Who do you think you are?

I-10 bridge in Mobile, Ala., taken yesterday.
Spend a little time driving America’s Interstate highways, and you’ll get to know all the characters that make their homes on the road.

I just made the nine-hour trip from Orlando to Biloxi, Miss., yesterday — the first leg of my family’s month-long road trip out West — and I got reacquainted with all of them.

They kind of reminded me of you, the good people who read this site every day.

Here’s who I met. Which group do you belong to?

By-the-bookers. You’ll find these drivers in the slow lane, putt-putting along at the speed limit or below (“55 saves lives!”). Sometimes, when they edge into the left lane to pass a turnip truck, they create chaos, because they don’t let the needle go past 65.

On this site, by-the-bookers know every rule, law and statute, and can cite them from memory. But they’re often criticized for failing to understand the spirit of the law. I love them because their knowledge often helps other consumers — and me — understand our rights (and sometimes, our lack of rights) more clearly.

The speed demon. You don’t see these motorists until their brights are blinding you in your rear view mirror. The message is as clear as their high beams: outta my way!

Sure, speed demons can be aggressive and obnoxious commenters. They drop in, lob an incendiary or insensitive remark, and then scurry back to Flyertalk. But these folks have passion, and they frequently make a valid point. This place wouldn’t be the same without them.

Flow-goers. A majority of the motorists you run into (um, maybe that’s a poor choice of words — let’s say encounter) are neither too fast nor too slow. They just like to keep up with traffic. They’re content to slide between two vehicles moving at 85 and stay there until their exit.

Related story:   Posting power: 7 tips for blogging your way to a better trip

I think that describes most readers of this site, too.

They lurk and they comment only when they have something to say. When they can help, they don’t hesitate to speak up but are otherwise content to let others do the talking. This site wouldn’t exist without them.

The wackos. You know them. They’re the ones who are pulled over on the side of the road, surrounded by four highway patrol vehicles. And the officers all have their weapons drawn. Or their abandoned car is wrapped around a tree.

They either don’t care about the rules of the road or they’re unaware of them. They weave in and out of traffic, trying to pass other cars. If there’s no opening, they veer into the shoulder to create their own lane.

Seriously, these people probably shouldn’t have been driving in the first place.

But even the loons have a place here. Hecklers are sometimes the only ones who dare make statements that need to be heard. I’m often criticized for tolerating these malcontents on the site (especially the ones that go after me) but I think these readers make the debate interesting. I almost never have to ban them; they usually leave on their own when they overstay their welcome.

Which one am I?

I probably identify the most with the folks who go with the flow out on the highway, but I have a soft spot for the speed demons. I ought to know; on our last road trip, I was pulled over for speeding.

Wait, does that make me a wacko? Eh, I’ve been called worse.

Related story:   Is this enough compensation? Funny money for a fat-finger rate

P.S. — This morning we’re back on the road, driving from Biloxi, Miss., to Rockport, Tex. Ten hours … if we go with the flow.

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at chris@elliott.org.

  • Sally Allen

    If we could keep it clean maybe we could vote on who we think some of the other posters are?  Eh- maybe not.

  • Charlie Funk

    Not enough answers since go with the flow was defined as willing to exceed the speed limit as long as others did it.  Rather, there are many who drive speed limit up to plus nine (plus ten is the magic number that initiates the conversation “Good afternoon officer”) and stay with the rest of the traffic.

  • KarlaKatz

    Although I selected “with the glow”, I’m more often a “by the book” driver… unless I feel as I am the one impeding others.  At those times when my “by the book” driving would cause a back-up of traffic, or become an unsafe irritation to others (re: creating a “road rage” situation), I then speed up to maintain the flow, until such time as it is safe to return to the slower lane (as in passing a truck, or very slow driver).

  • Raven_Altosk

    There wasn’t a category for snarker, so…I don’t know where I should fit in.  According to one of the posters in the “Princess Ignores Distress” thread, I’m also a “bully” because I’m sarcastic. So there’s that, too. Of course, this individual doesn’t exactly know what a “bully” is, but like most people these days like to throw the word around for attention. 

    But seriously, I generally follow the laws of the road when I drive, but I’ll keep up with traffic if traffic is going faster than the posted speed limit.

    Also, I hate round-abouts. I always feel like someone is going to hit me or go the wrong way on one.

