I moved to the D.C. area from Fort Rucker, Ala., and I've got to say it's been a huge culture shock.

The biggest adjustment has been for the commute to and from work. I went from an eight-minute drive from my door to walking in the office, to a one-and-a-half hour slog through some of the worst offenses to common courtesy I've ever witnessed.

Everyone I talk to agrees, this is the worst traffic they've driven through.

In fact, one visitor from the Northwest remarked to one of my coworkers, "How do you not get out of the car and kill people?"

Turns out earlier this week, two travelers in Maryland attempted to do just that. One driver made a comment to another driver at a stop light, which lead to a stabbing. The car containing the attacker drove off and the victim of the stabbing got into his car and pursued his attacker. The stabbing victim rammed the other vehicle and forced it off the road, then "subdued" his attacker until police arrived.

We all get frustrated in the gridlock, but those members of society who feel they are above the rules of the road just chap my hide.

Some behaviors that just steam my cabbage include:

That guy who just has to be one car in front of me … then slows down. I'm going with the flow of traffic when some genius comes barreling down the highway, brakes just as he comes up my rear bumper then cuts some poor driver off on the right to zip in front of me. If you're in that much of a hurry to get into an accident please don't include me in your death wish.

Alternatively, while driving at a safe distance behind someone, a lovely driver squeezes into the space in front of me. Does anyone remember the two-second rule? So now I have to give more space between myself and the first car.

For those of you who have forgotten, the two-second rule is a rule of thumb by which a driver may maintain a safe following distance at any speed. The rule is that a driver should, ideally, stay at least two-seconds behind any vehicle that is directly in front of the driver's vehicle.

To estimate the time, a driver can wait until the rear end of the vehicle in front passes any distinct and fixed point on the roadway. As you count to yourself the elapsed time in seconds, the front of your car should pass the same point no less than two seconds later. If the elapsed time is less than this, increase the distance, then repeat the method again until the time is at least two seconds.

Another one is the person who has to nearly kiss my bumper at a stop light or while crawling on the interstate. It's pretty simple if you can't see the bottoms of my tires in front of you, then you're too close. This does two things: one, it makes me feel better and two, it gives you room in front so, if you're rear-ended, your front end won't hit me. Instead of fixing your front end and your rear end (and my rear end, because you were too close), the guy who hit you will just fix your car.

Turning on my turn signal is not in indication that you need to speed up to 80 mph to close the gap.
It's a merge people, I have made a judgment that there is enough room and time for my car to get up to highway speed, between your Mercedes and the truck in front, and my vehicle. When you speed up I have nowhere to go. I'm travelling at a dangerous speed and may end up hitting you and the truck in front of me. Or I may mash on my brakes and you can just rear-end me.

Trying to intimidate me with your bumper while traveling at highway speeds will not make me want to go faster or move over, it will just annoy me. Do you really need to be traveling at greater than 65 mph in a 45 mph zone? You're really not saving that much time and are making it a dangerous drive.

Finally, trying to merge at the choke point. It doesn't make you smart to go around the three miles of backed up traffic to run over a couple of cones and get in front of the line. It makes you a jerk. It also makes you the reason the traffic is backed up for three miles.

All of these are examples of aggressive driving and can lead to a hefty fine, points on your driving record, and even jail time.

Virginia law says aggressive driving occurs when a motorist commits any of these offenses with the intent to harass or obstruct another person: speeding, stopping on a highway, failing to drive on the right side of the road, failing to drive in marked lanes, following another vehicle too closely, failing to yield the right of way, disregarding a traffic sign or light, passing another vehicle on the right. Penalty: Up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. Aggressive driving with intent to injure another person is punishable by up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine.

Maryland law says aggressive driving occurs when a motorist commits at least three of these traffic offenses in close proximity: speeding, disregarding a traffic sign or light, passing another vehicle unsafely, passing another vehicle on the right, driving improperly on a laned road, following another vehicle too closely, failing to yield the right of way. Penalty: $355 fine.

It is much easier to just be a courteous driver, remember to drive friendly.

Page last updated Thu February 23rd, 2012 at 00:00