Interesting driving metaphor, but the original question was the most pertinent: what would Jesus drive?
Taking Pope Francis' cues, we should be behind the wheels of those vehicles which would be the least polluting and the most fuel efficient.
How people treat our shared and only planet is the bigger test of character.
Were drivers all mini Don Trumps
I'd be even more in the dumps
Self centered, disdainful,
Life would be more painful,
An unending kick in our rumps.
@Larry Eisenberg: Perfection because it's true! Thank you sir.
Well, actually, I noticed that drivers got even more aggressive after Trump was elected. But then again, I live in Phoenix. I’m not surprised it made the list of most aggressive cities. Probably would make the list of biggest vehicles, too.
Sarah, that's because folks around here think of driving as trying to herd cattle in a stampede. Hailing originally from NYC, and having driven trucks and a cab there for a while after 'Nam, I'm not really phased by it, though it is annoying and sometimes dangerous. I think Trump's election has empowered and "vindicated" a lot of folks with grudges and given them justification for expressing their discontent. There are some days it feels like the bumper cars at coney island. I spend a lot of time off road in the desert, so my daily drive is lifted, a bit loud, large wheels, traces of dirt and mud here and there and a strategically placed NRA sticker on the rear window. A number of folks see this as an invitation to drag race, for some reason, but I rarely suffer the tribulations that drivers of smaller, newer or cleaner cars might. When I do, I politely tip my cowboy hat and wave them on, I'm in no hurry to get anywhere (unless they have a Chihuahua in their lap). I used to love motorcycles, but I wouldn't dare try it here, their accident and fatality rates are astronomical. Though approaching 70, I consider myself a responsible and sane driver. I console myself with "at least it's not Florida".
This column is something that resonated with me. Driving here in Minneapolis St. Paul is an exceedingly unpleasant experience. Nobody follows any of the rules of the road and everyone seems bankrupt of courtesy. You cannot change lanes to get off the freeway here without someone giving you the finger or speeding up to keep you from changing lanes. It is quite simply evidence of the breakdown of society.
I live on the Minneapolis side of the Twin Cities but have also lived in St Paul. In 45 years here I have not shared your experience. Those who have problems seem either to be driving much faster or much slower than the prevailing traffic (assuming they are not impaired). My pet peeve is slower drivers who park in the left lane, which is something Minnesotans are known for. There is a lot more traffic here than was the case 25 years ago, and you have to compensate. One way is to change lanes when you can rather than when you must.
I disagree. I lived in Minneapolis and St. Paul for a long time and if anything Minnesotans are way too polite when driving. You get in traffic as someone waves everyone in front of them.
California, Chicago, and the east coast are dramatically ruder.
One can imagine that trump doesn't drive so that he can scowl at all of us losers, tweet away his rude rants and keep his middle finger extended for just about anybody in his cross hairs.
Yes we dawdle here in Seattle, just another reason why I like it.
Perhaps Jesus would drive as the Japanese because he drove a Honda although he didn't talk about it. "For I did not speak of my own accord." John 12:49
That is clever and funny!
Maybe he didn't talk about his own accord because he didn't have anything nice to say about it, a good thing.... so instead of complaining about it, talking about its faults.... that's why he chose not to speak.
Brilliant Marshal sensei
How Would Jesus Drive?
Possibly in an ambulance serving his people.
"the most accident-prone drivers live in Boston; Baltimore; Worcester, Mass.; Washington, D.C.; and Springfield, Mass. (Way to go, Massachusetts!)"
I was a Boston commuter for 20 years. And yes we are the most aggressive drivers, and it isn't just the men. My wife always required a car with a V8. Said she needed the extra horsepower to get out of tight places! Whatever that means.
Friend at works gets a call from wife. Said she was rear ended. What happened? I was coming up to a light and it turned yellow, so I stopped. The other driver hit me. Husband. What did you stop for??
I live in Atlanta now and continue with my Boston driving skills and still have a wicked accent! Hard to break habits, particularly when your pushing 75.
How would Jesus drive?
Probably on water.
And he'd turn wine into hi-test.
Jesus would walk and take public transit.
Perhaps on water?
This was a great piece. A great reminder and a way to feel less distraught about whose in charge -- we all are actually.
When I was young, I drove cautiously, but was always in a hurry as DC is always 'race pace' - you can't be slow or you'd be run off the road. And now with it being Trump's home, I'm anxious to leave. But now that I'm old and rarely drive anymore, I take life so much slower and it's become more enjoyable as a result. So I would have to say Jesus would enjoy taking a ride with me now. I'm a courteous driver and when others are not, I just ignore them and have more time to hope they get where they want to go without problems. Life is no longer a race and it feels good.
As a matter of fact, my husband and I are moving soon from outside the beltway of DC in VA to a small quaint little city on the eastern shore which is his birth place in Pocomoke, MD. I have to say Jesus would love the slow ride because he'd be able to relax and enjoy the beautiful scenery. Pope Francis would love it as well and is welcomed to ride along anytime.
Slowly? At donkey speed?
Jesus today would NOT drive. HE would take public transportation, or hitchhike.
or bicycle :)
In driving, it would seem that we encounter a very kinetic application of the 80/20 rule (Pareto principle). Twenty percent of the drivers account for 80% of the problems.
Then, of course, there are the worst-of-the-worst, probably < 5%, who are either drunk, distracted, dimwitted and/or full-blown sociopaths. Even though I am generally speaking a very liberal person, when I encounter some of these drivers--as I often do--on California freeways, I find myself wishing that they'd be sent to Jesus for remedial driving instruction.
Clearly he would car pool if the situation was appropriate. When stopped at a light, I'm sure he'd give his spare change to the person with a homeless sign.
Drinking and driving would be out of the question. Ditto for tweeting or using a cell phone for other reasons where distraction might occur. Strapping a dog to the roof of his car...NAH!!!
When stopped at a light, I'm sure he'd give his spare change to the person with a homeless sign.
No, Jesus wasn't a sucker. Real homeless people don't beg at intersections. Donate to a homeless shelter or social services instead of paying people who scam you as a job, or use mentally ill people to make them cash begging from cars in high-traffic areas.
Luckily for us all. the current president is driven everywhere. Keep him in the back seat.
I don't care how Jesus would drive, Mr. Brooks. It's irrelevant' moot. But I know one thing: if he saw a stranded motorist, or a woman alone, stalled, he would get out and help. He would change a tire. He would give directions. If he had a cellphone, he would call a garage or the insurance company. He would offer a ride. It's simple kindness, Mr. Brooks, something that is in very short supply, not only in America, but also in our extended global village.
The worst place for accidents in my experience is South Carolina on the coast. Too many wealthy retirees who think they are more important than anyone else. Up here in Maine, everyone stops for people in crosswalks (its the law) unless they are visiting from New York, Boston Or Texas. And the best thing is having fellow citizens who slow down and wave you in when you are waiting at a side street to merge.
A whole article on driving behavior, and not a peep on signaling: a clear indication that the person writing about driving doesn't actually know what the problem is.
The problem is almost never what the other person is trying to do. It's: can you understand what they are trying to do. Signalling provides this.
A whole article about driving behavior, and not a peep about driver education: a clear indication that the person writing about driving doesn't actually know what the problem is.
The problem is not what the other person is trying to do. It's: do you even know what the laws are. I have had interactions with police where I realize even THEY do not know what the laws are.
Excellent use of driving as metaphor for everything. Thank you for a lovely, thought-provoking column. (Any insight on Chicago drivers? My experience is that they drive like NYC wannabes!)
Driving, for benefit of the common good, may be the best argument I've heard against driverless cars.
Jesus would not drive. He would take public transportation, bicycle or walk. Jesus would make that choice because he would understand that driving is a selfish choice which adds more CO2 to the atmosphere and thereby worsens climate change.
Because of rainfall the streets in Seattle, Portland, and Honolulu are often (perhaps even usually) wet. Could this help to account for the more cautious approach to driving?
