Recognizing The Effects of Alcohol On Vehicular Driving

Background Reading

Reply by Crazy David 84 Furlongs 20 hours ago
The thing is that we appear to have an epidemic of angry drivers. Two incidents over the weekend when I was driving the family. On Ashland I stopped for a person in a crosswalk. The guy behind me laid on the horn and pulled next to me at the light and swore up a storm. The thing about it was that I was able to stop for the pedestrian in the cross walk, resume driving and still get to the next light before it changed. It cost the driver NO time, but they were being ill tempered. In a similar fashion, I stopped for a pedestrian in the crosswalk on Irving. This time the guy behind me pulled around me and nearly hit (and honked and yelled) at the three pedestrians in the crosswalk.

We have to be extra careful as the Cars seem to be extra stupid right now.

In these cases I wasn’t even in an “enemy” of the cars vehicle (the bicycle).

Reply by James BlackHeron 19 hours ago
It is no so much an issue of so many people being terrible drivers, but instead the fact that so many drivers are terrible people.

Reply by Jeff Schneider 19 hours ago
Maybe so. This today (and no bicycle or pedestrian involved):…

Reply by globalguy 19 hours ago
I’ve been noticing an uptick in “Drivers Behaving Badly” as well. What’s going on?

Reply by rwein5 18 hours ago

Reply by James BlackHeron 18 hours ago
Power corrupts -or more rightly it just magnifies and releases the inner corruption and entitlement that is within mankind. Give a human a 2500lb+ powered vehicle and that is more power than his tiny little brain was ever evolved to handle in a safe and ethical manner. Is it any wonder that people go mad with power when put behind the wheel of such a powerful weapon?

Get out of my way! I’m more important than all of you -especially you losers going too slow for my tastes…

Reply by Anne Alt 18 hours ago
It’s not the heat, it’s the stupidity. 😉

Reply by Rich S 15 hours ago
That’s exactly the same thinking many people use to describe cyclists. I hate when I hear someone say cyclists are jerks. No the person you saw do something jerky is a jerk and they happened to be on a bike. They would probably still behave like a jerk whether they were driving, walking, horseback riding, skateboarding, flying magic carpet, or sailing the seven seas. For instance I can’t imagine the biker Julie described being very nice no matter what the method of transit unless they were seated on a bus.

Reply by James BlackHeron 15 hours ago
While I agree this is a factor, smart people still do evil selfish things and put other people at risk knowing full well it is putting them in danger. They just don’t care.

And there are also people in the stupid category that genuinely don’t realize just how much danger they are putting people into when they do the stupid things they do behind the wheel.

But I can’t chalk it all up to stupidity. There are some genuinely horrible people out there behind the wheel of killer automobiles who are completely aware of what they are doing and couldn’t give two shakes about the safety of others on the road, especially cyclists.

Reply by Jeff Schneider 7 hours ago
There are people who have situational awareness, and those who do not.

A valuable lesson I learned in defensive driving class 30 years ago was to consider the needs and wants of everyone else on the road. That is, be thinking of the obstacles facing the other drivers, and give them space to make the maneuvers they need/want to make (changing lanes, etc.).

On the LFT, that means not crowding anyone or boxing them in. Don’t pass a cyclist while they are passing someone else, for example. They might need more room if the people, kids, dogs they are passing make some unexpected moves!

The idea is so simple, yet so few people have internalized it. Have you ever seen someone step off of an escalator and just stop, leaving everyone behind with nowhere to go? I’m betting that person is a lousy driver/cyclist.


Pogo Earth Day strip[56]

Pogo Earth Day strip[56]

People are drinking more alcohol in summer to cool down and get refreshed. But drinking alcohol in summer heat have just the opposite effect on the human frontal lobe and thus their behavior. Most Americans drink alcohol enough to have lost an awareness of its effects. They are subtle and appear to signal that the person ‘behaving badly‘ is evil and unmindful of others. And to some extent this is true. Alcohol has just that effect on most people. It reduces their inhibitions (which is largely why it is used in social settings) and they revert to less polite and subtle interactions with others.

