Most people are familiar with Sigmund Freud and his impact on the world of psychiatry. But not many people have heard of Sigmund Ford, Henry Ford’s estranged and imaginary brother who psychoanalyzed the personality of American drivers.
The one thing that unites all human beings, regardless of age, gender, religion, economic status or ethnic background, is that, deep down inside, we ALL believe that we are above average drivers. ~Dave Barry, “Things That It Took Me 50 Years to Learn”
But you needn’t travel far on any road, anywhere, before you encounter a psychotic driver, a neurotic driver, a passive-aggressive driver, a Callaway Driver, or any other plethora of psychiatric illness drivers. For me, it’s about half a mile from my home when I drive by Wal-Mart. For some reason, that place attracts neurotic drivers like a flame draws moths.
Some would argue it occurs much sooner than that . . . like when I get into the car. For the record, I am an assertive driver–not an aggressive driver. The basic difference is that assertive drivers know what they are doing. An aggressive driver is the other guy.
It takes 8,460 bolts to assemble an automobile, and one nut to scatter it all over the road. ~Author Unknown
So there I am going to work. I am late. I’m a doctor, so that is expected of me. If I could have left earlier I wouldn’t be late now, would I? I’m driving along, minding my own business, probably violating a traffic law or two if not a couple of Laws of Physics as well, when I come to the traffic light at Wal-Mart. I have a green light ,which to those of us that do not suffer mental illness, means I have the right-of-way. At the crossing intersection, there is a lane for drivers going straight from Wal-Mart or turning left. Those cars now have a red light. There is a right hand turning lane that is marked with a YIELD sign. Mentally challenged drivers have no idea what this sign means. It is written in some foreign language and it never applies to them.
So Case Study #1 in Sigmund Ford’s treatise on Driving Personalities, proceeds to enter traffic in front of me . . . right in front of me . . . going up on two wheels as they careen and the centripetal force lifts their car off the road surface. I don’t have a radar gun, but I estimate they must have been doing about fifty. Anything less, and they would have hit me.
But then a funny thing occurs. Their right foot goes numb, comes off the accelerator, and the vehicle slows down to 25 mph. For all I know, they are completely paralyzed on the right side. Their right foot might have fallen off and rolled back under the seat. They are smoking but this is not a specific clinical clue to any specific disorder. It is commonly seen in slow erratic drivers and is probably due to shortness of breath on exertion. They can’t breathe well at high speeds.
The posted speed limit on this road is 40. There are two lanes going in my direction but alas, there is traffic in the other lane. These are the people who always travel in the left lane, even though they are generally not passing anyone or making a left hand turn within the next 20 miles. They just hang out there because it makes them feel comfortable. They are right brain people who are drawn to the left side. Maybe they are British. They might have a turn signal blinking (does it really matter which one since we all know they are not turning anywhere soon) and they are almost always on the phone. Again, phone calls and texting are not specific to any driving disorder, but they are frequently seen in association with a variety of driving illnesses.
I am now tailgating this Case Study, primarily because my antilock brakes have prevented me from joining them in their beat up Oldsmobile, and because the traffic behind me is trying to do the same.
Natives who beat drums to drive off evil spirits are objects of scorn to smart Americans who blow horns to break up traffic jams. ~Mary Ellen Kelly
I see a flicker in the rear view mirror of Case Study #1. Not enough to tell you her eye color, but enough to know that she is now aware of my presence. She has signalled that I am number one, but her choice of appendages is unusual.
Now it was certainly possible that she could not see me before she pulled out into traffic. Maybe she has lost vision to that side. She could have a brain tumor or a stroke. I may be having a stroke at this very minute thanks to her. If visually impaired, she shouldn’t be driving, but let me tell you this as an ophthalmologist who has been practicing for 17 years: POOR VISION IS NOT A DETERRENT TO DRIVING. Some of the people with the worst vision are the most insistent that they are still SAFE DRIVERS.
I only drive to church and the store. I don’t recommend you join their church or shop at that store.
One woman, who couldn’t even read the big E (that’s worse than 20/400 and in case you were wondering that would make her legally blind) begged in tears with me not to report her to the DOT because she could still drive safely. I pointed out that she couldn’t read street signs. She agreed, but she didn’t need to. She KNEW where she was going. Don’t we all? I asked her what she would do if there was road construction and a detour. Like that’s never happened! Sometimes I think they just set those orange barrels up alongside the road because they have nowhere to store them.
With a perfectly straight face and with all honesty in her little heart, she told me that she had a friend that rode with her and her “friend” read the street signs for her! (I know what you are thinking. Why doesn’t the friend do the driving? It’s because her friend is disabled and not able to physically manage driving.)
A sad situation really, but I digress.
I don’t think the problem here was visual. And now that I have seen her beady little eyes in her mirror, I know that she knows that I’m here. And she knows that I know that she knows that I am here.
There is a little burst of speed. She suffers intimacy issues and does not want me on her bumper.
I speed up as well. She slows down. More evil glares in the rear view mirror. Smoke is coming out her nostrils. Well, she is smoking after all. It’s hard to tell, but it might be coming out her ears.
So let’s recap. She pulls out in front of me. She proceeds to then go slower than me. And this is my fault? In psychology, this is called transference. She is transferring her feelings of anxiety and poor driving onto me.
This is not unusual. There appear to be many people on the road that are in a hurry to get in front of you–but not in a hurry to go anywhere once this goal is achieved. Had I been able to pass her, we could have determined whether or not she also suffered passive-aggressive driving personality disorder. These poor wretches will accelerate as soon as you try to pass them. The surest way to slow them down is to pull in behind them.
Unfortunately for Case Study #1, there is no effective treatment. The condition is often terminal–eventually they will pull out in front of the wrong person. Horn honking is typically ineffective and in fact, often produces adverse effects, including even slower driving (worsening of the right-sided paralysis,) seizure activity in the form of random and often obscene gesturing, and significant glaring. Sigmund Ford wanted to try electroconvulsive shock therapy for this condition, but it is still waiting FDA approval.
* Driving Quotes from QuoteGarden.
* Image from I am an aggressive driver, I admit it.