No. I grew up in Seattle and learned to drive there. Wet streets are normal (flooded streets are not), and require no particular adjustment.
However, now that so many people have moved to Seattle from elsewhere, they often bring their "OMG it's raining" style of driving with them. When I go back to visit now, I make a game of trying to guess where each problem driver is from.
Jesus would use public transportation.
That aside, excellent column. The personal automobile has an uncanny ability to make itself seem indispensable while turning its occupant into a lesser person.
David, et al.-- I agree, microKindness is the way to go today and tomorrow.
Little reminders that we understand and can easily help one another. Quick benefit an example: I helped a woman carry her baby carraige down the NYC subway stairs. At the end, someone walking by said, "That was nice of you." I replied, "Actually, helping made me feel good."
As a social scientist, the dopamine did kick in my brain, and everyone felt good: the woman with the carriage, the bystander watching us, and me, too. MicroKindness really is a feel good drug. Thanks David, again, for all you do and for being my teacher! JD
"Virtue is its own reward." Still true, and how good you feel when you've done something nice for someone - especially a stranger.
We live near a small city, San Miguel de Allende, beloved of Mexicans and Americans as well. There is discourtesy, but very little. It takes drivers from other areas a few days to adjust, but the courtesy in the small, crowded streets is contagious.
Francis and Brooks are right: We the people, we're in charge, more than laws or officials.
Jesus would ride a bike because He knows that surrounding yourself with 4k lbs of metal gives one the same feeling of invincibility and invisibility that the internet provides and that leads to irresponsible acts of selfishness, cruelty and insulation from the whole of society. It's not just how you drive, it's what you drive. On a recent trip to Europe I was amazed at the small, ecologically friendly cars and scooters that were the norm. Compared to the behemoths and trucks, hauling nothing but the driver's egos in America, the Europeans don't seem to have the same concerns about the size of their buttons.
They call them "Yank Tanks" and I wish we could buy some of those smaller models over here.
I don't think Jesus would ride a bike or walk in this weather we are having here in northern NJ. I walk where I can, and I like my bike. I agree he probably wouldn't have a car; he'd hitch along with one or another of his disciples, just as he spent his ministry couch-surfing.
I've always believed that a man's confidence in his manliness is inversely proportional to the size of his vehicle and how loud the exhaust is. Those guys in the jacked-up earsplitting pickups are trying, desperately, to compensate for something.
So - I don't know how related this is, but I'm kind of hooked on an on-line game right now called Elvenar. It's out of Sweden, and in the game you are constantly rewarded for cooperative behavior. You get ahead by helping others. You can't get past a certain point in the game without joining and contributing to a fellowship, where the most cooperative people benefit the most.
I wonder about cause and effect with the traffic examples you've given. Is it easier to live in the less aggressive cities? Do people feel more rewarded by cooperative behavior there? Or - if people have just had a pleasant drive home where other drivers waved to them, are they more likely to, say, give to charity that evening, or treat their spouse courteously?
Having grown in the NYC area I was justly proud of my well trained aggressive but I believe safe driving style. After moving to the Seattle area many years ago I had my knuckles quickly hit for my NYC driving style. They never gave me a ticket because I had in fact not broken any traffic laws. Years later on returning to NYC I found myself severely handicapped driving around the city as a friendly rube who drove with Seattle style politeness.
I love your post more and more. I get depressed reading NYT everyday, its like seeing the dark side of the force rising everyday. People seem to forget that we leave in a society, me, you all of us together, its not me against everybody, no me against the state. Health care is that, tax is that, driving on the road is that.
It is everybody's duty to care.
How would Jesus drive? He'd be buckled in, sober, obey the speed limits and traffic laws. He'd be careful of pedestrians and cyclists, courteous to all on the road. He would use his turn signals. And when he parked it would be between the lines, and not taking up two spaces. Drive like Jesus.
A "good" driver, imho, is one who neither gives nor takes offense but courteously shares the road, especially with those most vulnerable --- motorcyclists, bicyclists, elderly drivers, pedestrians, and kids who run out from between parked cars. He would not speed through neighborhoods or school zones, yet He might do "a few over" out on the open road. After all, He's got a message to deliver, something about "Loving others as much as I love driving this little sports car." Close???
Would Jesus really drive an automobile? Automobiles waste finite resources, & contribute to climate change & the destruction of the environment. The unending demand for oil distorts our economy, our politics, & has led our country to unforgiveable acts of violence & imperialism. In the US, over 100 people a day are killed by automobiles, and thousands each day are seriously injured--proving the grim & insane impracticality of such a transportation system. Both collective & individual selfishness are built into the private automobile. Like the internet, the shell of anonymity & isolation in which our cars put us encourages rudeness & self-centered behavior.
Not that we necessarily have any choice. We have, at enormous expense, designed our society to accomodate the private automobile, and so, for most of us, its use is required to work & live. My point is this: we are not just individuals, we are part of a society, and the way we structure our society defines our moral boundaries & possibilities. The idea of driving a car in a polite & civilized manner rather misses the point--a bit like the idea of fighting a war in a polite & civilized manner. I think Jesus would more likely take the subway, or a bicycle. And maybe even lobby for more spending on public transit.
You might think that people living in a culture that emphasizes individualism would treat driving as a competitive sport. Americans learn early, however, the etiquette of waiting in line, and this process of socialization seems to influence their driving habits. Given the frustrations associated with driving in traffic, most Americans display a remarkable patience and a tendency to obey the rules. (Cab drivers in Chicago, and perhaps elsewhere, by contrast, frequently drive like maniacs.)
Individualism can encourage scorn for the welfare of others, but it can also promote a sense of responsibility. Individual freedom cannot survive in an environment in which no one takes responsibility for his own behavior. As David indicates, driving patterns vary from city to city, but in a country where the automobile remains the preferred means of transportation, a consistent strategy of aggressive confrontation with other drivers would destroy the system.
His influence has clearly affected people I talked to today. People are listening.
I did not know Jesus had a license.
"...total sleazoids at the top of our society: Trump, Bannon, Ailes, Weinstein, Cosby, etc." I agree that all are totally sleazy, each in their own special way, but is Cosby really at the top of our society? Because he used to be a popular sitcom actor decades ago? You are really stretching credulity in your fifth nominee here.
At one point, not so many years ago, Cosby had the highest Q score (which measures both familiarity and high regard) in the country.
I picture Jesus riding a bicycle, not driving a car.
Yes. He would advocate for bike lanes and, when possible, walk and talk.
Without a doubt! In the Christ Church Cathedral in Stanley, Falkland Islands there is a stained glass window of a nun, Mary Eleanor Watson, on a bicycle. It's tucked on a side wall, but very memorable.
I grew up and learned to drive in rural Kansas. My husband grew up and learned to drive in the suburbs of Washington DC. We met and married in Denver. Neither of us can stand the other's driving. He scares me. I annoy him because I'm not trying to make every light or get ahead of everybody else on the road. Being in the car together is very tense. I've threatened to never ride with him again -- we'll just take two cars. (Haven't actually done this.)
I'd like to show him this article and say "Hah! I'm right!" but Jesus probably wouldn't do that.
Margret, you are not alone. Overtime I take a road trip with my husband I threaten "never again" and on the worst occasions a divorce. And he's the son of a minister! But he is at his most unChristian on the road, especially around big trucks! Testosterone is probably to blame.
I followed through on the two cars idea with my husband and without drama. It helped our relationship in more ways than one. And I've taught my children that passengers are not prisoners of the driver of any car or bus they are in. If someone is driving in unsafe ways, I've counseled them to ask for a restroom stop at a fast food restaurant, and then, once out of the car, say they have to go home immediately and then call a cab/friend/relative. They have each used this technique to stay safe.
Of course the ultimate common good and practice of self sacrifice is to not drive at all.
I don't have a car, I ride my bicycle around. It doesn't feel like self-sacrifice - part of the reason is to get away from the kind of driving behavior described in this article. On a bicycle, you're usually to the side of the car traffic, not taking part in it.
