Article by Simon Hill

I was driving downtown the other day – and dealing rather well, I must say, with the dense afternoon traffic – when my mental equilibrium was shattered by an arrogant ignoramus in an expensive new crossover SUV.

You know the type, and it doesn’t matter what they drive: they cut you off; they tailgate; they cruise obliviously in the left lane and pass on the right; they barge into line; they blast through not just yellow lights or blushing lights but lights that long ago changed red; they stop in the middle of the block in rush hour traffic to pick up or drop off passengers; they weave in and out of traffic; they change lanes without checking or signalling (and accelerate to close the gap anytime they spot someone else signalling); they park across two spaces; they are clueless about how to use merge lanes; they speed in the worst conditions but dawdle when it’s dry; they use the right-hand lane at red lights as their own personal straight-ahead pole position, infuriating the cars behind that wanted to turn right; they ignore traffic signs; and they do it all while busy yapping (or texting) on their cell phones (buddy, I don’t care if it’s Bluetooth, the fact that you’re still sitting there 10 seconds after the light changed green means you’re distracted).

The particular ignoramus that got my dander up the other day thought he was being uncommonly clever: I was in a right-hand turn lane that carries traffic from one busy downtown arterial to another. As is often the case it was a bit backed up (a lot of pedestrians cross against the turning traffic, and while there is an advance right-turn arrow it is brief and the pedestrians sometimes ignore it). Mr. Clever came hammering along in the centre through-traffic lane and then at the last moment jammed himself into the right-hand lane ahead of a little old lady in a white Toyota Corolla who didn’t move forward quite quickly enough to stop him.

If that wasn’t bad enough, when the arrow came on Mr. Clever took his sweet time to get rolling (probably because he was busy texting his wife to tell her “Yeah, I’m actually going to be about five minutes earlier than I thought, because I just cut a bunch of people off!”) and then proceeded so slowly through the turn that the little old lady he’d cut off didn’t make the light.

Eight cars back, my calm had evaporated, replaced by a caged fury. The worst of it was, there was nothing I could do.

Normally I’d recommend ramming into the side of these drivers if they barge into line, or opening your door at the last second to bring them to a gratifyingly crunchy halt, but while this type of behaviour would undoubtably provide a certain measure of satisfaction and would do wonderful things for our gross domestic product (think of all the business it would generate for body shops and auto manufacturers), I fear it would likely tend to cause an overall escalation of traffic mayhem rather than any actual reduction. And at any rate it would give the insurance companies far too easy an excuse to raise everyone’s insurance rates to the point that we wouldn’t be able to afford to ride in teacups at Disney World, let alone drive actual cars on actual roads anymore.

So how to deal with the arrogant ignoramuses of the road? How to release the caged fury we all feel when mistreated at the wheel? I suggest the same measures that were finally used to convict Al Capone: taxes. Or in this case, road taxes.

Now, before everyone fills the comments section with hate mail, or gathers up the pitchforks to chase me down, let me explain that this would be a revenue-neutral tax, and wouldn’t cost good drivers a penny. Indeed, the way I’d implement the system, good drivers could make a profit. See, here’s how it would work: Everyone would get a transponder and a road tax account. This is easy to do – after all Ontario already has transponders for the 407, and BC has them for the Port Mann Bridge. Now, anytime someone barges past a line of stopped cars and cuts into the front, they get charged, say, $5 per car they cut off, and the money gets added to the accounts of the waiting cars.

Think how this would improve courtesy on the roads! No need to get angry, just wave them in and smile. “Thanks for the $5!” Left lane bandits could be charged per mile, multiplied by the number of cars stacked up behind them. “Oh well,” you could mutter as you cruise along behind them “this is a bit slow, but I should have enough money for a pizza by the time we get home.”

I just need to find an outfit to help me implement this system, and then sell it to governments around the world. I’ll be rich! Although my wife says that I’d damn well need to be, the way I drive.

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