Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Changing Gears

As I've been driving recently, I've come to realise that I don't drive the way I used to.

Ten years ago, I had just passed my test, and the world was my oyster in my Renault Clio. Mum and dad didn't drive, so now we had the opportunity to go and see all those places I had only ever heard of. (Indeed that may still be the reason why I love driving so much - the sense of adventure and freedom, seeing new places and finding new roads). My driving philosophy was to get there as quickly as possible, with no delays or holding back. For that first year, under the experimental conditions of the 'R' Driver (Restricted Driver limited to 45 miles per hour for the first year after passing the driving test in Northern Ireland), I would still try to push the car on.

Both then and after having graduated to full speed, the boundaries would be stretched. The old 'ten percent plus two' margin of error for police speed cameras was exploited to the full, and then some. Full speed ahead.

Then I had my accident. Into the back of a car at a green traffic light. A wee fright, but no major damage to either car, and no injury claims. So over time my philosophy returned. Full speed ahead. Try to set records for regular journeys, always beating my personal best, so long as there weren't any stupid or old drivers on the road in my way.

But now, almost imperceptibly over time, my driving style has changed. There wasn't any conscious decision on my part to drive slower; but now I rarely exceed 60 on dual carriageways and motorways. I'm happy to observe speed limits, especially the 30 if there's a speed demon behind wanting to go quicker. I'm more careful; less willing to take risks I previously would have jumped at.

Have I turned into an old man in my 29th year? Or am I coming to realise that it's not worth speeding to an early eternity? Perhaps being married has calmed me down, my life is more settled now, and I'm more aware of the interconnectedness of my existence- what I do has consequences for those around me, not least my wife.

The unneccesary speed has gone, and you'll likely overtake me on the road. Now to work on my driving anger at the stupidity of other drivers, who disobey the rules of the road (e.g. Speed limits, driving in bus lanes, parking on urban clear ways, sitting on yellow boxes, failing to move at green lights, being in the wrong lane and holding up traffic rather than following through the consequences in the lane you're in, hogging the outside lane on motorways at 50mph, driving in the middle lane of the new three-lane motorways rather than the inside lane, not using indicator lights to warn us where you're going etc). Quite a list, which raises my righteous (?) anger! Lots to be working on. Just don't get annoyed at me if I'm not fast enough for you now!

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