And I like SEEING the world. When I start out, there's a feeling of Ahhhh ... as I breathe deep, look up and see the sky and everything around me. I feel like part of nature.
And it becomes an aerobic workout after awhile. I'm also staying in shape while I'm getting around.
It does get a bit difficult when the cold gets intense. More than about 5 miles below 10 F might make me too cold. Although I'm sure I could do that with better gear.
America likes to think of itself as a Christian nation. But "Love thy neighbor" goes right out the window the moment most Americans get behind the wheel. You don't love your neighbor by endangering him or her by driving distracted, looking at your cellphone. You drive at a reasonable speed that permits YOU to prevent an accident when your NEIGHBOR makes a mistake. You don't pass on the right through their biggest blind spot. Nor do you aggravate your neighbor by hogging the fast lane. You use it to pass then move over. You don't make 5 unnecessary lane changes in under a mile attempting to get home 2 carlengths ahead of others, because during ONE of those lane changes, you'll one day cut off a motorcycle you didn't see. You don't use an oversize truck to intimidate the owners of smaller vehicles. Oh yes, you can do all of these things, just don't call yourself a Christian.
It sadly extends, for a lot of people, to whenever the leave the house! A lot of people in public places, whether the sidewalk, in stores, Lord knows on airplanes, behave as if they are the only ones around who can stand, stop, do whatever THEY want, the rest of the world be damned. Plus so many, not out of spite or meanness seem utterly unaware of their surroundings, thus they are startled when you say "excuse me" when they're, for example, blocking the aisle in the supermarket. It always reminds me of some scene in a Nat Geo animal program where predators pick off some inattentive antelope at the watering hole!
I'm not sure that "America" really likes to think of itself as a Christian nation, at least not any more. America is much more diverse than it was in the 50's and 60's, and also much more agnostic. I'm sure you did not think of it in that way, but calling America a Christian nation is actually somewhat offensive to a large number of Americans now.
And those who text while driving...?
Driving is so...20th century.Beam me up, Scotty.
David Brooks, it's the drivers like you reconstituting your consciousness of culture at 45mph in the center lane who cause most of the world's traffic snarls.
And yet it's the rageful drivers in the left and right lanes screaming and swerving at one another who cause the most deaths.
You made a lot of great points David. I was recently appalled to find several otherwise well adjusted people in my social media circle asking, on Facebook, how they could get out of the camera tickets they received speeding in a school zones! That kind of brought it all together for me. There are two places where some humans lose any sense of citizenship and manners: social media and the road.
I can't presume to tell His Holiness about morality, but I do know something about shoveling snow from sidewalks. It is the true test of civic duty and compassion for one's fellow men and women. You can claim all sorts of ethical convictions and political beliefs from liberal to conservative. But after a few inches of new fallen snow have whitened your sidewalk, the real test of your world view and social responsibility becomes visible. The evidence proves that here are two types of people: those who shovel and those who don't. All the rest is rhetoric and humbug. And yes, Jesus would shovel his walk and his neighbor's as well. It's going to be a long winter...
Driving is indeed a social and moral action today. Fortunately, self-driving automobiles will soon be here. A generation or two from now, no one will drive, and all of these moral issue will vanish.
Until recently, books were expensive and rare. Children in third-world countries and poor children in the U.S. could not get them. Society had a moral obligation to build libraries and bring books to people -- an obligation it often failed to meet. Now, with the Internet, they are thousands of times cheaper to distribute. Any child with a cell phone in Africa can read public domain textbooks from the best universities. There are free websites with superb video lectures.
What was once a moral issue was solved by technical means. That is what will happen to the moral issues of driving, and eventually some other present day quandaries such as expensive health care. When robots replace doctors in the distant future, and CAT-scan machines are long out of patent and manufactured cheaply by robots, health care will cost practically nothing.
Fortunately, self-driving automobiles will soon be here. A generation or two from now, no one will drive, and all of these moral issue will vanish.
Keep on dreamin', Jed.
They told us that making everyone buy into health insurance would keep everyone healthy too, but some still choose to take responsibility into our own hands... Freedom in America will never die out. Too many people will refuse what are being sold as technological advances that cost them their health.
I do not understand your message. How would self-driving automobiles cost you your health? This is like saying that push-button elevators (without human operators) cost you your health.
Self driving cars will not diminish your freedom. We have stopped using many other obsolete modes of transportation. Americans no longer ride horses on city streets. We don't walk or ride bicycles on interstate highways. We don't use steam locomotives or ship with sails. No one complains that such changes diminish our freedom. We don't even notice, or remember what it was like when people rode horses in cities. Self-driving cars will inevitably replace human-driven ones, because they will be more convenient, cheaper and far safer. Eventually, no one will remember what it was like when people drove cars, and no one will want to go back to that.
I had my best lesson in driving ethics a number of years ago from a wonderful Mexican mechanic in Cuernavaca, where he skillfully replaced the head gasket on my aging Mitsubishi, a car he had never worked on before. (I subsequently drove the car back to Columbus, Ohio without losing a drop of oil.) As we were out for a test drive in the car, I noticed that he slowed down to let a pedestrian cross the street safely. I commented that Mexican drivers don't usually do things like that. He expressed his philosophy memorably: "People first, then cars."
Lovely column, Mr. Brooks, thank you. Here in Hawaii we show our aloha by giving each other a shaka sign in thanks for courtesies. It cuts down on the road rage.
On a good day, Jesus would have shared the road - just like he taught the 5,000 to share their bread and fish. On a bad day, Jesus might tear up the middle lane, cut people off, pass on the right - just like he tore into the Temple and took out the money changers. After all, Jesus was human.... Maybe if we pray first, before engaging in road rage..... Food for thought.
"...just like he tore into the Temple and took out the money changers."
You say this, like it was a bad thing.
Don't you understand what Jesus was doing in preventing the obstacles that men/mannon were attempting to set up in His Father's house, keeping the Lord from all his people? There is no need for an animal sacrifice, Christ himself gave his flesh and blood to assure all of us of that. Non believers: take heed.
Thank you Mr. Brooks for a thoughtful commentary that I would imagine even extreme partisans on opposite sides could find much to agree with.
As we learn more about the negative effects stress can have on our bodies, we should be motivated to make our own driving a less stressful experience. While we can't usually control other drivers' actions, we can control how we respond to those actions. I suspect Jesus would be granting forgiveness instead of giving the finger.
How would Jesus drive?
Over 2,000 years ago in the Land of Israel, good chance that he would have walked or at best taken a donkey.
Horses were for Romans, not Jews.
As for the pope, if you have ever tried to cross the street in Rome, then you know why this was the topic of his sermon.
In short, humans driving cars is a dangerous and deadly activity that kills40 thousand Americans every year:
The sooner human driver are replaced by driver less cars and trains the better it would be for everyone...
The sooner human driver are replaced by driver less cars and trains the better it would be for everyone...
So says someone who doesn't have faith in herself/himself, and doesn't respect those who do, and know how to drive properly. Do you believe in pre-destination in spiritual matters too? I don't.
If I judged people by how they drive, I'd conclude the world is going to the dark fires below so fast that I won't have time to drive home.
Actually The Messiah is trending in the year 2018, more than Je Sus. So, what car would the Messiah drive? Riddle: What is faster than a ray of light? Brilliance. Brilliance, is what the Messiah drives.
Just be grateful Trump doesn't drive.
If the Pope can make Americans into better drivers, he truly will have performed a miracle and will qualify for sainthood! I have commuted up and down the Turnpike for 16 years--funny, but I have never seen the Popemobile on it--anyway, I can tell you that it's filled with sociopaths. My feeling is that Americans are not really taught how to drive, but are taught only the rudiments necessary to pass the driving test and get a driver's license. As a result, as David Brooks suggests, they treat driving as a competition, in which the other drivers--that is, their fellow citizens and perhaps even their neighbors--do not matter. They blow their horn and use obscene gestures to express their impatience. They swerve from lane to lane to gain one carlength. They text and talk on the phone while tailgating me at 70 mph. These may not be mortal sins, although they could cause a fatal accident. So I am glad to hear the Pope address this issue. If he succeeds, maybe I'll even start going to church.
