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I find that driving often parallels the larger scope of society in the US of A. One such parallel is the backward notion of consideration while driving. First I should describe what consideration it is when driving. Consideration is usually the act of allowing someone in front of you to relieve them of the problems caused by their own lack of planning, error, or to reward their selfish behavior.

For instance, the light has turned green and someone wants to turn left coming out of the corner gas station from the exit nearest the corner instead of the one behind you. The vehicle in front of you doesn’t move and waves the left turner on. The left turner pulls out blocking progress until the yellow signal comes on and the driver ahead of you enters the intersection on yellow leaving you to wait for another complete cycle of the light. The driver ahead of you is thought of as considerate. If you object to this in the least you’ll be thought of as… well I don’t know if I can use that language here.

I challenge this notion of consideration under the belief that one cannot be considerate of other people by choosing to do a good deed for person A at the expense of person B. Not only is it rather unfair for person B, person A may come to feel entitled to the special treatment. More than once I have seen people go into road rage mode when I denied them special treatment at the expense of people behind me. It is a parallel of what we often see in politics, where simply denying group A the resources of group B results in rage.

Like the political ideas of helping one’s neighbors the idea of consideration while driving grew out of a small town where everyone knows everyone. In small local groups people help each other out voluntarily at their own cost. When there were few cars, there often wouldn’t be someone behind when waving someone in and when both drivers knew him and it worked. The problem is that it doesn’t scale, because the disruptions to traffic can grow into traffic jams when there are more than a few drivers. Not only that, but person B isn’t going to know person A and may not want to wait out another red signal for him. Back when there were few cars, it didn’t matter because there wasn’t a traffic light in the first place.

Another aspect is that the good deed is seen while the effect, the cost on person B is usually unseen. People see the good deed of letting person A in, they don’t really notice that person B has had to bear the cost of person A not planning out his turn. Just like the various social programs. People see how the wefare helped person Z but doesn’t see what person Y would have done with the money if had been able to keep it. So perhaps person Z gets a welfare check, but if that money was used to buy goods perhaps person Z could have had an opportunity to do work to support himself. The person who created the welfare program is seen as good, our person Y who wanted to keep his money to have his house painted is just seen as selfish… and is painting his own house instead of paying someone to do it.

The main manifestation of driving “consideration” is the greatly reduced throughput of our road system. Ever notice that the lane that closes moves the fastest? Because there are people showing consideration at the merge point holding up the lane next to the closing one letting multiple drivers in. Ever miss a turn arrow because the first half of the signal was lost when the lead driver just sat there as a conga-line proceeded through on red from the cross street? That’s consideration at work. Traffic jams. Consideration doesn’t scale or at least doesn’t work in the mechanical system of roads that handle millions of vehicles a day. Missed cycles, merging brake waves, and countless other events pile up until the road tips into a traffic jam.

But how can we get along on the road? Consideration has to be redefined. Consideration has to be learning that an error on our part isn’t to penalize someone else. I make errors like getting in the wrong lane just as everyone else does. Do I expect someone to let me in? No. Will I hold up traffic behind me to get into the lane I should have chosen? No. I suck it up, go the way the lane goes and find a place to legally turn around, go around the block, whatever it takes not to cause other people problems. This is what I believe to be real consideration. The problem is that it is unseen, but that is also why it is best.

It is this mindset of actively helping people who refuse to help themselves, who refuse to put in the effort that is decaying society from every corner. We have people demanding, expecting, others to be penalized for their benefit. To have others adjust for them. That cannot go on because next thing you know, there’s no givers left, just takers. People need to learn how not to impose themselves on other people in daily routine life if this is to be reversed in time. That goes for driving and society at large.


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