It’s understandable that so many complain about drivers these days. With each passing year, driving the highways and streets of our cities has become more hazardous. It takes a lot of patience and prayer just to drive to the grocery store if you are someone who obeys traffic laws.
For decades now advertisements, movies, and video games have pushed the power and speed of the automobile, and the ‘power’ that comes with getting to the front of the pack in your powerful machine and outrunning and outgunning everyone else.
You can see the persuasiveness of these ads, movies, and games on any highway or city street, even as car companies, advertisers, Hollywood directors and celebrities, and video game creators and developers deny their influence.
For many drivers, the legal speed limit is only a suggestion. For many, a yellow light means speed up and a red light means stop only if necessary. Many either ignore stop signs or roll through them all together.
Some speed through turns and cut corners, crossing into the other driver’s lane. If you get in their way, you will at least get an angry look or perhaps a rude gesture. Many have no idea that there is a correct and legal side of the street on which to park in neighborhoods, or that even more fundamentally, that sidewalks are for pedestrians and not for parking your car.
Tucked away in the comfortable womb of their cars as they drive to the beat of their music, drivers feel invincible. They are kings and queens of their mobile fiefdoms. And you, the other driver, are little more than a serf to be pushed out of the way.
Consider it a sign of the times. Consider it a consequence of a culture of narcissism. Whatever you call it, the behavior of many drivers today goes beyond a failure to follow basic laws and proper etiquette.
I would call it a sign of widespread lack of morals, or a basic concern for others. It’s a consequence of the refusal to live by the commandments and the Beatitudes, a refusal of the grace of the Holy Spirit.
No driver is perfect. As in life, all drivers are sinners. Even those who seek to follow the law can lapse through inattentiveness or selfishness. Complaining about other drivers can be a log in our own eyes. It also can lead to the sin of anger.
Driving today almost invariably is a near occasion for sin. The anger you witness on our streets is often the result of some selfish driver who is annoyed that you got in his way. There are times, though, when the calm of good drivers is shattered by bad behavior and they belch out an angry word, blare their horns, or loudly remind others of the law.
Often, the best approach to driving is to find the least traveled road (which is more and more difficult these days), and as you drive to play classical music or chanting monks and to pray short, powerful prayers, such as “Lord, have mercy,” “God protect us and have mercy on us,” or “Lord Jesus, Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
Praying the Our Father and the Hail Mary as you drive, again and again, also can change your outlook and prevent your losing or help you regain your interior peace.
While chaos rages all around you as you drive, obey the traffic laws, drive defensively, and forget about complaining about other drivers. Keep the peace of the Lord in your heart and turn to the Lord for protection. And make sure you forgive and pray for those other drivers when you notice their failings.
And when you fail to be as good a driver as you expect others to be, as you will, recognize your own sin and confess it.