Author’s Note: It seems that a natural follow-on to Amy Armstrong’s “Road Rage” piece last week would be a rundown on the types of drivers one is likely to encounter on the Glenn Highway. Having spent decades motoring between Chugiak-Eagle River and Anchorage, I’ve found it helpful to categorize driver types. In other words, if we know what to expect, we’ll be much better prepared.
Here are the types of drivers found, with some layman theories on why they drive the way they do:
Every morning these folks have been on the road a lot longer than us, at least half an hour. They’re tired, cranky, and want to get to Anchorage. Even if driving at half the speed of sound, if you’re in the fast lane and one of these folks comes up behind you, move over. They want to go faster. There are thousands of these folks on the road every day, but there aren’t as many as there used to be due to attrition – in other words, wrecks.
I have only two logical explanations for drivers who hang a foot off your bumper on glare ice for endless miles. First, they have moved up here from California or Florida, where tailgating is as common as home foreclosures. Second, and probably the best explanation, is that by tailgating, they are able to draft the vehicle in front them, allowing the suction of air to pull them along so that they save gasoline. These folks are obviously smarter than they look. I have always dreamed of the day I could have high-beam lights installed in the rear of my car to send them a high-beam message. But alas, I’ve been told this is illegal.
My theory is that drivers who constantly change lanes have an acute form of attention deficit disorder (ADD), which leads to boredom. They need to change lanes often to occupy themselves.
Drivers who alternate quickly between the brake and gas pedal suffer from a severe form of short-term memory loss. They actually forget between the brief time when they brake and when they push the gas pedal, so they continue the back and forth action for miles down the road, causing drivers behind them to do the same.
Pull out in fronters
Lack of depth perception is the basis for these drivers, who will abruptly pull out in front of you no matter how fast you are traveling. Imagine the rear-view mirror message “objects might appear closer than they are,” and reverse this for these type of drivers. They perceive that you are farther away than you are. They pull out slowly on glare ice, spinning their wheels, as you approach at 60 miles per hour.
Some of these people have exceptional multi-tasking abilities and find the need to be doing other things beside driving while they commute to town, such as applying makeup, doing the New York Times Crossword Puzzle, cell phoning, eating, etc.There is a rather high attrition rate on these folks too, especially the ones who aren’t good at multi-tasking. (See Dream Weavers).
These folks are anathema to the Hammer-downs, because they stay in the left lane and actually drive at the speed limit, or sometimes, lower speeds. These drivers actually believe that by remaining in the left lane and stacking up cars behind them for miles, they can “train” other drivers to behave themselves. They don’t realize that they are quickly metamorphosing already impatient, irritated motorists into a more aggressive form I discuss next, the Road Warriors/Road Ragers.
Road Warriors/Road Ragers
Football, cage-fighting and revving engines of all types up to 6,000 revolutions per minute (rpm) is not enough to release the pent-up adrenaline and aggression just below the surface in these drivers. Any action that causes them to reduce their speed will just make matters worse. Move over and give them room so that they can more expeditiously get to their accident, or should I more aptly say “purpose.”
Driving an automobile is a little too physical and down to earth for these folks, so they fantasize about being somewhere else as they putter along, oblivious to everything around them. I think angels look out for these people.
An object as mundane as a cardboard box will cause these drivers to slow down for a close examination. Dept. of Transportation officials have discussed erecting billboards along the side of the highway that depict moose kills and other interesting scenes, allowing Rubber Neckers to view the scenes without slowing down.
Hill Creepers (or Brakelighters)
Drivers who creep down Eagle River hill at 5 miles per hour are believed to be aliens from a planet with very low gravity. They are mortally afraid that at any minute they will skid off the road or into the car in front of them, or just fly off into the air. The hill grade was lessened by the recent Eagle River bridge project, but some white-knuckle drivers still slow down.
Not to be confused with drivers who accelerate through changing traffic lights, these drivers affix their vehicles with the brightest lights known on earth. They have somehow tapped into a technology developed by Nicola Tesla more than a century ago. They want to be noticed. Installing large mirrors on your vehicle is about the only effective countermeasure.
These are the main categories, but I’m sure you have identified many more as you merge into traffic each day. The important thing is to remain alert, remain patient, be a defensive driver at all times, and always remember to return strange finger gestures with a nice smile and a friendly wave. And to reiterate the Hill Street Blues police chief’s closing after his daily briefing: “be careful out there.”
Editor’s Note: Frank E. Baker is a member of the ECHO News team and an outdoor enthusiast. He lives in Eagle River with wife, Rebekah, a retired Anchorage School District teacher.