Streetsblog's Sarah Goodyear and Car-less Valley Girl had some great posts yesterday about cars and what they do to our psychology.
I will freely state that one of the biggest reasons I don't like driving is the stress it puts me under. The unique combination of uninteresting stimuli and the need for constant vigilance that driving presents one with is unpleasant, to say the least. On the rare occasions that I do drive, I find it's nearly impossible to travel a few blocks down the road without somebody performing a manoeuvre that is dangerously illegal, and usually threatening to me and my passengers. Driving on a congested roadway is even worse, of course, but just driving around town is nerve-wracking and infuriating.
A second reason that I don't drive, however, and one that I think yesterday's posts highlight well, is what kind of person I am behind the wheel. If you met me on the street, you'd find me a rather easy-going guy. I'm generally talkative and pleasant, though I admit my sense of humour is an acquired taste. While driving a car, however, I am prone to anger, and can often be found shouting profanity at other drivers, leaning on my horn and making rude hand gestures. I don't like who I am while I'm driving, and that's one of the many reasons why I try not to do it.
The sad part is, as many in the livable streets community have previously noted, the highway is one of the few places that people of different ethnicities and social strata interact in modern America- and that nearly everyone is a rather unpleasant person when behind the wheel. The social interaction that does take place on our highways is almost entirely negative, and it's some of the only non-self-segregated social interaction that happens in most communities. Comparing the shouting-honking-flipping off paradigm of inter-driver communication with the numerous pleasant conversations I've had with fellow transit riders, or even the friendly waves of passing cyclists, and I know which one I'd choose every time.