Mr. Brooks juxtaposes well our behavior in driving and our ethos in living. I will not repeat what the column says because I happen to agree with this metaphorical piece. But I will attempt to answer the leading question: How would Jesus drive? Well, if he were a city guy, he wouldn't. No Uber or taxi either. He would take the bus, our Bay Area Bart, or the NY subway. He would mix with us common folks, stand for the aged, the pregnant, the disabled, the lady, or the mom with her kids. Or he would walk, same if he were a country boy. He would not rush, or push another out of the way; but he may just sneak a jay walk. After all, he is human, too. He would use this opportunity to observe his neighborhoods, who needs help, and what needs improvement, a true community activist.
if he were rich, which I would doubt, but if he were, no private jets or limos like yours' truly. No, he would take a train or Grey Hound to travel interstate. He'd be too busy helping others to travel abroad. That money he would have left over? Well, it would go to health care, environmental control, organizations for the poor, the immigrant, the refugee. This is how, I think, Jesus would drive.
He would not rush, or push another out of the way; but he may just sneak a jay walk.
He did die at 33. Pedestrians who don't observe the right of way cannot blame motorists who do. If you're walking against the light when drivers are attempting to turn left because the signal allows them to do so, you are the problem.
I love your Jesus, Kathy.
I wanna drive just like Him.
Hate when someone drives up my tail and flashes ME to move out of their way. I do, but I usually give them ‘the finger’. I might not in the future to be ‘an artisan of the common good’.
the bus is the best when Jesus gets on board.
Pope Francis will be here in Lima on the 21st and I'm praying fervently that he will give this exact same talk here. The traffic in Lima, Peru where I live, is horrifying. 2 highways to move you around this massive city where most traffic crawls around city streets and motorcycles use the sidewalk. The driving in this city is so terrible that I won't drive because I'd be homicidal in about 2 hours. Thousands upon thousands are forced to spend hours either squeezed into ancient and modified vans with seats jammed in tightly, or riding squeezed in and hunched over because they have low ceilings. Now imagine your commute is 2 hours each way provided there isn't an accident up ahead. think what that does to your time with your family. If Jesus stuck around for a while, and didn't leave I'd beg him to make the public buses accessible. Not one single bus in the entire city that has access and the steps to get on the buses are about 18" above ground. The City bus line that runs in a fixed lane never stops close enough to the platform so that a chair might get on but bus is so crowded a chair wouldn't fit. Por favor, Papa Francisco, repita sus palabras de lo que manejaria Jesus cuando venga a Lima. El trafico aqui en Lima es una desgracia.
Great article. I have experience driving in countries outside of the United States--very different styles to be sure. Some cities seems lawless but as you get to know how drivers manage their cars, you discover unspoken understandings about how to drive. That people wait at stop signs to take their turn still amazes me.
I learned to drive in crazy-driver Boston and for a long time thought it prepared me to drive anywhere. Cowpaths for streets, flying out of red lights, and the infamous rotaries!! However, a friend in Mexico City claims that it is the other way around. Driving in Mexico City prepares one to drive in Boston!! I have come to agree.
On one occasion, the Boston Globe even published an article reminding people to obey the red lights!!
Nonetheless, the Pope and Mr. Brooks make an important point in that roads are spaces that we all share, whether we know or like each other, whether we drive a Ferrari or a jalopy.
David, I'm sorry if this comes across as harsh, but every week, as it becomes more and more clear that you have been backing the wrong horse the less your column focuses on the politics you helped create.
I really don't mean to be mean-spirited, but that is really cowardly behavior, David. If you really believe in your convictions, try to defend them. Don't ignore them when reality doesn't support your thesis.
This is one of the good conservatives, Chip. It doesn't help our side to act with intolerance towards someone who obviously strives to be fair and thoughtful, even when he misses the mark sometimes. We need to stop testing for purity and vilifying those near the center. Like in driving, our political rhetoric needs to show us as artisans of the common good.
Speaking the truth boldly and clearly is not mean spirited. Jesus of Nazereth spoke truth to power when he threw the money lenders out of the temple and told his followers to let the children come to him. And when he said there were only really two commandments: love God and love your neighbor as yourself (strong democratic socialist message there).
Perhaps the reason DB has "backed the wrong horse" and now finds anything else to write about is that he is still hoping to be among the Pharisees, the moneyed elite.
I don't think you are mean spirited at all, just stating the facts in frankly the most polite terms of anyone here. Bravo. I will be looking for your comments to learn from you. I think you wrote your comment how Jesus may have.
It has long been known by drivers not from Mass that Mass drivers are the Nation's worst. I'm only surprised that Cape Codders aren't on the list. Out there they not only aim to take you out but themselves as well. Does it start with driver's ed? Something in the water? Could the Pope please speak to them?
Driving was the internet before the internet existed. Shielded in iron, drivers are anonymous and can do whatever they wish with little fear of consequence. At some point, all those aggressive, selfish, angry drivers get out of their cars and go into supermarkets, where they navigate their carts with smiles and nods, surrendering their right of way to others without a thought, and wait with great patience for those slower than them.
"...where they navigate their carts with smiles and nods, surrendering their right of way to others without a thought, and wait with great patience for those slower than them."
Where do you shop? Where Jesus shops?
I don’t know how he would drive, but he most likely would drive a Christler.
Wonderful -- this made my day!
Thank you, Mr. Brooks, for drawing attention to this topic. I've never had a powerful highway car, mostly little sports cars over the years, but I was never afraid until recently. More like terrified. I've never seen worse driving, and where are the police when drivers are going 10-20 miles over the speed limit and recklessly changing lanes?
I stay in the outside lane and drive the speed limit, and I'm passed like I'm standing still. Drivers pass me just to get off at the next exit. Once, a driver passed me by USING an exit ramp. I've been so frequently tail-gated by huge pick-ups and 16-wheelers I wondered if they were being intentionally intimidating, and I scrubbed off my liberal bumperstickers.
My boyfriend is a very safe driver but he has a one hour commute to work each way. I fear for his life every day. He's scared too by what he's seen. It's like Road Warrior or Mad Max out there. And women drive as wildly irresponsible as the men! I think over-sized SUVs and pick-ups give drivers a delusion of invulnerability. And yes, I believe the recklessness and discourtesy reflects a breakdown of society. Jesus would weep.
Respectfully, you need to learn to drive the speed of traffic, or get off the road. You sound like a danger to others, driving so slowly that others are forced to pass. Go when there is no traffic, or pick it up. And for heaven's sakes, don't drive in the "outside" lane: the left lane is for passing, the right lane is for righteous saints who are doing the speed limit. Can you plan your travels to include times of no to little traffic? Sometimes, when you go too slow (and usually it is people talking/texting on their phones who slow down to undertake those activities), you are the danger to other vehicles..
I too wish more vehicles would drive more slowly and safely, but when they do not, and you don't adapt to the speed of traffic around you, it really is you who is endangering others. God bless.
gw, inspired by David Brooks and the commentators, I have just sent this to my favorite driver, and it is for All of Us:
Sorry but "Driving the speed limit" is not safe when everyone else is averaging +10 over. You need to keep up with the "flow" of traffic, in other words, speed. Instead you are turning yourself and your car into a rolling obstacle other drivers must go around. You are the "letter of the law abiding" driver that makes the aggressive ones "act out," pass on the right, swerve, and endanger the rest of us. Seriously. You need to obey the SPIRIT of the traffic law, which is safety, and not the letter, which is 55 or 65 or whatever. Thanks.
