One of the worst examples of this that I’ve encountered was a few months ago when there were two major accidents on one of the main highways in Austin, a highway that is undergoing major construction right now. It normally takes me 10 minutes to drive this particular stretch of roadway when there is no traffic; during traffic it is more like 20-25 minutes. On this particular day, it took me 45 minutes, and if I’d needed to go further into the city, my trip would have been delayed even more. I have to get off on the access road to get to a building where I have regular appointments. However, due to the accidents on the highway, many people were getting off onto the access road in an attempt to unsuccessfully find a faster route.
The section of the access road I traverse is oddly designed; I’m sure non-locals would be very confused by it as it is two ways in parts and only one way in another. Locals, though, are more than aware of how this part of the road functions. Yet despite this, I watched car after car rudely using a right turn only lane to rush to the front of the straight-going traffic line and then dangerously cut off the traffic as they forced themselves over. This meant that anyone in the straight traffic lane was moving at about ten feet per minute at best. I saw many near accidents and watched some even stupider maneuvers that went beyond illegal and into seriously dangerous. I finally called 911 and requested that an officer be sent to that particular intersection to help deal with the overflow from the accidents on the highway. The risk of someone getting hurt was far too high.
As I sat there in that traffic, very frustrated by the slow movement forward when I was so close to the office I needed to get to, I was not pleased by the narcissism so many drivers were demonstrating. It was clear that they believed they were the only ones who mattered. Clearly they were the only ones who had important places to be that they were late for. The rest of us, from their views, surely were just out for joyrides during a weekday morning traffic situation. Yet all of us had some place important to be. I texted my appointment and let her know that I was stuck in traffic; she was fine with it as she knew how bad it was. I was only five minutes late because I allow time for traffic issues, but my stress levels were very high once I got there because of the insane driving I had witnessed.
I understand how frustrating it is to be late for important meetings, and I know there are people out there who will charge fees for clients who show up late to appointments. However, in the situation of a massive highway issue such as two separate accidents, most people understand that it has the potential to bring that particular highway in Austin to a grinding halt. I, and many others who are rational humans, will do their best to help reschedule clients when it’s not their fault that the roadways aren’t cooperating.
Just a few weeks ago, I was heading home from my morning appointments. I stopped to pick up lunch for my son and I at a local restaurant, and then I took a different road than I normally would to get home. I passed the first entrance to my neighborhood to take the second one that is closer to where I live, but just as I did so, the traffic came to a complete and total stop. I was cursing myself for not having taken that first entrance as a span that would normally take 30 seconds to drive suddenly took 15 minutes. However, there was nothing I could do but wait my turn. A quick traffic search on my cell phone showed that the road I was on was closed due to an accident; later that day I saw on a news report that a motorcyclist was killed in the accident which mandated the need to shut down the road.
As I sat listening to the radio and watching police do their best to direct all the traffic from the major road into my neighborhood, the man in front of me began to lose it. He was driving in a Jeep-type vehicle with the roof down, so I could see him cursing and waving his arms at the police out of his frustration with how slowly the traffic was moving. While I think the police could have done a more effective job in directing traffic, they were doing what they could with limited resources. Screaming and cursing wasn’t going to change the situation. More importantly, I knew that if the road was closed, someone (and likely many someones) was having a much worse day that I was being stuck in traffic for just an extra 15 minutes.
I really wish that Austinites would adopt some common sense traffic rules and perspectives on life when they encounter major traffic issues. Among these I would like people to:
- Let one person turn in front of you when they are trying to get on the highway or onto a roadway from a smaller street during traffic. Be nice and take turns.
- Don’t drive on and off of the exit ramps and access roads to cut ahead of traffic unless the police are directing you to do so. This behavior creates more traffic in the long run and actually doesn’t advance your place in traffic more than a few cars most of the time. It also makes it more difficult for those who have to get on and off the highway in those locations to reach their destinations.
- Remember what’s important in life. This traffic may be frustrating, but in the perspective of your life, it’s very minor. Use the extra car time that you have been given to pray, meditate, or reflect.
- Know that in the cases of accidents, someone is having a far worse day than you including possibly having to deal with injury or death.
- If you are of the spiritual persuasion, send white light or prayers to those emergency crews working the accidents and those who were involved in the accidents.
Austin traffic is only going to continue to get worse if the area leaders don’t start getting realistic about road development to accommodate the growth. As frustrating as it is, road congestion is here to stay. Major accidents will continue to happen. We can’t change those realities. What we can change is our attitudes toward them. Remember that you are just one of well over a million people who live in the Austin area. If you want to make our city slightly better for all of those who live here, then find ways to demonstrate behavior in traffic that you want others to reflect back to you.
© 2015 Elizabeth Galen, Ph.D., Green Heart Guidance, LLC