Mountain Wheels: Colorado drivers – I have some questions for you
Not that it could possibly have anything to do with the coincidence of turning 50 a few days back, but I gotta say that my old-man-styled feelings on the state of driving in contemporary Colorado have finally boiled over.
In fact, after a day trip to Vail last weekend, I was so disheartened by the terrifying mixture of speed, aggression and just overall incompetent and disinterested driving on Interstate 70, that I kind of wish they really had built that “Simpsons”-inspired monorail long ago.
I’ve been driving for 20 years in Colorado, which I am sure makes me a newcomer to some folks, but I gotta say that the last couple of seasons on the highway make me feel like I’m in Miami, Central New Jersey or the 405 in L.A. I also drive a lot — 80 or so new cars a year.
Maybe it’s karma for all the years of excessive “vehicle testing” leadfooting I’ve done in my role as a “professional driver” — air quotes very much necessary for both those phrases — but man, when the hell did 80 MPH become the standard speed on I-70, at all times?
Stop signs and directional signals seem like they’ve become optional, and the simple niceties of using your turn signals, merging cautiously or staying in your lane have all gone by the wayside.
My friend’s dad, a retired Long Island cop, drove the road on vacation the same day as me on his own ski trip and he asked exactly the same question. “Where are all these people going in such a freaking hurry?”
You got me. All I know is that when you’re driving anything besides a recently serviced high-performance automobile, your ability to avoid a collision — like, when traffic comes to a sudden and complete stop near Downieville — is never going to be as fast as you think it is.
Add to this the number of SUVs on the road and the pure physics of trying to do an emergency stop in a two-ton Yukon Denali (or even an elderly Xterra, whose drivers seem to universally believe are high-performance vehicles), and I sometimes wonder how anyone survives at all.
Is recreational weed a factor? Again, hard to say, as I thought it was supposed to have exactly the opposite effect. Or is it all the millions of newcomers to Colorado, bringing the aggressive, incompetent and borderline psychotic driving styles of their home states?
I guess that’s become the default explanation, as I’ve discovered that driving my press fleet vehicles — all of which have out-of-state fleet plates, most frequently including California, Michigan, Arizona and New Jersey — has now made me the subject of vehicular ire in a way I never experienced a decade ago.
I get the impression that many Coloradans feel the best way to get back at out-of-state drivers (for ruining their way of life, raising housing prices, stealing their girlfriends or whatever) is to engage in a series of extremely dangerous displays of regional superiority.
If you’ve started to believe that tailgating folks with out-of-state tags is going to bring back 1995-era rents, or that swerving around them and cutting in front of them is going to ease congestion, I think you’re wrong.
Admittedly, my ex-wife, a Midwestern transplant who claimed to be more Coloradan than the natives, also totally ruined my karma in this regard by doing exactly the same swerving, tailgating, near-collision merging and frequent bird-flipping to out-of-state drivers, especially those from Lyle Lovett land.
We were eventually chased and almost run off the road one time by three guys coming back from a day of drinking in Black Hawk, which hopefully convinced her that flipping people off was going to get us killed.
Maybe it’s just that they are really lazy, no matter if they’re longtime locals or fresh off the interstate from one of the coasts, and that courteous and efficient driving seems as lame as using the telephone or making small talk at a check-out stand.
The number of vehicles I now see running entirely red lights — like, a full five seconds after the light has changed — is absolutely terrifying. Especially when it’s a fully-loaded tractor-trailer, too busy to wait for a light. Stop signs and directional signals seem like they’ve become optional, and the simple niceties of using your turn signals, merging cautiously or staying in your lane have all gone by the wayside.
Again, my recent move into AARP territory might be entirely to blame here, but I don’t think so. Things have certainly changed.
This column from Mountain Wheels originally appeared in Summit Daily News.
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