UNDER THE SUN

Bumper battles

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— Whether it's the weaving one-lane highways, the unpredictable weather, or something to do with why water boils at a lower temperature at higher elevations, bad drivers become horrible drivers in the high country.

I was thinking that while driving up Poudre Canyon behind a guy in a brand new gray Cadillac last week.

He was driving through the upper narrows at 25 mph, at some corners slowing down to a hair-pulling 15 mph. Meanwhile, about six slow-vehicle turn-off areas passed by and 10 cars lined up in his rearview mirror.

This person should drive slowly. Lord knows he looked nervous, so speeding up to a consistent 35 mph could mean an early retirement for Mr. Cadillac. However, ignoring the turn-offs was an indication he was in a state of denial.

At that point, I knew who this guy was. This was the stubborn driver. He was someone who takes it personal when people pass him, therefore, doesn't concede by pulling over to let others by. This doesn't affect the way he drives, though. To him, everyone should have been going 25 mph; and by God anyone going faster is reckless.

The stubborn driver is a close cousin to the competitive driver, who views any car trip as a race they must win and anyone passing them as a threat to that goal. At stoplights, they are the first off the line. If you happen to pass the competitive driver on a mountain highway while they are not paying attention, prepare for a battle.

They will ride your tail until they regain "the lead," then speed in a flare of "victory" so you know never, ever to pass them again. (This is also the person who is seen coming right at you on a blind corner, crossing a double yellow line.)

Let's not confuse that person with my personal favorite, the tail driver, who rides right on your tail for no reason. This person is similar to someone who stands too close to you in a conversation.

The tail driver feels most comfortable about five feet away from your bumper.

If you speed up, they speed up with you. If you slow down, they don't pass, they just slow down, too. If you get sick of them invading your rear space and pull over, the tail driver will stare into your car with an expression on their face that asks, "What did I do?"

That's because tail drivers don't know they have a problem. If you are in a car with this person, please tell them they have a problem.

That leads me to the

obliviousness of the distracted driver. This is the person who unknowingly drifts over to your lane because they are eating a hamburger, reading, looking for a CD, singing, talking on the phone or kissing the person next to them.

I love the distracted driver. If they run someone off the road, the distracted driver may not even realize it and keep on going. That's because the distracted driver is busy; they don't have time to drive.

That's one thing I'll hand to Mr. Cadillac last week. He was patient, paying attention and careful which are the two most important mantras in mountain driving.

He just wouldn't pull over.

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