"Driving Is Just Not The Same"
By Capt. Fred Davis
Published: Saturday, February 11, 2017

Are you planning a vacation south during the cold season? Will you drive to the area you’ll visit? Do you plan to drive around that area while you’re there?

I would like to offer a few tips on driving. My tips are intended for those who have been driving for years but not in the new area they plan to visit. You may believe driving is, well, driving. I know that’s what I used to believe. You may also think a gas station is a gas station. Not so any longer because changes have occurred. As you exit your car you may encounter a variable greeting. I call it a greeting because that is what it may appear to be at first glance. Let me relate a few experiences I’ve had.

I was in a large station with a dozen pumps and lots of lighting. The attendant inside had no interest or concern regarding the activities taking place out at the pumps. As I exited my vehicle, a young man reached for my door saying,

“Sir, I need enough money to buy gas to drive home. Just a few dollars is all I need.”

I declined to offer assistance and he grew louder, asking in a forceful manner. I got in my car and drove away. A few days later, the same person was working the same station. As I observed, he was only approaching vehicles with out-of-state plates.

I have seen the same activity in fuel stops in many states.

There is never an attempt by station personnel to intercept on behalf of the public. Attendants seem oblivious to the pandering. I have also had a stranger come up to my vehicle in broad daylight with a squeegee in hand and after wiping a window ask for payment. That same approach occurs at red lights under an overpass. The only difference is a man approaches with a squirt bottle in one hand and a hammer in the other.

The events I relate take place after dark or at stations that do not allow pay at the pump options, they require you enter the station to pay. It would be a good idea to carry pre-paid cards and only buy enough fuel at the station to be covered by that card. Never remove your wallet or present cash for payment. Remove your keys before entering a station to pay, and be sure your passengers stay inside the locked car. When you pull in, if you see several people loitering, move on.

When traveling on a busy highway, if you are at a red light, panhandlers will approach. Most have signs. An often used one is “disabled vet, will work for food for my family.” Be very wary these people may be daring and unscrupulous. If you roll your window down and offer assistance, they may reach into your car and steal valuables — a purse, your wallet, etc.

A common driving irritation I really don’t like in the area I have to drive is the constant horn blowing. Say you are at a red light and cars are behind you. The millisecond the light changes, the horns blast. This may make you quickly hit the gas before you are certain there is not a pedestrian in the walkway. Drivers in the southern states seem to be the worst. They constantly pass on the right, even when there is no lane, they may even take to the shoulder. They cut across two or more lanes to exit, ignoring the traffic, confident all will brake for them. Speed limits are a thing of the past, they don’t control traffic. On freeways with up to six lanes, speeding traffic is the norm, if you want to drive the speed limit, it’s not possible.

I’ve found it wise to avoid signaling your feelings, especially the one-finger salute, to rude drivers. Police officers I have chatted with say on the freeways they often decline to stop speeding drivers, fearful of being rammed or shot. Heavy traffic situations are the most dangerous. Make sure everyone is buckled up and be aware not all blinking lights are signaling a turn. Many drivers with older cars don’t know they are still on and many other drivers never use them which is another hazard. If you are planning on driving through big cities like Miami, Atlanta or many others, check the heavy traffic hours and plan your route to avoid those times.

As I see it, taking a drive anywhere near a populated area is not at all comparable to what it used to be and certainly no comparison to driving in Huron County. Just be careful out there.

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