About 15 years ago I drove from Szczecin to Gdansk. Much of the trip was on a three-lane highway - one lane each way and a center lane for passing from either direction. While it may sound frightening it was a positive experience; the Polish drivers were amazingly courteous in using and allowing others to use that center lane. It was a real test of David Brooks' hypothesis.
I'm sure things have changed. The 3-lane highways that forced courtesy are very likely gone. And the proportion of first time drivers has, no doubt, increased.
I spend my winters in Phoenix, one of the cities listed as having the "Most aggressive drivers." I honestly believe that if Phoenicians drove cooperatively instead of competitively the # of collisions, especially on I-10, would be so greatly reduced average speeds would go way up.
What a great title for this essay. When I travel, my wallet joins me, holding inside a photo of Pope Francis. You will have to learn how to drive, I was told, when living in the countryside. A menace to my fellowmen, women and children, all creatures great and small, I refuse.
A friend came to pick me up on a winter day, and it was tense. Once fearless, her way of driving had changed. We were of a sudden on Black Ice and losing traction, nearly sliding off the road. 'This is your fault, I was told, you should never have let me drive in this weather', while I remained silent as a golden retriever companion in the front seat. We arrived at our destination safely, and a glass of wine was offered to my guest. On a note of humor, it was a housewarming gift from 'Republicans'.
Thank you, Mr. Brooks. I am going to try to be an artisan of the common good, laced with some common horse sense.
When I moved from NJ to Massachusetts in 12 years ago, I was astounded at how truly awful MA drivers are. Nobody merges onto a highway--they fly out at top speed, forcing people about to exit to practically screech to a grinding crawl.
So, I'm not surprised at all by how many cities here whose drivers are the bane of Allstate.
So I agree with Pope Francis: probably nothing is more indicative of one's entitlement or sense of cooperation than driving. If like Jesus, an impatient driver metaphorically turns his or her cheek, they may be spared a significant amount of damage.
Of course the Lord was trying to impart an attitude, a Christian way of life, not simply a defensive posture meant to avoid a serious accident.
But I would venture to say that driving is the perfect place to test and build patience, so much so that maybe if you drive well, it will spill over into your other personal life. Maybe if you get in the habit of yielding, you'll grow to automatically treat the ones you love--as well as the casual stranger--with a little more respect, tolerance and kindness.
I agree with ChristineMcM. Any study that doesn't rank Massachusetts as the worst driving experience in the country has it wrong.
Christine. Watch where the backups are on highways like Rt 3 to/from Cape or the Pike. It is always where the on ramps are. As you say people simply don't yield, or look, they just go forcing the cars with right of way to slow which accordions back to where people are forced to stop. Forcing people to yield, maybe by installed west coast style lights at on ramps.
They other one is where everyone knows there is an exit ahead and they queue to get in the right lane for it and along comes the people who are two important to wait in that lane so fly by and jam themselves in at the last second thereby perpetuating and making worse the line that was probably started by someone doing the same.
Driving with respect for others also cuts way down on stress for yourself and is safer. It actually is the most selfish way to drive since you, yourself, get the most benefit.
Thank you! For many years I’ve noticed the parallel between personal and driving skills. Kind people drive with kindness and vice versa. Now we need a study on how the ruder we are, the more crowded our roads become!
Actually, there have been many studies that show the opposite: the more crowded the area, the more aggressive the residents. I think that's why NY/NJ drivers are so awful. When we travel out west or other led dense areas, drivers are much more courteous.
If driving is metaphor for how we govern ourselves, it doesn't exactly speak highly of the merits of wholesale deregulation.
I'm very happy to see one of the Times' resident conservative columnists follow the Pope in advocating for the Common Good; slowly but, I hope, surely he seems to be abandoning the dark side. The idea is enshrined in the Constitution as the General Welfare, which the more ideological conservatives who claim to adhere to the Constitution conveniently forget, because it doesn't fit their view of the world.
As a non-driver I'd be more interested in knowing how drivers would react if they knew that the pedestrian they had just nearly mowed down was Jesus. Having survived more than my fair share of near-catastrophes I suppose I shouldn't complain but I'm guessing that Christ Himself would have some choice words to utter if He found Himself trying to cross the road while dodging a car making a left turn at a red light.
Having been driving in Southern California for decades, I can personally confirm the various driving behaviors and their effects on the drivers Mr. Brooks so eloquently described in this article. The best driving day I have ever had over the past 34 years in San Diego was September 11, 2001. Every driver was an artisan of kindness during rush hour driving on that tragic day. It only occurred on that day, the kindness was short lived.
Perhaps David could add a paragraph on the role of regulation: stop lights, solid and dashed center lines, signs... The point being that how we react to rules is significant as David suggests, but sensible organization helps.
The analogy could include government by and for the people, not by billionaires for billionaires.
Driving styles are a "lagging indicator": a result of some process that is often unrelated to culture. My driving skills were honed in the 70's by a college summer job as a cabbie in Manhattan. I learned to be aggressive to a point, because my riders gave me bigger tips if I looked like I was getting them to their location fast but safely. With so many cabs on the road, if non-cabbie wanted to keep up with traffic, he or she had to drive that way. (I left NY soon after, and cannot comment on current driving conditions.) Based on that experience (and many others), it does not seem like driving habits are a fair basis to judge whether the people of a region care about the common good.
What immediately comes to mind is a classic Disney cartoon short called "Motor Mania." It's a take on Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, where the mild-mannered Mr. Walker becomes the monstrous Mr. WHEELER once he gets behind the wheel. Even though it was made in 1950 it is still a near perfect depiction of drivers today. There's a touch of Mr. Wheeler in me too but I'm doing my best to keep him at bay.
I had to smile when I read that headline. I grew up in a very small, close-knit evangelical church in Appalachia. Although I haven't been religious for decades and would be terribly uncomfortable in an evangelical church now, my feelings toward that upbringing are almost entirely positive. I'm grateful for having gained biblical literacy, which was an asset to my literary studies, but most of all for our youth leader, who encouraged us teens to speak frankly of the issues that troubled us and to seek ethical guidance in the life of Jesus, whom we saw as a sort of romantic hippie-rebel.
Because of years of "What would Jesus do?" I can answer with great confidence that he would not vote Republican nor be any kind of capitalist. He'd probably be pretty good on Twitter, and that's the only quality I can think of in common with You-Know-Who.
I'm amused at "How would Jesus drive?" because we actually discussed that question in our youth group in the 1970s. We gravely concluded after much scriptural deliberation that Jesus would not break Caesar's law by speeding—unless, of course, he was in a really big hurry to help someone in urgent need.
Narrative is a more complex form of persuasion than rationalism in engaging the emotions and imagination. You aren't observing and analyzing the act of driving: you are the driver. And you are Jesus. Or Frodo. Whatever. It only works if you really believe.
Cosby wasn’t a TOTAL “sleazoid”, and did vast good among the black community before he was brought low by revelations of substantial sleaziness.
I’ve been a Manhattan driver for forty years – long enough to cause drivers in Rome to fear and respect me; and if David’s interpretation of papal wisdom were accurate, NYC already would be a significant station on the road to Hell. Yet if someone caught perpetually looking up at “all the tall buildings” (read “tourist”) asks directions on the street, he’ll typically find a very polite New Yorker willing to help. It’s only occasionally that he’ll find someone who directs him to E. 110th St. and Manhattan Ave. when he’s looking for the MOMA or the Empire State Bldg.
NY and NJ drivers simply have superb reflexes, and insist that everyone else have them, too.
From someone who has driven millions of miles on three continents, in every imaginable weather through every imaginable terrain, it’s clear that the worst drivers in America are Marylanders (this is a population I haven’t recently antagonized but who deserve it). They park themselves in the passing lane, forever going too slow, blocking traffic as they’re forever and loudly passed on the right – like the aged, they’re never involved in accidents unless by a passing (on the right) motorist with a weapon, but around whom MANY accidents miraculously happen.
But I can’t predict their worthiness of heaven by their driving habits. Marylanders could be nice people otherwise.
