Thursday, September 25, 2014

Road Rage and Regaining our Humanity

I feel certain I posted it before, but here goes again:

"I am the worst person I can be when I'm behind the wheel...when you should be the most compassionate you can be...because you are driving a weapon."

The great comics have deep insights into the human condition.  We laugh because we know it as well, but just haven't been able to express it as well.  Fortunately, writers are looking at the exact same issue, which is why I can't recommend the book Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do by Tom Vanderbilt strongly enough.

One of Vanderbilt's key insights in his examination of the psychology of drivers is that cars dehumanize us, usually due to speed or tint of windows or distance.  Everyone else is the enemy and we're competing for the same space in the rat race.  But not always, we are re-humanized when we can make eye contact.  This is why blinking reds work so well from a safety standpoint.  We are forced to make eye contact with other drivers.  "You go." "No, by all means, you go."  And people work it out.  No one gets killed.

Funny thing about traffic signals, they seem to do their job best when they fail.  Would you ever hire a person who routinely fails at their job?