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Friday, January 19, 2007


I think every car should have a monitor of fuel consumption. If it showed you again and again that your being a jerk on the freeway was costing you actual money, I think the pain of that would definitely modulate some folks driving habits.

It was a rough commute this morning. First there was an accident just where the road narrows to cross under 880. This is the stupidest piece of road engineering I know of. Just before a big junction, shave off two lanes and see what happens. Well, what happens is traffic. Daily backups. Today it was backed up all the way to 7th street (six miles away) because an accident was blocking another one of the lanes.

I got through that eventually, and came upon the next big event - an accident on 85 North that was backed up on to 280 to Wolfe Road. This left a string of very slow moving traffic in the two right hand lanes and some awkwardly moving traffic in the other two lanes. It's a recipe for additional disaster as folks who find themselves in the slowest 2 lanes realize it's something to do with getting on 85, and they don't want to be on 85, so they jump into the faster moving lanes and don't speed up very quickly. I stayed left and cringingly passed someone doing this move which led to screeching tires, hasty lane changes, and honking by someone coming up entirely too fast on the person coming out of the not-moving lane. Yikes.

So, with all that chaos behind me (and almost an hour on the road on my normally 30 minute commute), I thought now things would mellow out. Sure, there was still traffic, but it was manageable. I kept a reasonable distance behind the car in front of me as we were now traveling around 72. But the person behind me seemed mortally offended that I wasn't tailgating, and sped up to pass me, glaring at me as he went by, and cut in front of me, causing us both to brake. I could hear his engine revving to do this. Probably took him down to 5 or 6 miles per gallon for that little move, and then he lost all of that energy to braking. Meanwhile, if he'd kept cruising along at 72, he would've saved a lot of gas. (Of course, he wouldn't have gotten to glare at me.)

If every car had a reminder like mine - that every aggressive driving act is costing you money - then I suspect a lot of drivers would chill out. It's like the research about pleasure of buying versus pain of spending. If we looked at fuel as the same sort of behavioral value proposition moment by moment rather than a less concrete average, I suspect that we'd see less childish acting out on the road.

Or a least a girl can dream.


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