Marylanders also tailgate like nobody's business, and then wonder why they have 15 car pile ups when it rains and is foggy.
That being said, it always takes some time to get the feel for a new place and how the people drive there. I used to be a nervous wreck in Manhattan until I figured out the way it works. Once you get the rhythm and decipher the unspoken rules it's not a big deal. Only if you want to get there fast does it become awful. Go with the flow and get there safely. And remember, taxis and busses are always going to be horrible and make all sorts of unpredictable moves. Just accept this and don't let it bother you. Let the hotheads do their thing.
I frequently get some small amount of satisfaction watching a jerk weave himself through traffic going south on the West Side Highway, only to pass him down around the TRUMP village when he makes a stupid lane decision... usually thinking that the left lane is faster only to be surprised that it becomes left-turn-only a little further down. Meanwhile I haven't changed lanes at all.
A real New Yorker. It's always a pleasure.
Your essay reminds me of a time in high school, a few decades back, when a math teacher suggested I might enjoy 'speed reading', which admittedly had many of us spell bound when a man demonstrated whisking breezily through the pages of a book, and somehow was able to comprehend enough of it to give a good synopsis.
I passed on the speed reading course, deciding even at that young age, that when I read, it is to enjoy. I like to read slowly, to savor the words.
Similarly with driving, why race around which only brings up the heart rate, slow down and allow others in from side roads and parking lots. Wave and smile and it often brings back somewhat surprised but happy looks. But then I am from Seattle.
I used to live there and am horrified when I go back to visit how long it takes to get anywhere now. My daughter tells me that it is a faster drive to Seattle from Ellensburg that from Tacoma!
Guessing that Jesus wouldn't have to text or check e-mails while driving, which is far more hazardous than aggressive drivers.
It is interesting to observe driving in collective cultures in Asia. What at first appears chaotic is a highly attentive and cooperative flow system where drivers reflexively yield just enough space to other motorcycles, pedestrians, buses, trucks, cyclists, cows or whatever else is using the roadway. Honking is more of an auditory complement to visual awareness and rarely an angry gesture. It's a very difficult adjustment for western drivers.
There are definitely more safety problems because of intense congestion and less protective equipment and lighting.
But distracted and inattentive drivers are the biggest hazard in our area, followed by poorly maintained vehicles.
it is all part of the same pattern of being dangerous to others
Nonsense, from the opening silly claim about texts and e-mails.
For many (this reader included) the seized opportunity to drive oneself across continents and subcontinents in all kinds of vehicles and through all kinds of weather made living in the twentieth and early twenty first century seem like far less of a drag than it otherwise might have felt. Good luck to future generations in finding that kind of freedom of the road.
I don't know what kind of car Jesus would drive, but I do know that Donald Trump is driving me crazy.
"... I do know that Donald Trump is driving me crazy."
I live in an older area of Denver where many of the residential streets are too narrow for two cars to pass each other if any vehicles are parked on the sides. One driver has to pull over and stop to let the other by. There's an informal protocol that whoever can do it most easily does. The driver who passes through first gives a wave of acknowledgement and thanks. It has always amazed me how well and consistently this system works. In the 40 years I've lived here, I've never seen anyone selfishly violate the custom.
Driving driving a car is one of the most self deceiving exercises of individuality. The car you drive was probably made by many people and assembled from pieces made in different parts of the world. Heard of the global value chains? The roads that you drive in were made by others with materials extracted probably thousands of miles form where you live and drive. In sum, your driving depends on the social labor of many others (even if those others live in other countries). So the myth that driving epitomizes the rugged individuality of this country is just another self deceiving and aggrandizing tale we tell each other. Social individuals we are but we want to believe that is all up to us.
Mr. Brooks, like you, Jesus was a nice a Jewish boy born into a kind family who had a lovely way with words that greatly influenced people.
Unlike you, though, Jesus had conviction in the words he preached, and lived his life as a democratic socialist by helping the poor, healing the sick and having utter contempt for hypocrisy, whited sepulchers, false prophets and religious posers.
Jesus drove a pair of well-worn Birkenstocks and got the best mileage in recorded history.
Here we sit in time and space, knowing perfectly well that the world's Prosperity Gospellers and Oleaginous Oligarchs have recklessly driven us into a ditch with a hyper-carbonized atmosphere, dying oceans, murdered coral reefs and a destabilized climate.
What would Jesus drive ?
He wouldn't drive drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
He wouldn't drive the expansion of offshore drilling for gas and oil for psychopathic profits.
He wouldn't set foot near the Grand Old Phony bus of scientific ignorance, denialism, Robber Baronism, petro-profits and pretend he was doing the Lord's work.
But you have, David Brooks, and you diminish yourself by not publicly renouncing the comprehensive moral, intellectual and economic fraud that is modern Republicanism and conservatism.
You hitched your saddle to a smoke-belching Republican coal plant horse in your youth and have failed to dismount and walk away from the apocalypse you aided and abetted.
Get off that wretched GOP horse and walk away.
Even though I agree with the values expressed here, I wonder if it will ever be possible for David to write a positive column without being taken to task for it.
Please PLEASE read the comments section, David.
I love Socrates!!!
"But if you get over to the right and wait your turn in a crowded highway exit lane, rather than cutting in at the last moment, that teaches me that there’s a sense of fairness and equality, and that people feel embedded in the group."
I suggest you read Tom Vanderbilt's book, Traffic, in which he reveals that cutting in at the last moment is actually the more efficient way of merging and allows more cars to share the same pavement.
I believe Vanderbilt was referring to a zipper configuration, not an off-ramp. Great book.
I have been in those lines where a lane is closed for whatever reason and people zoom past the people that waiting in line and force others to allow them to merge from the closed lane to the next lane. So many people do this that the people toward the back of the line never move. It's called "cutting the line".
I had the exact same thought. The popes metaphor is fantastic is so many ways for so many societal problems. Not all of them the way the Pope or Mr. Brooks is painting it.
Instead of driving, or even using the tired cliche that heads this op-ed, why don’t we emphasize massive transportation and/or bicycle riding. We have enough cars on the road that contribute to global warming. Enough with the idea that driving and owning a car is one of pillars of being a free citizen in a democratic country. Let’s have more bike paths and light rail for city travel. Let’s improve our decrepit subway infrastructure. Oh, I forgot those are not the Wall Street priorities.
Nothing sleazy about dumping a wife of 27 years for a newer, much younger model.
People in glass houses and all that. Pontificate away, Mr. Brooks. Yes, the list of sleazoids could make one feel fairly sanctified. Particularly by the Catholic Church, with it's thousands of years worth of creepy and morally flexibly leaders.
When the Church passes the hat for a candidate running on a social justice platform, including transportation and housing for all, we'll reconsider Francis' cred.
Public shaming is also sleazy.
Calling this what it is: a snarky, personal attach on the author, followed by further snarky commentary.
THanks to Pope Francis for the life lesson and the driving lesson. I hope to improve my skills as an artisan of the common good. THanks to David Brooks for spreading the gospel.
Having driven in all 50 states and in numerous countries, I have found that US drivers are the slowest, but that does not mean the safest. On several trips abroad, and while riding in a minibus or a taxi, I have had to ask the drivers to slow down. In one case, in China, I polled the occupants (foreign tourists) in a minivan, if they thought the van was being driven too fast. They said yes, but it was more of wanting to be polite to me rather than the perception of too much speed.
The fastest drivers I have encountered are in Europe, and especially in Italy and Germany. I was in Germany over Christmas, and there was a little bit of snow/drizzle, but yet, drivers were passing me at speeds in excess of 80 miles per hour. Some were as high as 100 miles/hour!
But still, driving nearly 1600 miles over Christmas through six European countries with wet/snowy roads and temperatures just above freezing, I saw only one accident, and that was on a highway in Austria. The accident was not in my direction, but there was absolutely no rubber necking in my direction!
