A Driving Primer for Millennials and Other Non-Thinking Drivers

This article was suggested to me by someone. When I mentioned what I was thinking about for the title they said they didn’t think Millennials would know what a primer was. I told them they could look it up. Obviously I am not a Millennial, however, I have noticed, as many of my friends and the person suggesting this article have, that Millennials do not seem to follow many traffic laws, generally accepted driving practices or common courtesy.

Of course there are middle-aged and older types who commit some of the legal and perhaps moral driving violations I am going to mention. However, it seems like as a group “Millennials” for the purposes of this article are defined as “a person reaching young adulthood in the early 21st century” born in the 1980’s or 1990, also known as Generation Y according to Wikipedia.

Lately several friends and I noticed that Millennials seem to be more busy texting, tweeting and SnapChatting than paying attention to the road when they drive. Perhaps this is because “This group of people would be the most familiar with communications, media and digital technology.” according to a Metro News article. I am sure they meant social media that seems to dominate Millennial s waking moments.

I first observed Millennials bad driving habits a few years ago prior to my retiring from the Chattanooga Police Department. I was driving on Highway 153 when I encountered a vehicle driving about 45 miles an hour in the middle lane. As I pulled alongside it I observed a young male looking down and I tried to make eye contact. He finally looked up to see where he was going. I stopped him and we had a discussion about his driving. I would have given him a ticket but I was a detective and did not really feel like going to traffic court. Soon after this I attended a Governor’s Highway Safety meeting where the topic was young drivers and texting and the number of crashes and fatalities that this dangerous phenomenon was causing. So Millennials please stop this. The person you save might be yours truly or someone I love.

While Millennials texting is scary enough I have noticed them also seemingly running red lights frequently. I wondered if there was any research to back up my observation. There is. According to an article published in the Washington Post citing a study conducted by the AAA Foundation For Traffic Safety Millennials are more likely than any other age group to exceed the speed limit by 10 to 15 miles an hour, run a red light when they could have stopped, read or sent a text while driving and be high on marijuana. Ok now I’m really scared.

I have also noticed a marked decrease in the use of turn signals when vehicles are turning and also for lane changes. This is not just a safety issue but it is common courtesy. Several times lately I have sat waiting on a vehicle only to have it turn without a turn signal. Sure one time there was no vehicle behind it but I could have pulled out if the person had let me know they were turning. But often that means they would have to let go of their phone to reach up and flip that little lever letting other drivers know their intentions. Perhaps I am just ranting… perhaps not.

While we are talking about that courtesy thing, the friend who suggested this article has a pet peeve about Millennials not moving out of the fast lane. There is a slowpoke law in Tennessee that says you are required to yield to faster traffic. The problem is that speeding Millennials (remember the study?) slow down to text or read texts and don’t realize that they have slowed down. I’ve seen them realize this and then speed back up often while a car or cars are trying to pass them in the slow lane.

While I’m on the manners thing, it used to be that when you saw a car trying to merge from an onramp or whatever if you were on a multi lane highway or road that you would move over if possible to let that car merge. Millenials have not been taught this lost art. I have sat and waited for a car to get by me with the other lane open for “miles” but the driver would not get over. Usually it’s a Millennial often with a phone planted to their ear or glancing down at their lap, which I assume holds a phone. Sometimes they are looking at the dash where their phone is suspended by a cradling device some helpful person designed to help get me killed. Is that a little harsh? I don’t think so. I ride a motorcycle and ride in fear that I will be hit by someone selfishly looking at their phone and not the road.

Some studies have found that Millennials curse more and are less socially interactive than past generations. Maybe that is why many Millenials don’t display respect towards other drivers.

As if to prove my point the morning prior to my finishing this article I observed some classic Gen Y driving. I was coming back from an errand and was sitting in my car at a red light. I looked up to see the light was green but I couldn’t proceed because a small foreign car was just entering the intersection running the red light. I waited for it to clear and hurried to catch up to it. About that time it went into the turn lane without a turn signal of course. Who was at the wheel? A male Millennial with a phone stuck to his ear. After I honked he did turn the turn signal on.

So a message to Millenials… please don’t text, tweet, Snapchat or whatever while you are driving. You are endangering yourself and others. Use common courtesy. Give turn signals. Don’t do sudden lane changes. Keep a safe distance between your vehicle and the car in front of you. Stop for red lights. Don’t go as fast and don’t speed in school zones. Someone should have taught you these things as you learned to drive. I think every high school should have Drivers Education but it has been dropped from many schools due to the budget. Wow, we can’t cut sports but we can cut something that might keep someone from getting killed.

Finally Millennial, Baby Boomer ,Gen Xer or whoever, remember it’s a ‘We thing not a ‘Me’” thing. Sadly many a Millennial are taught or believe the opposite. Random acts of courtesy can go a long way.

– Mark Haskins