Inflated sense of their own importance.
Lack of empathy.
Sense of entitlement.
Expect special treatment.
Believe they are superior.
Problems regulating stress.
Expect unquestioning compliance with their desires.
The rules don’t apply to them.
Their time is more important.
They must be first. They absolutely, positively MUST be first, regardless of the inconveniences or risks they create for others.
Most of us are familiar with these common traits of narcissists. We all know someone who has these issues– an ex-boyfriend, a coworker, a relative. We talk about narcissists easily, highlighting individuals in our own experience and bantering about how horrible they are to deal with.
But what is it called when the large part of a population starts to behave this way? And these many thousands of people carelessly careen around in one- or two- or five-ton weapons on wheels? They must be first. Laws don’t apply to them. They are not concerned with the safety or well-being of others.
I’ve previously used the term vehicular narcissism to describe the way many people in the Seattle area drive. While the term itself may imply narcissism on the part of the vehicles, it’s those who operate the vehicles whose prefrontal cortexes seem to go dark when they get behind the wheel.
In older posts I’ve made lists of the most prevalent Seattle driving behaviors. Some of the people were doing this some of the time. But since the age of COVID hit in early 2020 and police presence seemed to take a few steps back, an insidious mass illness has flooded our roadways like toxic sludge.
At first traffic was light but commutes were punctuated by too cool for school types blowing by at 90 or more in the toll or HOV lanes. Motorcyclists seemed to think we were in a Mad Max movie. People started to roll through stop signs and stop lights. Ten over was a common speed. Gradually traffic volumes returned to normal and my hope was that this behavior would calm down.
But it’s gotten so much WORSE. It seems impossible to leave home without encountering multiple angst-filled, entitled motorists who scream at and road rage others– often for obeying traffic laws!
Have you encountered any of the following behaviors lately?
- You’re honked at for coming to a complete stop
- You’re screamed at for leaving a safe following distance
- You’re road raged for doing the speed limit
- You have to slam on the brakes because someone from an adjoining street ignored a traffic signal
- You see a car fly past a pedestrian already in the crosswalk, often people with dogs and children
Yes, these behaviors are routine nowadays. Don’t tell me “welcome to the new normal” because this shouldn’t be normal. People are injured, disabled, and killed by vehicular narcissism, aka drivers who need to better self-regulate.
One of the most amazing parts about this phenomenon is that if you honk or yell or reflexively throw up your hands, the bad drivers will flip you the bird or scream or aggressively jerk their vehicle towards you in some juvenile display of supposed dominance. There is no remorse.
They are most important.
They should be first.
Their time is more important than yours.
There are various takes on what kind of drivers are the worst. The Seattle area does have a lot of high performance vehicles on the roads, especially expensive SUVs. Two weeks ago I saw a Land Rover accessorized to the point of ridiculousness. It looked like something the last man on earth would make if he were going on a cross country zombie-killing trip and didn’t care what any last woman on earth might think. It had a noticeable sign on the back that said, “Enjoy your Jeep, peasants.”
I’ve heard “Teslas are the new BMWs.” Teslas are a trendy new item that accelerate quickly. This is one of the most common types of cars I see blasting down the road as if speed limits are merely a suggestion for the commoners. In the ’80s and ’90s, we had an influx of BMWs that were often blamed on those who escaped LA. Now these silent but deadly electric cars fly over our roads with their kin, joining the hoardes of other wheeled terrors that continually scoff at traffic laws.
A common topic of discussion when complaining about motor vehicle operator behavior is Big Truck Drivers. These are the jacked up full-sized pickups often sporting an illegal lack of mud flaps and wide wheel base. They like to show everyone how awesome the sound of their engine is and how much smoke they can belch as they floor it to pass the unworthy peons who obstruct their need to go 85.
Just tonight I was road raged by one of these. Angry that I was going slightly over the speed limit and not 120, he kept gunning it to ride up on my bumper, flash his lights, and bellow The Indignant Roar of the Entitled Big Truck Driver. He swerved around me in a turn lane and then cut me off. Thanks to his smooth handling skills and mature adult behavior, he was able to get that much closer to the vehicle in front of me. Then he made it to the next traffic signal before I did, where he was subsequently caught in the same five mile per hour traffic jam as the rest of us.
