I drive a lot more than I used to — about an hour and a half a day to and from work. No one likes commuting, but east-central Tucson to the depths of Oro Valley is easy and fast— once you get north of Camp Lowell on Swan, anyway. And zooming up to and around Pusch Ridge is a daily sail through geologic gorgeousness.
The main trouble is the occasional heart-stopping loon in the next lane. Just do the math on the vast quantities of legal and illegal consciousness-altering drugs as well as the alcohol consumed in this country every day: Millions of Americans are stoned out of their minds at any given moment, and some of those people are out on the road. Possibly right behind me.
Here, in ascending order of peril, are the drivers who scare me most.
The Roarer. This is the guy who charges up behind you when you are going the limit, sits on your tail in a palpable state of rage, then roars out and around you. Ironically enough, you often catch up to him at the next light because, fella, Oracle Road is not an actual interstate. Oracle, Sunrise and the upper reaches of Swan feel a bit like a freeway, but really, 50 is as fast as it's safe to go on a road with intersections. (Lights, pedestrians, that sort of mess.) Oracle is by far the sanest stretch of my daily trek, because people stay close to the limit, thanks to the scads of sneaky, hardworking Oro Valley cops. (On Oracle, you may be lucky enough to see your Roarer get pulled over. You go, OVPD.)
The Texter. The other night I was stopped at a red light on Sunrise when a car braked hard in the next lane. For the driver, a woman, the decision to stop had clearly been last-minute. Then she sat with her head bobbing up and down, torn between whatever was going on with her phone and the need to peel out the instant the light changed. We were going the same way, so I followed her (from way, way back) for a number of miles. Not surprisingly, she was a vicious tailgater, but one—unlike The Roarer—without any evident awareness that changing lanes is allowed. Three vehicles in succession quickly got out of her way. Sadly, she had no luck with the lights, so I witnessed the head-bobbing weirdness several times before I lost her in the dusk. Yes, I still have her license number. Just in case.
The Drifter. The key to everyone getting where he's going in one piece is staying between the lines. This vital basic concept is lost on The Drifter, who has my vote for Most Likely to be Chemically Impaired. There are many variations on this terrifying form of awful driving, with the least excusable being Swing Left to Turn Right. Note to these folks: You are not at the wheel of a semi.
The Creeper. The only way to explain Creepers is that no one ever told them about U-turns. These are the individuals, usually in battered old cars, who anxiously nose their way out from a parking lot near a major intersection and through waiting traffic and all the way to the left-turn lane. Why? Because they want to turn left. Duh.
My theory about the state of the typical Creeper vehicle is that this particular type of bad driving and poverty go together. (Honestly, has no one done a study?) Not all lousy drivers are poor, and not all poor people are bad drivers, of course, but if you cannot figure out that it's easier, nicer and much safer just to go with the flow and make a U-turn up the road, what other life mistakes are you liable to be making? (Also, frequent car crashes don't help people get ahead in the world.)
I have a friend who once witnessed one of these idiot scenarios that resulted in an accident (at Tanque Verde and Kolb, dear God), when some poor schmuck coming through on the inside lane smashed into the Creeper-mobile that appeared sideways in front of him. Helen pulled over and told the cops exactly what she'd seen, and later testified for the guy. It was, she said, one of the great pleasures of her life.