  • TravelingSalesman

    I see a special brand of speed demon.  usually young, and driving a highly modified import (we call Rice Rockets), or a modified SUV / muscle car.  They drive 10 to 20 Mph faster than the flow and cut from lane to lane driving in the spaces between the Go with the Flow drivers.  They cut in and leave absolutely no room for error.
    If Traffic is already moving near 80, they can hit 100 or better.  I am always pushing the speed limit, but not the safety limit.
    As a passenger vehicle operator with over a million miles & no accidents or moving violations, I see them as a huge anti-social force.

  • Bob M

    Go by the book, increase gas mileage, relax and enjoy the scenery, while others speed by and complain about the high cost of gas. When the speeders are pulled over they reach for “their book” of excuses. Don’t have any sympathy with them or others, as I do remember the gas shortage in the early 70’s, it turned me into a completely different driver.

  • Raven_Altosk

    I call the ones on motorcycles that speed and weave in and out of traffic ORGAN DONORS!

  • Miami510

    My in-born skepticism light went on as I read this questionnaire: could it be some surreptitious psychological test to determine other characteristics about our approach to the vicissitudes of life… including, of course, the tribulations of travel?
    Well, if that wasn’t the intent, I think the results do offer some insight into Elliott’s readership: not too many wackos, a few high risk takers and conservatives, but mostly people who do what others are doing: heeding to what is the functioning norm. The “going with the flow,” seems to indicate a propensity for letting average behavior and expectations set our own values and demands.

  • TonyA_says

    You forgot the “corrupt” category. They have badges, shields, blinking lights, FOP or PBA courtesy cards, display a cop’s cap on dashboard, etc.
    They think they own the road because they have some level of authority. They forget the taxpayers paid for the road (or their salaries).

  • Hmmm. I think I’m the cautious speed demon. I like to get where I’m going but not out of control. I’ll speed but I won’t be the first one to do so. I’ll let others take the lead and coast in their slipstream. Similarly, on this board, I’m usually not the first one to berate clueless posters…

    But I’m also a type A personality who while outwardly nice, tend to think bad thoughts about idiot drivers and dream about superpowers to immediately deflate the tires of said drivers. On this site, I only let a zinger fly every now and then when I can’t hold it in any longer. Sigh. Does that make me a bad person?

  • Hmmmm. That’s just like when your friend says, “Tell me my personality flaws. I promise I won’t get mad…”. Never.Ends.Well.

  • ExplorationTravMag

    I was right there with you, Raven.  I know I can be a wacko sometimes.  Other times, I’m a go with the flow (when others have already said, well, what I wanted to say I say nothing) and other times, I’m a snarker.

    I can also be a bully, though I try to watch that due to my being a victim of a bully (as well as one of my kids) of a bully for a long time.

    I think the worst kind of driver, and there are some posters here like this, are the ones who drive as though the road is theirs and theirs alone and how DARE the rest of us not see that!  (And oddly, Chris isn’t the one who acts like that – even though he does, technically, own the road here)

    And Chris – enjoy Biloxi!  That’s one of my favorite places in the country!  Make sure to take the kids to the Lynn Meadows Center in Gulfport.  I’m not exaggerating at all when I say they will LOVE it!

  • Ann Lamoy

    I flow go for the most part but admit to being an occasion speed demon. The only time I am a by the book driver-going through a school zone. And not only because I don’t want to get a ticket, but also because you never know when I kid could pop out of  nowhere and dart across the street. Same thing driving down heavily populated residential streets.

  • Ann Lamoy

    I’ve never seen you being a bully. A bully would be using personal comments or telling someone they are stupid-without facts to back it up. I’ve seen you tell someone they are stupid because “this is why according to the laws/rules/etc” but it is not a general statement of their intelligence but a “look, you are wrong, you are being stupid about this and here is why”. If people can’t take being told they are wrong, they either need to do the research before they open their mouth or learn to admit when they are wrong and learn to research.

    And I hate round-abouts too. I actually had someone go the wrong way on one and almost hit me. So your fear is not groundless. :-)

  • Ann Lamoy

    “But I’m also a type A personality who while outwardly nice, tend to
    think bad thoughts about idiot drivers and dream about superpowers to
    immediately deflate the tires of said drivers.”

    Haha-I don’t just think bad thoughts, I tend to talk about loud about idiot drivers. I’ve learned to stop the hand gestures though because you never know when you might provoke a case of road rage.

  • bodega3

    On Friday I encountered two of these weavers on a city street.  About 30 seconds after one passed two cars ahead of me, using the turning lane as his own lane, he spilled his bike.  I have to say that my first thought, even before I worried about his safety was, there is justice!  His bike was in pieces all over the road and he had a road burn on his arm, but he was up walking collecting his bike’s parts, which meant he was causing traffic to be delayed due to his stupid act. 

