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Reblogged:Altruistic Myopia vs. Safe Driving

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Paul Ingraham himself tags his post as "ranty," but it struck a nerve some time ago and captures pretty well my own frustration with a type of driver. We have all found ourselves stuck behind this one, often after having to stop suddenly. Ingraham charitably calls them, "Excessively Polite Drivers," but I personally find them somewhere between stupid and rude.

But we both agree they are very unsafe:

Image by Harry Knight, via Unsplash, license.
Stop trying to prove your decency to pedestrians and cyclists by yielding your right of way to us when we are waiting to cross a street. You have to knock that shit off.

This may come as a surprise to you, but there are other vehicles coming the other way, or roaring up behind you, who don't know (or care) why the fuck you are stopping. By waiting for us, you are putting everyone at risk, you included, but us most of all. Accidents happen when traffic is unpredictable, and you are forcing us to make a snap decision about whether or not it is safe to cross when we do not have the right of way, at the same time that you have made the whole thing less predictable. [his italics, my bold]
Ingraham has the safety angle covered, and he gets painfully close to the source of the problem when he pleads for these drivers to "top trying to prove your decency" to those pitiful souls at the crosswalks.

Such drivers -- who emphatically include those who slam the brakes or even swerve (!) for animals -- may well be trying to appear to others to be magnanimous, but the people they are really trying to convince are themselves.

I blame altruism, with its never-justified injunction that our purpose in life is to serve our fellow man.

I have spoken of altruism as a mental kill-switch before, but it goes deeper than I was speaking of at the time.

People severely crippled by altruism will be so focused on the immediate, apparent, possible need of others that that will become their first and only concern. Yes: The fact that someone who might want to cross a street is at the crosswalk, here and now, becomes that person's central focus and moral imperative -- even to the point that, yes, it is a surprise that other vehicles (which are "privileged" anyway), are on the road; or that their range-of-the-moment grandstanding for that lone individual's safe passage is, in fact, making things less safe for everyone.

When one has to sacrifice, to treat every random need of every random stranger like an emergency, of course one isn't going to think long-range or make otherwise obvious connections.

Ethics is advice for how to live one's life: It should hardly be surprising that a deficient-enough ethical system could cause difficulties even with such simple tasks as driving within a sensible and agreed-upon system of rights-of-way.

Having said that, the post contains updates, including heartening affirmations by other frustrated drivers and cautions that some legal systems are encouraging or mandating such stupid behavior. The latter is hardly surprising, given that such laws are usually demanded by voters, most of whom will follow the dominant, altruistic ethics of the culture when considering how they wish themselves and, most of all, others to be governed.

-- CAV

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