European drivers will flash their lights when a driver is going too slow for a particular lane, and some drivers will approach your rear bumper.
Back in the US, I rarely encounter speeds that much different from what most cars would be doing on the highway. The only exception I have found is in California, south of Sacramento.
Good one Mr. Brooks and Pope Francis. I tend to think that the idea of goodness coming from the ground up is much more potent than all the top down goodness that our leaders and billionaires like to use as PR. Effective goodness involves human interaction. Donating a million dollars to an anti-malaria campaign is great, don't get me wrong, but its the people who implement the campaign that have the strongest effect. The individual is where the rubber hits the road... the doctor without a border or the fireman who fights somebody else's fire. The actual good is performed by people who are making mortgage and student loan payments. The actual sacrifice is made by people who prioritize good acts over profitable investments. In a world as unjust and inequitable as this one, I guess we need the benevolent oligarch to facilitate good deeds, but let us not forget who is actually making a sacrifice. What's a million dollars to a billionaire? One less house? Is that a sacrifice? No. That's a luxury.
We heap accolades and tax-breaks onto the big-money donors but our representatives have no problem considering the removal of tax deductions from high school teachers who buy school supplies to help their students. It's high school teachers, not the wealthy, who are emulating Jesus.
The merge is an amazing act of cooperation. The berm rushers stand out.
As for driving styles, I'll be kind and just say that BMW drivers are amazingly consistent.
You are not surrounded by idiots, but defensive driving requires assuming that every other car is being driven by a not very bright chimpanzee since one cannot tell by looking exactly where the idiots are.
Courtesy begins by recognizing that you don't know the motivations of a stranger. Assuming the worst motivations when someone inconveniences you directly feeds the kind of hostility and rudeness David Brooks bemoans here.
The driver who cuts into the exit lane at the last moment may have just realized that this was his exit. The driver who makes a 3-point turn in heavy traffic may be lost and confused. The driver who speeds up when you want to merge into his lane may be trying to make space for you behind him, or is accelerating because the traffic is accelerating.
How would Jesus drive? Jesus would drive with compassion for the stranger, and recognize that other drivers are human, and include not just the selfish b*stards, but student learners who haven't mastered the rules of the road, elderly drivers who drive more cautiously than he would, out of town people who are not intimately familiar with the local roads or customs, and people who are not behaving at their best because they are tired, frustrated, or frightened.
This is a great article. Maybe we should modernize the old expression to The person talks the talk; but does not drive the drive.
Of course you can see that in many aspects of society, with politicians most at risk.
In some countries politicians state their country has large Freedoms of expression, then censor the newspapers and internet. In some countries politicians state they follow the highest standard of their religion and then ignore the basic needs such as healthcare.
Talk is cheap, action speaks louder than words.
I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in South America, fortunate enough to have a vehicle for my work. The country I served in was predominantly Catholic and everyone loved the Pope. The single most important rule of the road I had to learn was the bigger vehicle had the right of way. It's funny, but traffic flowed relatively safely under this might makes right protocol. It was tough being a pedestrian though.
In an attempt at expressing some humility in my life about 10 years ago I started a conscious effort to obey all traffic laws. For example when the speed limit is 50 drive 50 instead of trying to figure how fast I can go without receiving a ticket. I find it a very convenient way to to get out of my own self concern and much as Brooks expresses to perhaps make myself a little better member of the brotherhood of man. I also fail frequently which serves to remind me that I am indeed a flawed human being.
On interstates, I find that driving a little under the speed limit allows me hundreds of miles of driving in cruise control without braking. This of course does not work when semi trucks are trying to go up hills in front of you only to pass you again on the way down where the next hill is a repeat performance. I have found as I get older, my patience factor has increased though.
To exactly obey the speed limit, especially in traffic, you are dangerously overcompensating. It is safer to drive around the median speed, where you pass about as many people as pass you. Thank you for providing your location - now I know to avoid central New Jersey.
Thank you. Hopefully you're also in the far right lane, rather than acting as highway cholesterol blocking the arteries of transportation by driving the speed limit in the middle or left lane.
When I got my license and began driving I was a Democrat. After years behind the wheel I have become a staunch Republican.
The future of humans and automobiles, driving, and the concept of a person being an "artisan of the common good" in the future, what the average person's thoughts and actions will be like in the human future?
Taking various trends politically, economically, socially, culturally, technologically, I don't recognize my being able to think at all in the human future unless driven entirely, herded mentally and behaviorally, into some sort of spatio-mathematical type reasoning, pure machine making thought. First, cars will drive themselves, humans will not be trusted to initiate much behavior we now take for granted. The military need to know entirely, and to predict and control, what enemies are thinking and doing means entire decline of private life and total surveillance, and machine control and manipulation of public.
And billions upon billions of people in an increasingly wasted environmentally world means the most banal public discourse and predictable morality, combination of religious mush and socialistic everybody is exactly equal petty police control of thought and action. I honestly can't imagine thinking and writing in any way which will not be deemed offensive to somebody and therefore just cut entirely out of consideration. All of life appears more and more like the film the "Truman Show", set piece after set piece in which you walk in ignorance.
I see the set going up, am considered of no role, management is obscure, and people are automatons.
"Driving puts you in a constant position of asking, Are we in a place where there is a system of self-restraint, or are we in a place where it’s dog eat dog?"
No, it does not. Sigh. Once again Brooks tries to assert sweeping and emphatic generalizations from the random instances of individual behavior, a rhetorical approach that wold earn him a D in an college sociology class.
Brooks: More important than the rudeness of drivers which truly is awful, is the fact that many, if not most of these drivers drive low efficiency and gas guzzler machines. (What do you drive? Brooks). No concern for the environment. No concern for future generations.
Jesus had the right idea. He walked.
Spoken by a man who does not drive a car. Pope Francis has a driver so should we take his advice seriously. I am a Catholic so am not criticizing the Church but wondering if we should take his words to heart.
I'm a cyclist who "takes the lane", which is to say I position myself so as to leave no doubt in the mind of the motorist behind me that they will have to change lanes to pass me. This is a practical and safety measure for me, as it makes me more visible and keeps me away from the hole and debris near the curb. For the most part, drivers adjust. Once in a while, I am tailgated, honed at, or strafed, but in the last year that happened maybe three times in over a thousand miles of cycling. Back to my point, though. Recently, with the various news of sexual harassment and other abuses of power, I had a moment of clarity. When I take my position in my lane, I threaten no-one. The motorist who tails me, or strafes me to prove a point IS threatening me. Herein is the perverse genius of bullies and abusers—they carry on as if the person claiming her space is the threat and that they are the put-upon victim. I believe lane command has made me a more secure person away from my bicycle. It has definitely made me a more considerate motorist.
Remarkable, astute interpretation of people's interactions with one another on the public streets. You don't want to know how people drive in this city.....highest insurance rates in the country provide you with a reasonable clue.
A Filipino friend of mine cites our civilized approach to driving in the US as one reason he won't move back to the Phillipines despite a tempting job opportunity. There everyone drives selfishly. He sees our generally courteous driving culture as a symbol of a less selfish society. Good for the Pope to say this. Another example of why David Brooks is my favorite columnist.
How come some of the kindest, nicest people I know turn into rude demons behind the wheel? While I understand your need to apply a social construct to the act of driving, I find no connection to equate driving style and character on a consistent basis.
I have a fairly miserable commute composed of canyon defined corridors, busy boulevards, and heavily travelled freeways in an urban corridor full of tech companies.
When I leave in the evening, the street my company inhabits intersects a more major artery at a stop sign. At rush hour, the flow through the artery is continuous and we at the intersection might never get out. Another interesting feature of this junction is that there is a blind curve about six car lengths back of the intersection on the artery side
I've long considered this intersection an interesting sociology experiment.
When the traffic flow on the artery is freely moving the artery drivers pass by the intersection without noticing the stalled que.
