PSA:Your car is not a hazard because it is wet.

Well, Humberto is upon us, and this inspires me to comment on a phenomena I've noticed recently.

Lately it seems to have become fashionable to be intimidated by rain, while simultaenously feeling that you have a right to drive on the interstate (where the posted minimums are usually 45 miles per hour, slower traffic to the right) at whateverthefuck speed you believe to be appropriate.

Let me clear this up: You don't.

If you can't manage to force your foot down on the gas pedal until the needle gets past 45, in whatever weather condition you are in--don't use the interstate.

Furthermore, if you can't bring yourself to add 2 miles per hour to your speed so that your ass gets out of the left hand lane and into the right where it minimizes the amount of other people that you slow down--don't use the interstate.

Let me say this clearly: the interstate is for traveling quickly from place to place. Do not use it if you cannot perform this basic function. Certainly don't use it if you don't know which lane is appropriate for a vehicle traveling 30 miles per hour.

And most importantly, with every ounce of vehemence and vitriol I can muster: do NOT turn your hazard lights on when you have a visibility of greater than 20 feet.

The only circumstance under which hazard lights make sense while you continue to travel is this: the visibility has dropped so far that you are having trouble seeing if there is a car in front of you--if you are overdriving your vision, turn on your hazards, or, better yet, get off the road until the rain lightens. This will usually not take more than half an hour before the worst of the band is behind you.

About a year ago I had the pleasure of picking my mother and a friend up from the Atlanta airport during the fallout from a tropical storm, and just after Interstate 85 had added it's fourth lane, bringing the total to 8, the rain got really, really heavy. And the majority of the traffic around me decided that the best idea would be to turn on their hazard lights and continue driving. So now I'm surrounded by a hundred blinking, slow moving lane-changing idiots with no indication of what direction they're going and a severe reduction in my ability to predict their behaviour.

Have you ever wondered why carnival games or pinball machines have all those flashing, blinking, out of sync lights? It is because that confuses the human eye and mind.

If you, personally, were the only car on the road with flashing lights, it might make your car stand out (at a cost of increased danger to the other drivers) but when a quarter of the vehicles on the road enable their hazards even though visibility is still a hundred yards ahead and the running lights of all of those cars is clearly seen, it creates chaos, disorder, and a dangerous additional driving condition--which I think we can all agree is unnecessary when you are already driving in a torrential downpour.

In short: if you feel that the rain has gotten so bad that you are compelled to put your hazard signal on--think twice, and seriously consider pulling off the road (where hazards belong) and leaving it to the rest of us.

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Saturday, September 15, 2007