Breeality Bites

Denver Drivers: Stop Road-Raging and Think About Other People for Once

It startled the shit out of me. During rush hour last week, when I saw a reasonable gap between moving cars, I came from Jewell Avenue, crossed southbound traffic and turned into the northbound lane of Logan Street. The gentleman in the Ford Explorer behind me decided that I wasn't allowed to make the legal maneuver of entering his lane, and he proceeded to scold me via a SPEAKER ON TOP OF HIS CAR: "Don't ever do that to me again," the dad-like voice charged in a controlled rage. "And stop texting." 

At the moment, I thought he was a cop, so I pulled over. Once I'd taken a deep breath, I realized he wasn't a cop at all. He was a civilian who thought he had the right (or privilege, in my book) to instruct me on how to drive. (And for the record, I was following traffic laws and for once in my life, wasn't texting and driving.) But this interaction with an overzealous man and his CB radio wasn't even the craziest part of the story. That came next. 

My blinding road rage went full force, and I jumped back into traffic on Logan, cruising like a perv on a mission to find this jerk. I was gonna find him, follow him, photograph him (and his license plate) and plaster it all over the Internet with the caption "cop impersonator." I drove for about twenty blocks before coming back to reality. What in the hell was I doing? Didn't I have a life to live? 

In this case of road rage, there were no injuries, except for my bruised ego that led to the road-raging in the first place. But not all situations end this way; earlier this month a good samaritan was killed when he pulled over to help another person involved in a road-rage incident. I've seen angry people reach out and punch a car next to them, and we've all witnessed (and perhaps even participated in) the kind of dangerous car chase with two people who both believe they're in the right. What we're all trying to prove with these terrible, aggressive and scary driving tactics is beyond me.

Traffic isn't going away. In fact, with almost ten thousand people moving to Denver every month, it's only going to get worse. So what do we do? Here are some tips that can help alleviate our collective addiction to road rage. (I'm taking note of many myself.)

10. Remember that story that came out recently about not driving slow in the left lane? It applies to Colorado roadways, too. 
Though it may seem counterintuitive, studies show that driving at or below the speed limit in a lane reserved for passing (ahem, the left lane) causes more accidents and leads to greater congestion (see the link above). So you may think that guy tailing you in the left lane is being a jerk, but he's actually trying to pass, which means he has the right of way. If you're cruising along in the left lane and not using it to pass and then immediately get back over into the right lane, you are going against traffic laws. Quit doing that.

9. Stop speeding in the right lane on the highway.
Since the left lane is reserved for passing, it's good to know what the far right lane is for. This should be common knowledge, but apparently it is not: The right lane is where entering and exiting the highway takes place. It's also where slower drivers are rightfully allowed to drive slowly.  So if you are the person going 80 mph in the right lane and swerving around people to get to the exit as quickly as possible, you're being a twit. Go over to the left lane if you wanna act like that. 

8. Stop texting and driving.
I know you, texting driver. I know you because I am you. It's shameful that we do it at all, because it's just plain dangerous. I know your logic, texting driver: You think that because you text at stoplights or when traffic is at a dead stop you're not really texting and driving, but you are. There's a reason it is illegal: It keeps you from effectively doing your number-one job behind the wheel, which is driving safely. As a former cigarette-smoking/burrito-eating/gear-shifting texter, I feel your hubris — I mean, your pain. You think you are invincible and that you can text safely. The truth is, you can't. Throw your phone in the trunk when you drive and trust me: You'll actually feel less stressed behind the wheel as a result. Oh, and you'll be less likely to kill someone.

7. When merging, the zipper merge is the only way to go.
I know, everyone wants to be first for everything. That's why we are driving at all, apparently — to be number one in the lane/in life. But there's this thing called the zipper merge, and it is a great tool for keeping traffic flowing smoothly. Channel 7 gives a simple explanation of how to utilize the zipper merge: 
A zipper merge works when motorists use both lanes of traffic all the way to a defined merge area, and then alternate in "zipper" fashion into the open lane. By doing it this way, both lanes are used right up until the end of the closed lane, which is a much more efficient use of the road.
Contrary to the offending driver in the video above, who refuses to let a fellow driver do the zipper merge, we DO follow this rule in Colorado. It's not a "transplant" thing; it's a good-driver thing. Let go of your ego and share the road.

6. Chill out.
Dude, seriously. I get that the person in front of you going 26 mph in a 25 mph zone is annoying, but riding their ass, flashing your brights and swerving angrily around them in a non-passing turn lane isn't a good look. Also, like everything else on this list, it isn't safe. Have you ever caught yourself mid-road rage and thought, what in the hell am I doing? If you haven't and you find yourself in road-rage mode every time you decide to operate a motor vehicle, maybe it is time to re-evaluate the rest of your life. What is really making you mad? I guarantee it's not just the granny in front of you obeying the speed limit.

Keep reading for more rules of the road (rage).

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Bree Davies is a multimedia journalist, artist advocate and community organizer born and raised in Denver. Rooted in the world of Do-It-Yourself arts and music, Davies co-founded Titwrench experimental music festival, is host of the local music and comedy show Sounds on 29th on CPT12 Colorado Public Television and is creator and host of the civic and social issue-focused podcast, Hello? Denver? Are You Still There? Her work is centered on a passionate advocacy for all ages, accessible, inclusive, non-commercial and autonomous DIY art spaces and music venues in Denver.
Contact: Bree Davies