2008-09-04

I may be slow, but I'm FIRST!

I've been meaning to add this to my driving posts for a while. I just read an interesting article on Ars Technica, titled Selfish driving causes everyone to pay the Price of Anarchy, which is a pretty interesting discussion about an upcoming research article on traffic patterns and how, when each person is driving according to their own personal best interests, the entire group (including themselves) suffer.

It doesn't really have anything to do with this particular post, but it did remind me of one behavior I've observed and thought worth mentioning.

Many times, I've approached a stop light on a multi-lane road, where my lane is clear, but adjacent lanes have multiple people waiting at the light. Since I tend to accelerate fairly quickly "off the block", I like seeing this, because it means I'll get to reach cruising speed much faster. (One theory is, for better gas mileage, one should accelerate more slowly; however, in a hybrid car such as I drive, the theory is reversed, as faster acceleration is supposed to induce more assistance from the electric motor and actually decrease gas consumption.)

However, quite often, as I'm approaching the stop light, someone from an adjacent lane will pull out in front of me and take the "pole position". (If I'm lucky, it'll happen far enough in advance that I won't have to slam on my brakes to avoid a collision.) There are two possible, logical reasons for this behavior: (1) this person likes to accelerate quickly, and therefore wants to be where no one is in front of him, or (2) they need to make a turn soon and are changing lanes while they have a chance. However, way, way too often, this person will end up accelerating more slowly than the person they just got out from behind, and keep going straight for quite some time (i.e. several miles), even moving back into the lane they just left.

So what was the point of changing lanes? A better view of cross traffic before the light changed? A desire to witness the changing of the light for one's self? Mistrust that the car in front of them would actually be able to go once the light changed? Or that irrational fear of someone passing them, that same one that causes people in the right lane on the interstate to suddenly accelerate as I approach alongside in the left lane (note that I habitually drive with cruise control, so I'm reasonably certain my speed is constant)?

Or maybe this pathological desire to be "FIRST!" extends beyond internet comment boards?

1 comment:

SlapShotSal said...

And it is worse when you are on a motorcycle. There are plenty of nuts on bikes, but there seems to be some perverse desire by some car drivers to try and screw with us, even if we are obeying all laws, and traveling at correct speeds.