Is It Just Me Or Are Drivers Losing Their Minds?

At first I thought it was just me, being an older and much more experienced driver. Not that I am a curmudgeonly driver who loafs along at 10 to 20 miles per hour under the speed limit just to be safe. On the contrary, I tend to be one of those driving just above the speed limit and often get impatient with drivers who can't make up their minds about what they're going to do.

Lately I've noticed that drivers in general have become more aggressive, less attentive, and prone to doing more stupid things. Like I said, at first I thought it was just me, perhaps lapsing into that aforementioned curmudgeonly behavior. But after a discussion with a number of co-workers at lunch earlier today, I knew others had seen it too.

This was brought home to me after work this afternoon after work as I was making my way to the local BJ's for my usual bi-weekly purchase of bulk items. In the stretch between work and BJ's I came across eight different drivers who were pushing the limits on safe and/or courteous driving.

The worst offender was a young driver, likely in his teens, who had a tough time maintaining lane discipline. In one two mile stretch he crossed over the double yellow line into the oncoming lane a half dozen times and darn near ran off the road and onto the shoulder at least 4 times. I don't know if he was texting or fiddling with his iPod, but something sure as heck was distracting him. Another thing: he couldn't keep his speed where it should have been, varying between 20 miles per hour below the speed limit to 10 above. I finally managed to ditch him at the traffic lights at the junction of one of the state highways. He went straight and I turned right. (It was there that I found out he was a young driver. At first I thought he might have been elderly or drunk and incapable of operating a motor vehicle. But it turned out he was just dumb.)

My second memorable encounter occurred on my way home from BJ's. It was at three different sets of traffic lights between BJ's and a stretch of highway that bypasses downtown Laconia that a driver laid on his horn if the cars in front of him didn't move the microsecond the light changed to green. Mind you, it wasn't that there was a two or three second delay after the light changed before the first couple of cars would start to move, causing this guy to hit the horn. He started on his horn the instant the light changed. Farther up the road he would pass cars in front of him, sometimes forcing them to take evasive action to keep from being run off the road or hitting his car. At the next light the same thing would happen: light changes, horn starts blaring, jerk starts trying to pass traffic as soon as there's even a smidgen of space for him to force his way in.

Ironically, once we got to one of the local malls he pulled into the mall and raced up to the drive-up window lane at the Dunkin' Donuts. Was he really that desperate for a caffeine and donut fix?

About 4 miles from home I came across another driver who seemed to think it was necessary to swing wide in the opposite direction of the turn they wanted to take. It's one thing if they were towing a trailer and needed to make a wider than normal turn to accommodate the additional length of the trailer behind them, but this wasn't the case. They were driving a Jetta.

Three times I saw this driver make the wide swinging turn. (Unfortunately they appear to live somewhere in my neighborhood which is why I saw this action more than once, though I didn't recognize the car.)

I've seen more incidents of incipient road rage, rudeness, impatience, and outright stupidity in the past six months than I usually see in six years. I wonder what's been causing this?