Kids these days. You would think they have nothing better to do than drive around with the music cranked, challenging other drivers to race from stoplight to stoplight. OK, so we all did that at one time or another.
Hardly a day goes by when you don’t find yourself stuck at a red light next to a car full of kids, nodding their heads to the all-bass hip-hop song of the moment.
You can see out of the corner of your eye that the driver is sizing up you and your car to see if you’re a worthy opponent. If you get the other driver’s approval, he or she will rev the engine, which can only mean one thing: The challenge is on.
Your reaction? Yeah, like you’re really going to race (which is one of the worst driving infractions known to mankind) as if you have something to prove. And second, “Hey kid, where did you get the money to buy THAT car and THAT stereo system?” Never mind, I don’t want to know.
You have a few choices if egged on in a stoplight battle:
1) When challenged by a kid, you could act like one. Accept and hope your minivan or sedan has enough horsepower to spare you the humiliation of being beaten by a souped-up Civic driven by a kid who just began shaving last week (and chance, at the very least, a big speeding ticket). In case you’re wondering, this is the wrong choice.
2) Ignore it. Avoid eye contact, music and that cropduster sound from the exhaust and let him peel away, content to think he’s such a racer that he left you shaking in his dust. (And then you pull up next to him a few seconds later at the next light.)
3) Or, you can take my favorite route: Look over at Mini Mario and shoot him a look that says, “Puhlease, little boy, don’t embarrass yourself in front of your friends.” The wonderful thing about cell phones is that it’s easy to report reckless driving (just make sure you pull over before calling the cops).
So, what do you do? Officer Jon Robale says there’s not much you, or the cops, can do until the law is broken. Therefore, it’s up to you to decide how to react.
“They’re not breaking any laws revving their engines,” he says. “It may be considered an invitation to race, but unless a person is caught driving faster than the posted legal speed limit, there’s not much we can do. If you’re driving and you encounter this situation — if someone wants to race you — you should avoid the confrontation.
“There are more police cruisers out patrolling streets that are known drag-racing strips. I think our presence has curbed the problem somewhat,” he continues. “When people know they are being watched, they are much less likely to act inappropriately.”
The same goes when you pull up next to a motorcycle and the rider barks the unmuffled engine right in your ear (hey, my muffler has to work, buddy, why doesn’t yours?) to let you know how cool he or she is. (As if owning a Harley-Davidson Fat Boy isn’t already cool enough.)
You practically jump out of your skin because you’re not wearing a helmet to cover your fragile eardrums from the deafening roars.
And it’s not like you can roll down the window and say, “Umm, excuse me, Mr. Biker Man? Yes, you with the leather and studs. Do you think you could please stop doing that? It’s killing my ears. By the way, loooooove the Born to Kill tattoo.”
“If you’re uncomfortable for any reason — because a biker is challenging you, or anything, you can always choose another route,” says Robale. “Leave the policing up to us. A light-hearted dash to the next light can easily turn into something much more dangerous; tempers erupt and things go from funny to deadly in a matter of seconds.”
Among her numerous accomplishments, Courtney Hansen is the author of “Garage Girl’s Guide,” the host of Spike TV’s “PowerBlock,” the former host of TLC’s “Overhaulin'” and a writer with Wheelbase Communications. You can e-mail her by logging on to www.wheelbase.ws/mailbag.html.