News Room

Road Rush – High Risk…Low Reward

Published by Idaho STAR Program on Monday, June 30, 2014
I recently spent a week in ‘the big city.’ Living in Boise, Idaho (population is about 200,000), the greater Seattle area sure feels like the big city to me. I spent just enough time on the main highways and freeways to remind me of a traffic dynamic that I’ve been seeing in cities both large and small for many years now. I call it “Road Rush.”

It’s not “Road Rage” – although it can lead to that. And it’s not “Road Rash” – although it can lead to that, too. Road Rush is the tendency for drivers (and riders) to seek out any time and/or space advantage (or perceived advantage) that will help them get from point A to point B faster. You’ve seen it (and most of us have done it)…things like:

  • Rapid and frequent lane changes to find the quicker lane
  • Tailgating in the hopes of ‘encouraging’ the driver ahead to go faster
  • When traffic ahead slows, looking for a space to change lanes to avoid having to brake
  • Starting to move forward when the light turns green (even if the car in front has not started moving yet)
  • Creeping forward a few inches at a time while stopped for a light (light is still red)
  • …and there are many more

High Risk

The High Risk element of this may seem obvious from the list above, but was recently made real and personal for me. I was driving in my car with my 3 year old son, just headed home from picking him up from school. There was a motorcycle behind us (and I was proud to hear my son identify “Daddy, he’s wearing all his gear!”) following at a decent distance. 



Traffic ahead began to slow quickly and so I did as well. The rider appeared to be closing on us fast, so I did my best to maintain a space cushion in front of me and give the rider behind us as much space as we could. The rider kept closing the gap, and then the car ahead of me stopped abruptly. I was not going to rear-end the car just to give the rider more space, so I stopped, too. The rider was checking his blind spot (which is a good thing, in general) and failed to see us stop. He made his lane change to get in the next lane, but came within a foot of our rear bumper. My son voiced what I was thinking “Whoooaaaa – did you see that – he almost crashed us!” I was concerned for the safety of the rider and the impact the crash would have had on him and his family, but at the same time was worried about the impact the crash would have had on me, my car, and most importantly - my son. As I write that, I realize it may sound selfish – so be it. The rider is the one at most physical risk in a crash, but the driver and passengers in the car can also be hurt – either physically or emotionally.

As you can see from the above example, both riders and drivers can demonstrate Road Rush. It leads to making quick decisions and actions that often put road users nearby at greater risk of a crash. As riders (whether we are demonstrating Road Rush or not), this puts us at greater risk (we are already harder to see and at higher risk of injury).

Low Reward

Here’s the deal – if you push your way through traffic and aggressively grab every time and/or space advantage you can, you MAY get there faster. (Of course, we’ve all seen the driver rushing through traffic past us only to pull up next to them at the next stoplight, so you very well may NOT get there faster.) Similarly, if you go an extra 5 or 10mph faster on an all-day drive/ride, you will likely get to your destination faster.

Some folks say “I’m willing to take on the added risk to get there sooner.” And the reality of the situation is that we all have freedom make that choice (we may break some laws in the process, but we can still do it). The tough part is that it’s not just us at greater risk when we do that. As in the story above, the rider put himself at risk – and he also put me and my son at risk.

‘Bus Therapy’ and Wisdom from an old boss

I found myself behind a city bus last month on my commute to work, and found it to be great therapy to combat Road Rush. I followed it all the way downtown until our paths diverged. When the bus stopped, I stopped. Other lanes were clear, but I stuck with the bus. And I got to work, I remained relaxed, and all was right with the world.

Many years ago I had a Road Rush incident in which I made some bad choices in an effort to get there faster (in a company vehicle!). There was no crash, but there easily could have been. When it was all said and done (and after the letter of reprimand landed in my file), my boss simply said, “If you’re late, you’re late…leave earlier next time.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Ride Safe, Ride Well, Ride Lots,

~Ax

Comments

Jeff Bradley commented on 01-Jul-2014 11:06 AM
One of the best articles from Idaho Star I've read. I find myself fighting the urge to be in 'road rush' mode frequently. Our roads are filled with motorist that appear to drive that way often. Thank you Ax for this great reminder that adds to everyone's safety!
Ax commented on 01-Jul-2014 11:40 AM
Thanks for the kind words, Jeff (and you're welcome!). Glad you enjoyed the article. Please share with your friends (drivers and riders alike). Road Rush is a challenge for all of us to overcome.
Brian Paris commented on 01-Jul-2014 12:09 PM
This article needs to be in the papers, as well as on this motorcycle page. Also as a motorcyclist I have seen way too many bikers riding too close to the vehicle in front with nowhere to escape in a sudden stop.
Gene Hanzlik commented on 01-Jul-2014 12:20 PM
Great article. I wish there were avenues where more folks could read your "common sense" articles and hopefully make all roads safer. I experienced Road Rush just yesterday here in little old Walla Walla, WA. You are so right, it's not just a big city, or even medium size city problem. Thanks again for the many great articles.
Ax commented on 01-Jul-2014 12:22 PM
Thanks for the kudos Brian and Gene. Please feel free to share the link to this page (or any articles, posts, videos, etc.) that Idaho STAR puts up either here or on our Facebook page. We can all work together to get these messages out and get those crash and fatality numbers down. ~Ax
Steve Tuttle commented on 01-Jul-2014 02:00 PM
I have a 32 mi. Daily commute on a 2 lane road. Cars tailgate until they can blow on by. I'm usually doing 5 mi. Over the limit and I usually meet them at the stoplight in town.My daily ride is the best part of my day. Why rush it.
June Clark commented on 01-Jul-2014 03:12 PM
Great article. I keep wondering if folks are trying to intimidate the light when they keep creeping forward. I personally had to drive the Santa Monica Freeway in Los Angeles for several years. I proved over and over that I could maintain steady speed in the 'slow' lane and the guy who rushed to the 'fast' lane was even with me after 5 miles. It is hard to teach the concept of leaving just 5 minutes sooner and avoid all the road rush.
Thanks for articulating these thoughts.
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