But these behaviors can come from any type of vehicle, like the mini van that backed into me in a parking lot and then told his insurance company I backed into him. Or the sneering woman who refused to let me merge onto the freeway and ran me onto the shoulder at 60. Then there was the SUV driver with a two-handed death grip on a giant sub sandwich who forced me off an arterial recently. The blank look in her eyes told me it probably didn’t register that she could have killed someone because SANDWICH. On it goes. All the time.
Seattle, we need to collectively get a grip. It’s gotten so much worse the past couple of years. Civilized behavior on the roads will continue to disintegrate unless we all ask take an inventory of our own behavior. Let’s take a check-up.
1. Are you STOPPING at stop signs and traffic signals?
This means, as my driver’s ed teacher would say, you actually stop and feel your own body’s counter motion when you do. Your wheels actually stop moving.
This does not include tapping the brakes then rolling through. This does not include looking before you roll through. This does not include blowing the sign or signal without even slowing, or driving through a red because you don’t see anyone coming the other way.
Stop means STOP. Stopping allows your brain a moment to reset and adequately scan for pedestrians and other vehicles in both directions.
2. Are you driving a reasonable speed?
Every day I see people driving 55 in a 35, 35 when the 20 mph school zone light is flashing, ludicrous speeds on the freeways.
Consider how much less able you are to stop for hazards or other living beings when your speed is increased. The news always touts that factoid in snow storms, but it’s true all of the time.
One ironic thing I’ve noticed is that most of the time, when someone is tailgating me in a residential neighborhood or near a school, they turn off in that neighborhood or at the school. Yet I’ll bet they complain about people driving too fast through their neighborhood.
It is also dangerous to drive at low speeds on the freeway, and it’s actually illegal to do that in the passing (left) lane. Keep to the right, maintain freeway speed, and stop blocking travel lanes.
3. Are you yielding to pedestrians?
Pedestrians have been getting missed a lot as drivers blow through signs and signals. Just tonight I saw a poor guy with a Golden Retriever waiting patiently at a crosswalk. He was highly visible but cars from three different directions decided to go through the intersection without waiting for him to cross. When he did cross, other vehicles impatiently started to cross before he was out of the crosswalk.
It is the law that you leave a lane’s width for those pedestrians. Waiting a few extra seconds won’t hurt you.
4. Are you following too closely?
A majority of drivers follow too closely. You should be able to see the rear wheels of the vehicle in front of you at all times. At freeway speeds, you should be able to count a “one thousand, two thousand, three thousand” between you and the vehicle you’re following.
Crashes happen all day every day because people choose to follow too closely. Freeways back up for miles because people can’t stay off of each others’ tails. This is so very avoidable but seldom done.
5. Are you racing between traffic signals, aka stoplights?
This is another bizarre trend in this area. People gun it to get ahead of others in traffic only to make it to the next red traffic signal before them.
It’s been proven that this antsy, reckless technique doesn’t really save you time. It does make you look like a jerk. Calm down, drive something resembling the speed limit, and we’ll all get there.
6. Are you a Frogger driver?
A coworker said the other day, “People drive like they’re in a video game!” This is so very true. Drivers weave in and out of lanes to get ahead of others. If one lane is going the speed limit, they’ll veer into the other to get ahead. They ping pong back and forth, usually without a turn signal. It’s critically important to them that they be first in line, and chances are no one in their car is in labor on the way to the hospital.
7. Are you using your turn signal?
Yes, for real. Signaling before turns, merges, or lane changes seems to have gone the way of the dodo.
IT’S THE LAW. USE YOUR SIGNAL. To do otherwise is pure laziness.
8. Are you braking to change lanes or because you see a freeway exit?
This ridiculous but very normal practice has a butterfly effect on our highways in particular. Drivers brake or slow down considerably to make lane changes. This can be very dangerous in wet weather. Maintain your speed, use your signal, look for an opening. It’s unlikely that you’ll need to use your brakes at all.
