The last week, we've spent some time in the warmer-climate states (Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Tennessee), and have two incidents of significance to note on aggressive driving. This leads us to our theory that the warmer the climate, the more aggressive the drivers (especially when you add Florida and California to the mix). Of course, Chicago, New Jersey as a whole, and New York City have their fill of them too, but our experience with the rest of the country has been pretty mild with road raged drivers.
Ben was driving west of Baton Rouge, east of Lafayette, LA. The interstate was three lanes wide, and we were in the far right lane. Upon approaching an on-ramp (i.e. traffic entering the interstate), there was no room for us to merge into the middle lane to allow for the on-ramp traffic to enter the far right lane.
Mind you, it is not required by law that drivers in the far right lane do such a thing. It is courteous, yes, but not legally mandatory. Drivers on the on-ramp, after all, are required to yield to those already in transit on the interstate.
Anyway, a very shiny black BMW with a very fancy cycling road bike attached to the trunk was trying to get in from the on-ramp. We were driving faster than he but could not merge left, so we held our lane. He had to *gasp* slow down and make the merge in behind us. He then (obviously because of his speed, small vehicle size, and raging anger) merged into the center lane, sped up beside and then in front of us, and proceeded to merge back into the far right lane to be the vehicle directly in front of us. Can anyone guess what he did next? Yes--this mature piece of work SLAMMED on his brakes.
Now, I've never been known for my mathematical skill or knowledge of the laws of physics, but what do you think a tractor-trailer combination weighing up to 80,000 pounds could do to his less-than-5000 pound fancy foreign car?
Thankfully, we had a safe six second following distance (minimum) and avoided any such catastrophe.
We were on our way back to the interstate in the Memphis area after having a mid-route drop for our last load. We had several miles of three-lane traffic (i.e. with stop lights) to battle through before we got back to the outer loop of the city. We were less than 3/4 mile from the particular on-ramp we needed, and were in the middle lane of three. Traffic was moving extremely slowly, but because there were so many trucks/four-wheelers in front of us, we couldn't quite tell what was going on. What we did know, however, was that the far right lane was mostly empty, so the cars behind us would zip around to get in front. We then employed our tactic that we like to call "plugging the hole". We maneuvered around enough to see that some utility work was being done ahead and the workers had blocked off both the far right lane and the center lanes. Our "plug" was to take up both of those lanes so as to prevent more four-wheeler traffic from zipping by and slowing down the process for everyone else.
I moved right to block these lanes just before a "big bad pick-up truck" (BBPUT) with a small trailer of his own tried to get by me. He was ticked off so bad at my plug that he made sure he was seen in my driver's side mirror, where he proceeded to fist pump his extended middle finger three times through his windshield, and then two more times out his window. It didn't take a genius to see that he was flaming mad! I continued to hold both lanes until a kind four-wheeler driver (they do exist) let me in front of him to get in the far left lane just as I came upon the orange cones blocking off the two lanes I was plugging. BBPUT guy had to merge in a few vehicles after me.
Just after the utility work lanes opened back up, I got back into the far right lane as the on-ramp was following the next traffic light. BBPUT guy sped up to meet me window to window, screaming and hollering at me, wagging his cell phone in one hand and his cigarette in the other. I pulled up just enough to where he wasn't even with me anymore, and couldn't be (a vehicle was in front of him at the traffic light). Ben told me I should smile and wave. That dude was an angry bully and I was not going to give in to his loathing attitude of my action.
Using the tractor-trailer to "plug" may not be the kindest of actions to perform, but 90% of other drivers on the road non-verbally support and often follow this action. They don't like dealing with that BBPUT guy type who think they're so important they need to zip around everyone violating safe driving practices just to be the first in line.
What to learn from these two examples? Don't be that aggressive driver! It's not worth it!
Present location: Greencastle, PA
Where we're off to next: Las Vegas, NV
Miles this week: 6000ish (we just came off our home-time and they're running us hard!)
Friendly encounter: Dianne and baby Charlie came up from Front Royal for a lunch date--it was great to see them!