The holidays are the worst time to drive on the Interstate Highways. Put tens of thousands of people who usually don't drive any further than their local grocery store on on the big road with a car stuffed to the gills with packages, luggagge and screaming kids and watch the idiocy unfold.
A solitary case in point is the misuse of the Cruise Control. I love mine, but I know how to use it! Think you do, too? Let's see.
First, the Cruise is not a "fire and forget" weapon. Even though in a purely technical sense it'll keep you going till you run out of gas, you still have to drive the car. And I do mean drive, not just fucking gaze over the wheel in a catatonic stare at the road ahead.
Some basics. Cars come with at least two, and usually three, pretty and shiny devices called "mirrors". No, these aren't for applying makeup, although you may think so when watching the
lemmings daily commuters migrate blindly in their (misnamed) "rush-hour" antics.
No, the mirrors are there to watch just about as carefully and frequently as the road ahead. The holiday from hell types should learn this fact. Perhaps then, they'd notice that an 82,000 lb. eighteen wheeler is about to give the family Rambler a diesel powered enema.
I tend to set my cruise at about +4 mph over the posted speed
limit suggestion. Fast enough to make good time and mileage, while staying just under that 85th percentile of speed that garners the unwanted attention of the $tate Revenue Enchancement Corps. I also don't ride in a "pack" with other vehicles for any longer than absolutely necessary. I manage to either outpace 'em, or let them zip on down the road to their next speeding ticket or all-too-frequent fuel stop.
(Just an aside, but the fact that the same car, passing me repeadedly every hour, at 85-90+ mph tells me they're not making "better time". they're just burning more fuel. LOTS more. *heh* Gotta love 'em though, they give the $tate Trooper$ something other than me to focus on!
But I digress. Back to Cruise Basics.
If you've traveled while using Cruise, you'll notice that when passing another car going almost as fast as you, that as you draw even with it, the two cars tend to lock into a "side-by-side" pace, which can go on almost indefinitely. You were going faster, but what just happened? Did you slow down? Did the other guy speed up, just to be an asshole? Neither, actually.
The reality is, your car is encountering the aerodynamic bow wave that the other car is pushing ahead of it. That high-pressure air, accelerated by flowing around the other car at 70-ish mph*, is now pushing harder on the grille of your car than just the direct air-resistance of your own passage. It's a subtle difference, and your Cruise's computer won't just stab the accellerator to pull you past.
It has no more idea that you're causing a 70 mph traffic jam than you do if you never look into your mirrors.
Making it worse, (of course, it gets worse!), is the fact that as you do edge ahead of that other car, now you're beginning to pull him along by the low pressure vortex of your wake. That's right, he actually speeds up, even though the other driver never touched the gas or cruise. I bet you still thought he was just being an asshole, didn't you?
Yeah, but everyone else stuck in traffice behind YOU for the past twelve miles knows who the asshole really is. Here's a hint: It's not the guy in the slow-lane.
I love the looks of the asswipes who're guilty of those twelve-mile "passing" manuvers. When they finally do look into the mirror, you can see them thinking; "but I'm on Cruise Control!" Yeah, like that absolves 'em of not only being idiots, but forgives 'em for creating a fifty-car wave of frustration and anger stacking up behind 'em? I'm a former cop, and I can say with all certainty, the sloweydopes cause far more accidents than they themselves are engaged in. Those self-righteous twits force the entire universe of traffic to react to them, and never, ever afford the same courtesy to those around 'em on the road.
So, how do you not find yourself taking forever to pass the other car while still using your Cruise? Easy, and yes, they all work the same:
1. Do not hit your brake, or press any of the Cruise Control buttons.
2. Just step on the gas. Yep, stab it and get the hell on past. Doing so will not cancel your cruise setting!
3. Complete the manuver. After you've made the pass, move a lane to the right (so you'll get the hell out of our way). Thank you!
4. Slowly ease off the gas pedal. You'll feel the cruise "take over" from your foot when the computer "decideds" a bit more oomph is needed to maintain the desired speed.
It's that simple.
Okay then. You ask though: "But what if I'm the one being passed?". The answer is even easier.
A. Ease your car to the farthest right-hand part of your lane, without crossing over to the next lane or onto the shoulder of the road. This will minimize your "bow-wave" effect on the passing car, and will most likely result his the passing car moving ahead within the next 1/4 mile.
B. If "A" fails, either hit your Cruise's "COAST" button for a bit, or tap your brake to temporarily disengage your Cruise. Decelerating as little as 2 mph ought to result in being passed cleanly. Hit your Cruise's "RESUME" button only after the passing car is at least four car-lengths ahead. Or, you'll end up being pulled by the other car's low-pressure wake.
See, that wasn't so hard, now was it?
Truly, it all boils down to basic road-courtesey and not being a selfish driver. I'm all to happy to get myself out of the way of faster traffic just as quickly as I can safely manage to do so. It's not my job to enforce the speed at which they drive, and casuing bottlenecks and frustration only makes everyone's driving experience more stressful. (Rude, light-flashing tailgaters are another topic. I deal with them differently, but that's another post.)
Being a better driver than the herd pays another dividend when trying to log those thousand-mile days. Your brain stays engaged. Instead of the trip being a mind-numbing ordeal, you actually can control the dynamics of your pace, and better manage your situation when in company with other traffic. Most of you just "sit there" though, even though you're beind the wheel of a couple o' tons of swiftly moving steel.
Please, be more than just a "passenger behind the wheel". Be a DRIVER for crying out loud.
And kindly get the hell outta my way.