealing with is a mismatch between the technological capability to careen around in appliances weighing thousands of pounds, and the social context in which this takes place.  While technological advancements like the automobile appear almost overnight, workable customs and social expectations evolve more slowly over time.

In the case of driving, it could be that our most significant problem is the simple lack of an effective way to focus social disapproval on antisocial behavior.

Yes, we have cops out there writing tickets, but they can never catch more than a small fraction of the actual offenders.  Police have never been as effective at deterring people from undesirable behavior as the knowledge that everybody will be looking at them in a way that makes them want to crawl into a hole.

To make matters worse, we don’t yet have a truly common, shared understanding of what acceptable vehicular behavior is.

For my part, I take a functional view of driving.  I don’t particularly care whether you go slower or faster than me, as long as we don’t endanger or unnecessarily impede one another.

A lot of people, though, seem to have effectively transposed the mentality of Arctic sled dogs onto their road behavior.  Sled dogs will fight to the death over who goes first.  For them, position in the pack equates directly to social status, even personal worth (to whatever extent dogs may deal in such highfalutin constructs).

When all is said and done, I suspect that a lot of the road behavior that most riles pack-position drivers as well as just-get-there types mainly involves mismatched values.

For example, to me, the guy who speeds up to keep me from passing him appears ridiculously, even childishly, petty.  But to him, I suppose I could appear arrogant, to think that I can just show up in the “pack” and presume to put myself ahead of him.