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the rant

Fast drivers, slow drivers, aggressive drivers, inattentive drivers, stubborn drivers. What scares me most?

Panicked drivers.

For all of the others, you can make an educated guess at what they might do next. Even if it's illegal, even if it's dangerous, you get a shot at gauging what might come next, and a chance to prepare yourself.

Panicked drivers are in a class all their own. These are people who sit at the split of an exit ramp, because stopping in the middle of a highway is always preferable to getting off, sorting yourself out, then getting back on. You can always get from here to there. Trust me.

Panicked drivers drive with their indicator on, desperate to get across three live lanes of traffic because they just noticed their exit. Because slowing down and speeding up until nobody – including them – knows what the heck it is they want is preferable to joining the flow of traffic. Word to the not-so-wise: if you're in new territory, stick to the right.

There's probably nothing as disconcerting on a highway as seeing the reverse lights on a vehicle. This panicked driver is about to make their situation better in the most immediate way: by retracing their steps. They make their panicked brethren who merely park on the highway look marginally smarter. Marginally.

Sudden weather shifts, especially snow, can be challenging. You're right to slow down, you're right to leave safer distances, you're right to cancel all distractions so you can focus. But please, panicked driver, if all of the above is taxing your skill set, the best place for you is off the road altogether. Go get a coffee. Better to get there late than not at all. Actually, this makes you the smartest driver in a lot of cases.

You can do all the right things and still have it go all wrong. If you're responding to a sudden traffic situation, know where your four way flashers are before you're in full panic mode. Keep your car in decent shape, top up your washer fluid, ditch the distractions and stick to roads that don't freak you out.

Not everyone was cut out to be a driver. No big deal. I could bungee jump, but I never will.

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