While on my way to camping last week, I listened to a pretty great podcast on driving which got me to thinking: driving is the worst. Naturally, I decided to do a little rant piece about, so let’s see how things go.
Table of Contents
Before I dig into this inflammatory piece, I want to start off by saying: I love driving. That’s right! I know it goes contrary to the title, but I really do enjoy getting into a car and driving around.
For me, driving has always been a symbol of freedom. The day I turned 16 I ran to the DMV to get my permit. Then six months later, I returned to claim my prized drivers licence.
From there, I used that license to do a lot of amazing things like getting and maintaining a job. In addition, that license allowed me to visit friends and move across the country. In fact, I’ve probably driven through 15 states in the last 9 years, and I wouldn’t give that up for anything.
That said, there’s so much more to driving than traveling from place to place, and that’s sort of where my love for driving ends. As of late, I’ve grown to hate driving more and more, and this piece is sort of a tribute to that hate. At any rate, let’s get into it!
Every once in awhile, I like to write these sort of rant pieces because they make me feel better about myself. As a result, I don’t necessarily expect this piece to come off as an honest critique. Instead, it’s more of an old man rant.
In the following subsections, I’ll list some off the reasons I hate driving. That said, I don’t intend to go into a ton of detail. As a result, if you want to hash things out, let’s talk about them in the comments.
As someone who likes to take road trips from time to time, I find some places hard to navigate. After all, there’s no standardization. Some intersections have stop signs or stop lights while others forgo stopping altogether by introducing yield signs and a roundabout. Some intersections have three roads while others have five. Some roads maintain a constant number of lanes while others contract and expand like a set of lungs.
All this chaos can make for some pretty hectic driving—especially for a newcomer. After all, there’s a lot you have to worry about as a driver. What’s the speed limit? Which lane do I need to be in? How much time do I have to get over? Is it rush hour?
Even with the aid of GPS, navigation can be challenging. How far is 200 feet exactly? Is that the next intersection or the one after it? Again, what lane do I need to be in? I can’t see the damn labels on the road with all this traffic.
Then, there are roads that make absolutely no sense. For example, there are several roads out there that grant turning cars right-of-way by adding stop signs to the straight lanes. When you inevitably stop because it’s what you do when you want to turn, other drivers throw you the finger because you’re wasting time. That’s just bad road design. It doesn’t surprise me at all when people get into crashes as a result.
People Are Idiots
As I’ve written about quite a bit already, people are stupid—especially in Columbus. When stupid people get into cars, they don’t suddenly gain 30 IQ points. They’re still stupid, and that translates into how they drive on the road.
Think about it. How often do you see someone texting and driving? Or at the very least, fiddling with their phones? I don’t know what they’re doing in there, but it’s quite literally constant.
Some days I can’t wait for our artificial intelligence overlords to take over, so at least crossing the street wouldn’t feel like a suicide mission. Honestly, I catch myself staring in my rearview mirror every time I stop because I don’t trust anyone to be paying enough attention to also stop.
Driving Is a Job
How much time do you think you waste a day driving? As someone who doesn’t drive regularly, it’s close to zero. However, when I used to have to drive for work, I wasted at least an hour a day sitting behind the wheel. That’s time I’m never getting back.
Ironically, there are tons of people out there getting paid to do what we do out of necessity. For instance, there are bus drivers, truck drivers, cab drivers, Uber and Lyft drivers, and even train “drivers.” How is that so many of us have to commute to work by car for nothing?
Let’s not forget that driving is a huge opportunity cost. For me, the hour a day I used to lose driving is now taken up by an hour of walking a day—something that has health benefits. Instead of driving, we could be doing literally anything else. As a result, we should be asking ourselves: “what is our time worth?” If you think you’re worth $20 an hour, you’re losing $20 every time you step into you car.
Driving Is Wasteful
Almost all of my complaints in this article are individual ones. In other words, most of my complaints are about things that affect me personally. Of course, driving has problems that are even larger than the individual. In particular, they’re pretty bad for the environment.
Personally, when I think about cars, I think about all that gas I’m burning and pumping directly into the atmosphere. That said, that’s only a fraction of the problem. A lot of people now rotate through cars every few years by leasing and upgrading. How is that not wasteful? After all, if the demand for new cars is high, we’ll continue to manufacture them, and manufacturing isn’t exactly green either.
To make matters worse, think about all the engineering that goes into crafting the latest model of your favorite car. In terms of features alone, we’re talking about a lot of wasted time by people who have to find new ways to cram in the latest tech into the dashboard. Who needs a motorized rearview mirror or automatic car doors? Some company spent the time and energy to design and manufacture those features. What a waste.