  • Nigel Appleby

    What do you call someone who does 299km/hr in a (probably) 100km/hr speed limit zone? The police have identified the motorcycle and slapped the owner with $1449 or so in fines. They haven’t yet been able to prove who was riding it but it is strongly suspected to be the owner’s 25 yr old son.
    If my copy and paste has worked have a look –

    Having said that I usually go with the flow!
    PS it wasn’t me!

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Those of us who are are little “experienced” may remember George Carlin’s sketch on drivers.  I want the idiots behind me and the maniacs in front of me!

    Oh – if driving through Nebraska, 5 miles over is the max on the Interstate.  If inside the city limits of Lincoln – if you have out of town/state plates, better do the speed limit. 

  • Jen Goodman

    That’s why they call motorcyclists in the ER “donorcycles.”

  • maudr

    We drive cross country twice a year and have encountered all those types.
    The poor truck drivers have to put up with a lot of fools. 
    It would be nice to see an article on how to drive safely and with common sense on these roads.
    One thing we do is when entering an interstate is to drive at a good rate of speed so as not to slow down the incoming traffic.

  • judyserienagy

    Yah sure, I got called into the DMV in Minnesota when I was 23 for 3 speeding tickets in 6 months.  They wanted to know why they shouldn’t jerk my license.  Don’t know what I said but my terror must have been obvious because I walked out still a legal driver.  So I go with the flow, but I’m a speed demon at heart – but it’s a good challenge to go really fast and still be considerate of other vehicles.

    I can hardly wait to read what Chris has to say about California drivers!  Watch those little vacuum-cleaner cars and the low-riders, they’re maniacs.

  • Elmo Clarity

    On my daily commute, we call them Police Officer.  I used to wonder where motorcyclists got the idea it was okay to do that until I started seeing all the cops on my commute doing the same thing.

  • Elmo Clarity

    I go just a few mph slower than the cars around me.  Let them get the attention of the cops.  hehe.

  • Elmo Clarity

    I would like to see, just once, the signs, “Speed Enforced By Aircraft” in action.  I want to see that fighter swoop in and take the speeding loon out with a couple air to ground missiles.  :)

  • Dcochran3
  • Raven_Altosk

    Lasers would be cool, too.


  • Tygar

    This is a hard one.  I generally go with the flow (in the fast lane) but I get there really fast.   In my old age I don’t like tickets & really don’t like the “weavers”, they cause accidents.  But, I especially don’t like the road hog, that pulls into the fast lanes & goes 1 or 2 miles under the speed limit, even though traffice is going 7 or 8 over. 

    These idiots are truly dangerous.  If you are one, pull the hell over!

    Since my daily driver is a Corvette & my 2nd road car is a hi pro 68 Mustang & I also have a road racing car, I like to go fast. 

    This is hard to do safely in todays traffic so its generally as fast as people are going without going over the “you will get a ticket” limit. This is of course, on the freeway.  City streets usually are pretty much close to the speed limit or slightly over.  Traffic is not good.

    ps: there are still a few roads where a country boy can crank it up to the triple digets, & the tracks.

    As a jet jockey once said, “I feel the need for speed”.

  • It took 11 hours, actually … so much for being a speed demon.

  • y_p_w

    I’ve never gotten a speeding ticket in my life, although I don’t drive by the book.  Mostly what I’ve seen is that law enforcement doesn’t really car unless one is really fast or constantly weaving in and out of traffic.

    I do remember once being in traffic where there was an extremely visible California Highway Patrol cruiser behind a large group of cars.  Everyone simply turning into “by the book” drivers slowing down to the 55 MPH limit in that particular turn.  That only ticked off the officer, who was stuck behind the traffic, and accelerated through the first hole he could find and promptly accelerated to about 85 MPH.

  • Life is too precious to lose for the sake of arriving at your destination just a tad bit earlier. Just not worth it. 

  • streamerstoo

    Yesterday a car was weaving in and out of traffic at high speed, only to end up at a light which was already red and he HAD TO stop. So he put many citizens in jeopardy just to save a few seconds, or not…what could have happened we don’t need to debate. Was he pulled over, no. Oh, and he was on his phone. I ave no respect for these idiots, as they do not care who the hurt/kill along the way. 

Get smart. Sign up for the newsletter.