Opinion | Don’t drive on the shoulder

A+traffic+jam+on+a+highway+on+July+20%2C+2018.+Columnist+Matthew+Krauter+discusses+the+dangers+of+driving+on+the+shoulder+of+the+road.+

Photo courtesy of Open Grid Scheduler/Grid Engine/flickr

A traffic jam on a highway on July 20, 2018. Columnist Matthew Krauter discusses the dangers of driving on the shoulder of the road.

By Matthew Krauter, Senior Columnist

You’re driving down I-57 to Champaign when the perpetual construction slows your car to a standstill. Enclosed by the labyrinthian cornstalk walls, traffic has no choice but to let out a collective sigh and wait. Or so they thought, as another driver flies past them on the shoulder.

There are two reasons you might drive on the shoulder. The first instance is during an emergency. Obviously, a state trooper has to respond to the scene of an accident quickly and a pregnant woman in labor shouldn’t be delayed on the way to the hospital. The second reason, as in the case of our renegade driver, is that you’re a jerk.

When I was little, my mother would often quip that some people are just “more important than others” whenever we saw something rude in public. The same rules don’t apply to these new-fashioned narcissists enthralled by the black reflection in their phone screens. They’re absolved by their “libertinism,” free from the bonds of communal empathy.

The law-abiding cars come to an unspoken consensus that the shoulder free-riders ought to be punished. But unlike lines at a restaurant or theme park, people are unable to publicly shame the transgressors or appeal to the intervention of an authority. Their disapproving honks will be drowned out by the offenders’ stereos as they flee the scene with anonymity and their impunity will soon inspire others to follow suit.

The only hope for justice is that red and blue lights ignite and bring the renegades to a halt.

Despite their disregard for any semblance of social contract theory, they aren’t true rebels, only self-important ones. They’ll undoubtedly attempt to worm their way out of a ticket as passersby honk giddily in approval.

The threat of a ticket isn’t a strong enough deterrent to always keep everyone in line, but fear shouldn’t be the reason you don’t cut. You queue because you’re self-aware enough to recognize the cornfield doesn’t revolve around you. You queue because you value the time of others in traffic as much as your own.

During one particularly grueling multi-mile crawl through a construction zone, dozens abused the shoulder to bypass the standstill. A semi-truck driver and I made an impromptu pact to counter the shoulder crooks. The trucker drove partially in the shoulder, blocking the pseudo-lane, as I cruised alongside him to obstruct lane-splitters. I fear I’ll never find such curbside camaraderie again.

The danger of such righteous vigilantism is suffering the wrath of the shoulder speedsters’ road rage. It’s safer to let them by and be content with comprehending their conscience will keep them up at night — and that sharp objects more often await their tires on the shoulder.

Though the shoulder may be tempting, it’d be best to remember to tune your radio to AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” before using your turn signal to merge on. Don’t be surprised, nevertheless, when other drivers give you the cold shoulder for the rest of the ride.

Matthew is a senior in LAS.

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