Day 132: Driving: a probabilistic account

While driving, give way to others or hold the door. (Presumably not holding the door while driving?)

I do. Next question.

I am that kind of driver who cruises at exactly 5 km/h more than the speed limit, even on highways. I am the kind of driver who leaves room for ten cars between the car in front and me. I am the kind of driver who doesn’t avoids using the brakes and the accelerator as much as possible. And today, I hold the door in kindergarten for three different parents in two minutes.

Sometimes, my driving ticks some people off. What’s wrong with stepping on it when the road is clear? Why not drive in 120 when the limit is 110? Nothing wrong with that?

To me, driving is a series of probabilities. For every km/h I drive faster, the probability increases that there will be an accident (and that the accident will be more serious). If I drive 120 instead of 110, that means 10 km/h more of kinetic force, less time for reacting and more meters for braking. And of course it matters how the traffic is, how tired I am etc — these are all things you take into account to find the appropriate speed — but it’s an illusion to think that I have control over all aspects when I’m driving. I can’t control the other drivers, I can’t control the random moose walking onto the road, I can’t control how wet the road is, and I can’t know if my car breaks down in one of a million ways. (Once I drove behind a lorry whose tyre exploded in the middle of the highway. It was kind of scary.)

Even when I think everything is fine — the car’s fine, the road’s fine, the other drivers won’t dom anything strange — it is still a matter of weighing the probabilities. There might be a moose around the bend; the probability is very low, but there might be. And hence, I should take that into consideration. 10 km/h less because of the possible moose? That means I’ll arrive one minute later, that means the car behind me will be annoyed and possibly try to overtake me, that means more braking and accelerating, etc.

One takes as much as possible into consideration, one weighs the advantages and disadvantages to the best of one’s abilities, and one reaches the conclusion (how to drive) knowing full well that anything might happen, and that if something does happen, it doesn’t really matter much how right you were or how little it was your fault — you are still in hospital three weeks later.

So yeah, I give way to others. I stay off their tails. I take one second more to understand the situation. I avoid driving over the speed limit as much as possible, and if circumstances demand it, I’m way below. It can be annoying for some people. (A Norwegian priest, for instance.)

But so be it. They only show two things: That they don’t understand basic maths. And that they are conceited enough to believe that these probabilities are not about them: others shouldn’t drive too fast, but they can, since they are in control.

Yeah, right.




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