Now put them on a bicycle or behind a steering wheel or even walking on a crowded street or exiting an escalator after a snootful at lunch and you have mayhem. This past weekend the town of Naperville decided that it had to react to the growing problem of ‘bad pedestrian behavior’ after closing time in its Downtown district.

And to anyone who is sober and on the roadways it looks exactly like an epidemic of bad behavior. But the cause is a lot less mysterious than Satanic involvement in human behavior. To characterize this as evidence that people are ‘evil‘ is a bit simplistic. This is what happens when you get inebriated enough that your inner child is unleashed. College kids and service men and women get into some really nasty situations when alcohol is consumed in great enough quantities that their inhibitions are lost. Females end up realizing that the night before they were less prudent in their behavior and may have been involved in sexual situations that are now seen as ‘date rape‘.

What makes summer-time drinking so very devastating is that the heat alone is enough to sap the strength of an individual who is exercising or working out-of-doors. And of course the television tells us that a ‘cool one‘ is the proper restorative to heat exhaustion. But in fact it does bring down the core temperature but at the same time the brain is unable to deal with the body’s slowed metabolization of the alcohol consumed. And so reaction times are slowed and inhibitions reduced to the point that situational awareness is severely impaired.

People who are operating vehicles in a ‘buzzed‘ state are often unaware of the actual passage of time. They might be late getting home or back to the office and a pedestrian crossing the street becomes a ‘huge delay‘ in their minds. Because of the compromise to their front lobes they are unlikely to refrain from displaying petulance. In fact you only need to interview a few waiters or bartenders to learn that folks with too much to drink get grumpy and abusive to anyone who brings out an order not to their liking. And instead of dealing with it in a calm and collective manner they are more than likely to say ugly and disrespectful things. Again, it is the alcohol talking.

How Society Reacts To Their Collective Mania

The sad part of it all is that it is avoidable. But everyone wants the freedom to drink and operate moving vehicles and the more powerful that vehicle the more dangerous they become. Society will however not tolerate any devices that slow them down enough to keep them off the highways and trails that use to arrive at their destinations.

In fact any attempt at all to discuss this problem only brings ridicule to the ‘nannies‘ who want to address the problem. So we are stuck on a treadmill or a merry-go-round of our own making. We react violently when we are drunk and behaving badly because someone is impeding our forward progress. And if we are sober and notice this uncontrolled expression of personal desires we deem it evidence that the other guy is ‘evil‘.

At some point we simply have to forgive one another and if sober understand that we have a societal problem with which we are not prepared to deal. During Prohibition we had a group of the then ‘Progressives‘ prepared to help us avoid ‘demon rum‘. Today however there is an increasing number of alcohol outlets that is increasing exponentially, or so it seems. Microbreweries are all the rage. And even bicyclists make special trips out of visiting these places.

And sure when you are drunk and tired you slow down and probably become less effective at maintaining your speed. But when you find yourself trying to steer your bike on busy streets you are in greater danger than would ordinarily be the case. But now couple this with the fact that more than 90% of the folks on the road are driving and not bicycling and you have a recipe for some mayhem. Pointing the finger at the drunk drivers is pointless. If a society is unable or unwilling to police its drinking behavior then it will have to deal with the ‘side effects‘.

Thumping our chests and crying foul when a cyclist dies at the hands of drunken motorist is just so much drama. We would have to look into our own psyches to understand why we too have a need to ‘refresh‘ ourselves with the one thing which does the most harm and that is painful. So we will keep having angry drivers and outraged cyclists and ghost bikes on every corner. And as with most societal problems will we turn our gaze to the politicians whom we wish to save us from ourselves and realize that they cannot and will not act to do something which would cost them their jobs.

We will then look to the automobile manufacturers to save us from ourselves. But that would mean that everyone needed to have an ‘updated‘ vehicle. And until that happens there will still be guys coming home from work driving into the setting sun who will not see a lonely bicyclist on the shoulder until they have hit them. And frankly they might not notice him even then. And the Cycling Community will thump its collective chests and demand the removal of cars from the roadway. And that of course is less palatable to society than was Prohibition.

So once again we have met the enemy and he is each and every one of us.