If you don’t know what I’m saying about freeway exits, watch and it will become obvious. People in the right lane inexplicably slow at exits, often following the fog line as if they are going to exit, then swerving back onto the freeway while doing 40 or 50.
9. Are you paying attention to your surroundings?
People in our area seem to have poor situational awareness. Mothers push their children in strollers with ear buds in or while on the phone, oblivious to threats around them. People reach right in front of you at the grocery store as if they were never taught the words “excuse me.” People drive as if completely oblivious to any signage or other lives.
What was the name of the last house address or cross street you passed? What was the last mile marker on the freeway? Do you know if you’re traveling east or west? Could you describe what the last jogger you saw was wearing?
Not long ago I was near an intersection where the power was out. While I don’t advise that others do this, I stood on the sidewalk and motioned at people to slow down.
As usual, many people didn’t notice me at all. Most eyes were fixed straight ahead. Some heads were bouncing around as they talked to others. These folks blew right through this dark intersection at the speed limit, or in some cases, far above it.
State law says to treat dark intersections as a four-way stop. But how many even notice that it’s dark? And how many people do you see stop or kind of stop, then follow other cars through the intersection without waiting their turn?
10. Are you taking out your rage on others who have nothing to do with it?
It is unfortunately normal to be road raged and threatened for being a careful driver. Careful does not mean stopping two car lengths from an intersection or driving 15 under. Careful means that you are driving something resembling the speed limit and you’re actively aware of your surroundings.
I came to a complete stop at a stop sign next to a school this summer. The guy behind me completely lost his crap. He started squirreling around in his big truck and screaming like an overgrown baby, then slowed down to yell threats as I signaled and made a sharp turn further up.
Because of behavior like this, many of us don’t want to be “the one who actually stops at the stop sign” or “the freak who goes the speed limit.”
Try going the posted 25 mph speed limit on East Marginal Way in Seattle. You will be mercilessly tailgated, then aggressively swerved around for daring to inconvenience others by obeying the law. They can’t just tailgate and change lanes. To prove whatever their point is, they have to ride your bumper, then make themselves known by scraping past you and swiftly cutting in front of you. It’s a rush, a power trip.
So we conform. We’re sheep. We become the thing we hate, making excuses to ourselves as to why we’re the exception to the rule.
Why our time is more important.
Why we’re entitled to live outside the lines.
Like middle schoolers who don’t want to be uncool, we do what the bullies do and speed and swerve and scream and swear.
11. Do you have super powers?
Comedian Dave Barry has pointed out that we all think we’re above average drivers.
Our collective driving habits seem to reveal that we do, in fact, think we’re above average drivers. We think, “I can glide through this light, I’ll see if there are pedestrians there.” Or, “I know how to handle a car like this. None of these other morons know how to drive.”
We tell ourselves lies to justify our reckless endangerment of others’ lives. Who cares that there might be a baby or a pet we can’t see in that other vehicle. Who cares that we might kill someone’s brother or daughter or grandmother as we blast from Point A to Point B with our eyes fixed straight ahead. It’s not our brother or daughter or grandmother. Our insurance will cover it.
Besides taking stock of our own behaviors and determining if we too have turned zombie and conformed to the sociopathic driving practices of the COVID era, I have one other piece of advice.
CALL THE POLICE.
Report this stuff. Don’t stand for it. Don’t shrug it off. Don’t allow it to become normal.
911 is available from any phone any time. Even if they can’t catch the aggressive driver, if you give them that license plate, it’s in the record now.
Bullies win if you let them win. Bullying becomes normal if you participate and/or look the other way.
We are all important.
It is important to practice empathy.
You are not entitled to endanger others’ safety and lives.
On the road you should not expect special treatment unless you’re an oversized load.
You are not superior to other human beings.
We all need to restrain from taking our stress out on those who have nothing to do with it.
Others don’t have to conform to your special demands.
The rules DO apply to you.
Everyone’s time is important.
And unless you’re in labor or bleeding to death, you don’t NEED to be first.
Just say no to vehicular narcissism.
I become the incarnation of what I express.Selwyn Hughes
©2021 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.