Not from her extraordinary National Book Award acceptance speech (text, video), in which she challenged both the commodification of literature and the marginalization of science fiction, but for this [item 90]:
We do have our nice Subaru, but we can’t drive it. I never could. I learned to drive in 1947 but didn’t get a license, for which I and all who know me are grateful. I’m one of those pedestrians who start to cross the street, scuttle back to the curb for no reason, then suddenly leap out in front of your car just as you get into the intersection. I am the cause of several near accidents and a great deal of terrible swearing.
Imagine what might happen if everyone assessed their own driving skills so candidly.
No kidding! Every day I observe motorists ignoring the rules and other users of the road and generally behaving complacently about the potential danger in what they are doing. Each time I drive a car, there is at least one moment in which I find myself inexplicably doing something bone-headed that, in the wrong situation, could result in an injury.
And yet, everyone I talk to is an exceptional driver willing to go on about how terrible other drivers are. And, although they can readily agree with me when I point out how dangerous driving a car really is, no one I know has a real issue with doing it themselves since they uncommonly excel at it. No direct evidence to the contrary is ever admissible when this topic of conversation comes up.
Well. I’ve been watching, and I would say about 3 out of 4 — maybe 4 out of 5 — cars are tailgating.
With tractor-trailers, it’s lower — only 2 out of 3.
Safe following distance is pretty straightforward, so the inability of people to stay a safe distance back is a pretty good proxy for being unsafe on the road.
I am actually unusally good at driving (as assessed by others), which means I find driving scary as hell. I have to be super-alert all the time when driving. If I’m tired or unfocuses, I shouldn’t be on the road at all, and so I am not. Upon recognizing that I’m not safe on the road I’ve cancelled appointments, made unplanned hotel visits, etc.
I’ve also stopped driving on expressways entirely. Why? Because if I maintain a safe following distance, *invariably* some dangerous driver will cut in front of me. *Every single time*.
Another hobbyhorse of mine: seemingly, almost nobody knows what the horn is for. It’s for *blind corners* — you honk it before going around the corner, to let anyone on the other side know that you’re there. We have a dozen blind corners in Ithaca, and every other driver routinely swings around them without so much as a tap on the horn.
Practically nobody knows how to drive. Driving scares the hell out of me because most of the people on the road are so terrible.
And I think it’s actually gotten worse. The tailgating rate seems to have gone up over the last decade or two, in the US. Maybe this is due to the decline of driver’s education — which vanished from most US schools in the late 1990s due to funding changes. Maybe it’s due to the aging of the population of drivers (the median-age driver is older and older every year). Whatever it is, it’s terrible.
I now drive only on narrow city streets (low speed, so when my car gets rear-ended it won’t be too bad), and rural roads (practically no traffic to rear-end my car). On the expressway, there are just too many maniacs.