The hubris and entitlement of bad driving.
It’s probably happened to you, too: you’re driving on the Long Island Expressway, say, east-bound, with a consistent but moderate flow of traffic at about 60-65 MPH. You’re driving in the left-hand lane, and in your rear view mirror, you notice the flash of a car in the distance: speeding up, swerving, switching lanes. The driver quickly shoots around several cars and pulls up along your right, trying maniacally to swerve in front of you into your lane, but finds that he can’t due to a cluster of cars in front of him. So he swerves away into the right-hand lane to pick his way through traffic, which takes him 20 to 30 seconds. Finally, after the cluster of traffic subsides and the road clears a bit (likely in response to his actions), the driver speeds up to pass you again, only this time, in a gesture of apparent frustration and rage, he waits until his car is squarely in front of yours and applies his breaks, such that his rate of speed instantly decreases to less than 30 MPH, his car fish-tails from side to side, and dirt, rocks, and other debris are kicked up off the surface of the road in a steady stream. Your choices within that split second include squarely rear-ending his car, or applying your own brakes in a panicked fashion, in hopes that you don’t lose control of your vehicle and that you’re not rear-ended yourself by the oncoming traffic. You apply your brakes quickly, to the point of a rolling stop, and avoid the car in front of you, at which point the other driver changes lanes to the right, pulls up next to you, and flips you the “Long Island Salute” with his middle finger. Charming.
Or perhaps you’ve experienced a similar on-road ambiance while exiting the Expressway and merging from an exit ramp onto another road: these ramps often serve a dual purpose for those both entering and exiting a roadway. So as you approach the oncoming road to your left, you increase your speed slightly in order to adjust to existing traffic, engage your left-turn signal, and begin looking for an opening in which to merge into the lane to your left. Unfortunately, there’s a car speeding up in that lane, and they’re apparently not about to permit you to merge into their current lane until they’ve sped past you and merged into yours. Of course, the car they’re driving isn’t equipped with the necessary horsepower to achieve this stunt, so instead of speeding past you into your current lane, the driver speeds up just slightly and begins merging into your lane — and directly into your car. Again, your only split-second choices are to slam on your brakes and come to a sudden stop, again hoping you’re not rear-ended in the process, or to endure a certain collision from your left. So you slam on your brakes, come to a stop, and the other driver swerves into your lane, speeding away as if this was the outcome the universe had in mind all along.
There are bad drivers everywhere; I’ve experienced them first-hand. And I am acutely aware that just about every driver on the road feels that they are a “better” driver than they are in reality, myself not excluded. But I also feel that I’m responsible for my own actions, especially in situations where they can have a direct impact on the lives of others, such as when driving in a populated area.
A unique trait of the “bad” Long Island driver seems to be a false sense of entitlement: the driver “owns” the road and is superior to the other drivers, and therefore deserves to drive at any rate they choose, and on any piece of the roadway at any time, regardless of whoever may currently occupy that space. I am not necessarily against the use of speed in particular: I think speed is not directly correlated to recklessness and can be maintained responsibly without endangering anyone, in moderation and in appropriate environments. So I’m not saying everyone on the road should slow down. It’s the reckless abandon and oblivion of entitlement of some drivers that seems to be the key here: this is what endangers and infuriates other drivers.
And it’s not “in your blood” or the way everyone drives: I was born and raised on Long Island, and I know plenty of people who don’t drive like a-holes.
I just don’t get it.