Brakes (no, not brake lights again)

Ever since I briefly had a dash cam (video quality was terrible, and I decided I’d rather wait to find a good one) and I thought about what my videos would reveal about my own driving, I’ve been contemplating what actually makes a good driver, and how someone can judge their own driving.

I’m sure that very few people think they’re a bad driver, but I think we can all agree that “average” is still pretty poor.

One idiot poor driver recently gave me an idea for a metric of quality driving that people could actually use to assess themselves.

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There’s a road near my house that is a nice bypass for a fairly busy street, and has some pleasant scenery, but has one significant downside that prevents it (mostly) from being abused: a 25mph speed limit.

While traversing this route (I drive a Wrangler: driving slowly is practically mandatory) I watched the SUV in front of me accelerate until they found themselves trapped behind another car that, like me, was doing the speed limit.

For the next mile, the SUV was tailgating that poor car and hitting their brakes every 50-100 feet. Idiocy.

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So my proposed metric for quality driving involves (surprise!) the frequency of brake usage.

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Brakes are important signals to traffic behind you (assuming your brake lights work, but again, not the point of this post no matter how much I want to rant again), and clearly they’re required for making sharp turns and coming to a stop at intersections.

Things get tricky when you’re talking about start and stop traffic. I know people will insist until they’re blue in the face on two topics: that driving the speed limit when everyone else is ignoring it is life-threatening, and that leaving a safe distance between them and the car ahead of them in a traffic jam means that the entire world is going to jump ahead of them and they’ll never get anywhere.

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I’ll choose not to tell y’all what I think of those two arguments, although my opinion is not hard to guess.

In any other context, however, using your brakes implies an unexpected emergency (someone cutting you off, e.g.) or, I would suggest, that you are not driving with the appropriate level of caution.

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So any time you unexpectedly hit your brakes, ask yourself whether you’re actually paying enough attention to what’s going on around you, and ask yourself whether you’re tailgating.

(Or maybe the car in front of you has no brake lights and you can do the world a favor by alerting them. Just sayin’.)

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