When the artery flow is stalled by the gates and eddies of the prevailing traffic flow pattern, it is common to see the arterial traffic dwellers courteously offering passage to those trapped behind the stop sign in an I-go/you-go take turns civility, frequently acknowledged by a friendly hand signal by the person granted passage.
Inevitably, some jerk stalled by the stop sign will force their way into the flow without awaiting an invitation...and the next 6-8 drivers in the arterial flow (those within view of the jerk maneuver) will fail to invite the intersecting drivers into the flow.
I have seen this pattern hundreds of times.
The good news is that I've often seen the opposite pattern be just as catching.
Someone said to me, and I agree, that the best place to participate in common courtesy is where traffic lanes merge to enter the Holland Tunnel.
someone should tell the Pope that New Jersey is way worse than Mass...or Mass., for that matter. But road design plays a significant role in shaping the "culture" of driving. In places like MA, CT and CA you have very short exit ramps right onto local streets, so people are always flying on and off them because you need that sort of aggression to safely enter or exit the highway. You need something in between to muffle that, eg a 40 mph zone between the 30 side street and the 65 highway.
In NJ there are the infamous jug handles, plus divided highways which make it hard work to retrace your steps if you miss an exit. So everyone drives fast and will do anything, anything, not to miss their exit. Try driving from Newark to Bedminster and watch the fun!
This column is the distilled essence of Mr. Brooks’ role in the conservative movement. Preach civility to the masses while the robber barons accumulate the wealth. To extend his metaphor, he is Mr. Trump’s chauffeur.
Under President Obama, the normal folk were regularly invited to the White House for dinner - people like Jay-Zee and Beyonce and George Clooney - people who know what it's like to worry about food on the table and making sure their children obtain an education.
And under former presidents, it was the same.
Mr. Brooks and the NY Times have championed consistently for regular folk to continue to have access to their presidents, instead of only celebrities and wealthy people. No doubt, the NY Times also walks the talk - the Publisher of the NY Times regularly meets with the "regular folks" to obtain their perspective and to remind himself of their concerns - Mr. Brooks does his part by acting as a waiter at such meals, to experience the reality of what it's like for the regular folks. Kudos to him.
Loved this essay. Well done, Mr. Brooks.
I learned long ago that the best way to drive is to meet the challenge of the traffic, being neither too aggressive nor too passive. Hesitating when you need to step on the gas is just as bad, if not worse, than charging in ahead of your time. As a police officer shouted to me one rainy night on a twisty, two-lane coastal road, in 100 kph bumper-to-bumper traffic, in Sicily, when we were forced to detour through a small village, including one particularly steep incline that included a hairpin turn at the top: Dai! Forza!
Being from Massachusetts, I'd like to point out that the layout and condition of our roads also play an important role in the number of accidents. The roads in our cities were laid out in the day of the horse and buggy. They were never designed for the speeds of automobiles. Having said that, yes, we do have a lot of crazy drivers here.
Oh come on...I-93 and. I-95 were not laid out in the horse and buggy age. That is where I have been tailgated because I needed to exit at the left, and was driving 70-75. Where the breakdown lane is legally used at rush hour and in that far right lane the Massholes drive 80-90. And if you guys COULD do 70 on the streets which actually were made before cars, well, I am sure you would.
David, you will have to do a follow up piece on the necessary virtues of forgiveness, self control, and detachment as it relates to driving. They are essential for drivers regardless of the location.
David's observations cohere with my everyday experiences on the road. I would add that since the speed limit was raised to 70 here in Wisconsin, people are driving at excessive speeds, even in zones marked 50-55, and are dangerously distracted: cell phones and various other electronic gizmos are competing for our increasingly limited attention spans. I think our social media-obsessed (look at me) culture is contributing to a less communal and more selfish attitude on the road. People are more aggressive; distracted; and concerned about themselves not the "community" of drivers.
David first of all you have been one our favorites for years whether we agree on everything or not, like why don’t you give up on being a Republican these days?
I am a woman in my sixties and have always driven a lot (20,000 -30,000/year). You make some interesting points and are some of the things I think about whether I am driving rurally, where I have always lived, or in cities, which I have always visited as much as possible, ie. Seattle drivers (lived in WA sixty years) I was always yapping that they needed lessons from more aggressive CA drivers on appropriate entering and exiting the interstate, etc.
I think faulty equipment (worn tires) and speed are huge problems. I have never had a ticket.
I just drove two 10 hour trips last week through the upper Midwest and could not believe how many accidents there were. I have lived here two years. How come these people cannot figure out how to drive in light snow and freezing conditions? Speed, hence needing to brake inappropriately with worn tires in my thought.
Weird that Brooks didn't address distracted driving. As a daily runner who sees a growing percentage of drivers looking at their laps, I'm constantly struck by the disregard for others inherent in this behavior. It says at least as much about societal norms as honking.
Charming as this essay might be, there are other interpretations--perhaps less amenable to biblical reasoning--for any number of driving behaviors: https://www.thedailybeast.com/americas-worst-drivers-the-states-gender-w... ("America’s Worst Drivers: The States, Gender, With the Most Accidents"). And even the references cited therein are likely open to dissent.
One comment about drivers in NYC and DC did get my attention: "The 2011 GMAC National Drivers Test, which uses actual DMV questions to appraise drivers’ knowledge of road rules, found the greatest rate of failure in the Empire State and the nation’s capital: In those areas, one in every three participants failed. " So many questions, so little time. But I live in a community where honking horns are uncommon.
Interestingly, nothing is said about the real modern day culprit responsible for most of the mayhem on the highways, the cell phone. Speeding, cutting-in, and tailgating are small potatoes compared to cell phone distractions. I’ve driven multiple times across country with a friend, a former military-commercial pilot, who is otherwise quite responsible except when it comes to using his cell. He is constantly running off the road or weaving as he receives and responds to texts. What is the psychological dynamic of folks so hooked on phones that they regularly put themselves and others at risk on the highways? What doers Pope Francis say about that? Or, WWJ text?
I have long thought that traffic issues will not improve until drivers do. I have driven in Italy, and was moderately surprised that the drivers in Tuscany were no worse than, say, Atlanta. When I have to drive into the city (increasingly rare for me), I put on the classical station, and work to breath deeply and remain calm, and avoid switching lanes. I try to keep some sensible minimum distance, and realize those vehicles contain my fellow humans..It is distressing to see how many of them are on cell phones or obviously driving with distractions.
Sometimes, I wonder if listening to rightwing talk radio, designed to make one angry, makes drivers more aggressive: and if a libertarian mindset leads to disregarding of the needs of other drivers...
After all, it doesn't have to be a Darwinian struggle.
I hope you're not suggesting that I must slow down to wait for someone to enter onto the highway. They should be yielding (like the sign says) until I am safely past the entrance. I'm not going to speed up, but neither should I have to slow down or change lanes in anticipation of them forcing their way into the travel lane.
I’m in the bicycle camp, and thanks for the article. One geeky note re: traffic engineering- speeding up and cutting in at the crowded exit ramp has been shown to be the most efficient way to move more cars, even though it feels like those that do it are ‘cheating’. They are actually acting in the group’s best interest even if they’re only thinking of theirs.
I've driven everywhere and lived in Boston for many years, which is the WORST. They have had to have a campaign of trying to get people to use their blinkers, which is most commonly treated as a nuisance to the driver, with no awareness that it's about helping those around to know what you are doing.
When I moved to Maine I became aware of my own impatience and aggression behind the wheel: a real driving culture change. I love it now--I love the slowness and politeness, although it is changing, just as politics in this state have changed.
David, in Chapter Two, please write about which vehicle would J drive. Surely, the driver's vehicle would reflect the driver's culture... but who knows? Personally, there's still quite a few of us that walk, ride bicycles or if required, a motorcycle or, if it becomes really wet/cold/hot, a cage type vehicle. If you're on a two wheeled conveyance, all of the other vehicles become predators, especially the tall, over-sized, humongous pickups with the tinted windows of disguise.