Cars Are Expensive
Living in America means you almost certainly need to own a car. Of course, I can’t think of a single necessity besides housing that is on the same order of magnitude in terms of cost. In fact, a car alone will likely set you back $20,000. If you can’t afford to pay it, you’re looking at an even steeper loan with interest.
Of course, paying off a car is only one of the expenses. Don’t forget about routine maintenance like oil changes and tire rotations. In addition, you have to fill up the gas tank regularly which can run over $2.50 a gallon. Likewise, you have to pay for car insurance, and that ain’t cheap.
Occasionally, you might even have to shell out for a larger repair. Perhaps you lose the transmission after 100,000 miles. That’s not going to be cheap to replace. Or worse, you get into an accident. Now, you have to replace the entire car as well as pay some medical bills—assuming everyone survives.
Oddly enough, we associate cars with freedom, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. With cars being such an expensive necessity, you have far less freedom to do what you want with your money.
Infrastructure Is Crumbling
To add insult to injury, the infrastructure that we drive our cars on is crumbling. As someone from Pennsylvania with very high Department of Transportation taxes, I never really noticed this issue beyond a few potholes. However, now that I’m in Ohio, my wife and I drive on terrible roads often, and I can’t imagine that’s great for the car.
As mentioned already, car repairs are expensive, and terrible roads can exacerbate that issue. If you’re like me and you own an older car, these roads can send you back to the mechanic often.
Of course, when the state finally gets around to patching things up, they usually take down a street for most of the summer. As a result, a quick trip to the store or work can suddenly become a nightmare as you have to find an alternate route or deal with the sudden increase in traffic. Ain’t nobody got time for that!
Cars Take Up Space
How often do you drive your car at capacity? If you’re like me, it’s almost never, and I have a pretty small car. As you can probably imagine, there are tons of cars on the road right now that aren’t full. In other words, they’re wasting space.
To accommodate for this inefficiency, we build massive parking lots and garages, so these excessive cars have somewhere to stay. In addition, we continue to add lanes to expand our capacity for cars on the road. Almost our entire infrastructure is designed for cars—not people.
In many cities, expanding the roads is not practical as we can’t move buildings. As a result, gridlock is almost guaranteed. Hell, even in cities where you can expand the roads like Atlanta, there are still several hours a day dedicated to gridlock. Seriously, Atlanta traffic is brutal.
Pedestrians Are An Afterthought
As someone who walks to work now, I can sometimes find navigating the streets a challenge. In particular, I’m talking about navigating the streets along with all the other modes of transportation: cars, bikes, scooters, etc.
Each day, I have to worry about being hit as I cross through an intersection because drivers aren’t paying attention. It’s almost like cars have become so ubiquitous that drivers couldn’t even imagine that people would walk anywhere, and it’s depressing. Not only do I have to practice defensive driving, but I also have to practice defensive walking just to get to work.
To put this into perspective, I cross the road probably 8 times a day, and I have to worry about being hit about half of the time. In general, roads that are closer to the highway are just more dangerous for me because people come flying off the exits without looking. As a result, I have to be aware of cars more than they’re aware of me. It sucks.
Bringing It Home
After all this ranting, what’s the takeaway? Well, sometimes I wish I were living somewhere with better infrastructure for humans. In particular, I would love to live on a block that didn’t have any cars driving through it. Or at the very least, I’d like to live somewhere with enough public transportation to prevent me from needing to step out into the street.
Having lived in places like Atlanta, Columbus, Erie, and the UK, I’d have to say that the US is just doing the whole driving thing wrong. We have absolutely no infrastructure setup for humans. Instead, everything is setup for cars. Think about it. Almost every business now has some form of drive-through or delivery service in addition to a parking lot that sits adjacent to a major road.
Forget walking anywhere. There’s just no way it’s practical with the way cities sprawl now. If you want to get anywhere, you gotta hop in a gas guzzling killing machine. There’s really no way around it, and that’s just sad to me.
Hopefully, we find some way to bridge the gap to more people friendly infrastructure. Until then, I’ll keep an eye out for the guy barreling toward me while texting, and maybe I’ll live long enough to see a new age of travel.
What About You?
With all that said, how do you feel about driving? Is it something you do out of necessity like me, or do you enjoy it? If you could change anything about the way we drive, what would it be?
At any rate, thanks for hearing me out! Naturally, I’ve written about driving in the past. In fact, I’ve ranted quite a bit about drivers in Columbus, and I’ve even talked about what it’s like to get rid of a car and share one with your partner.
If you’d like to support the site, you’re welcome to become a member of the community. Alternatively, you can always hop on the mailing list. Beyond that, I always like to share a few relevant books for you avid readers out there:
- Rand McNally 2020 Large Scale Road Atlas by Rand McNally
- Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us) by Tom Vanderbilt
As always, thanks for taking some time to visit The Renegade Coder!