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Family or Marriage Finances & Money Frugality

Getting to the root of your habits

One of the reasons I recently drove the speed limit for 200 miles was because I was shocked to learn that my perception of reality for the last 30 years was a bit off.

Growing up, I always recalled my dad driving pretty fast. While I won’t blame my dad for my own speeding problems, I know I often justified in my own mind, and to my mom when she complained, that “Dad drives fast and so should I”. However, I don’t recall my dad being an aggressive drive like I am, just fast.

Getting a Reality Check

But this past weekend, while riding with my dad from a party 20 miles from home, and then to/from grocery shopping, I realized he drives wickedly slow. Honestly, I can’t recall when I last rode with him (maybe college?), but I don’t remember him driving so slowly.

But something he said really caught my attention. He was driving 30mph in a 35mph zone and there was a line of cars behind us. I pointed out that the speed limit was 35mph and he replied:

“What, are you in a hurry?” My answer was “Well, no”. But then he said something I didn’t expect:

It’s not worth speeding when you risk the fines and insurance costs“.

It’s then that I realized my dad has changed his perspective on driving in two ways. First, he’s not in a hurry anymore. I think part of that is not having to shuttle around and manage kids’ schedules for the last decade. Honestly, though, I don’t know why I’m in such a hurry when I drive. I can understand just wanting to get home sooner from a long weekend away in PA, but why do I speed when driving to Home Depot? Or to my graduate school classes? I always arrive early anyway (I don’t like to be late), so why not try slowing down?

Second, my dad seems to recognize their financial situation and the impact of a ticket on their financial stability. In my case, when I’ve gotten tickets, we could still handle the increase in premiums, fines and even an attorney (once). But just because we can accept the risk doesn’t mean we should take it, right?

So when I had a chance to test out my dad’s new philosophy on a long drive back from PA, I decided to give it a shot. And as one commenter of that article said,

One thing that I have noticed about keeping to the speed limit and just setting cruise control is that driving can be a lot less stressful. When I’m trying to outpace traffic (I don’t do it much anymore…), it’s always frustrating trying to get past slower traffic, changing lanes, looking out for speed traps, etc. But when I’m cruising at the speed limit, I can keep to the right lane and enjoy the soothing sounds of public radio. I guess trying to save fuel has also lowered my blood pressure!

And he was right! That drive was one of my most relaxing long drives in memory.

Driving with a Companion

One last thing I’d like to note is that I’ve always found it hard to drive slower when there is someone else in the car, especially my wife. Even though most people would rather I drive slower, I just can’t seem to, and I don’t know why. But one thing I noticed about my dad’s driving is that he doesn’t care about others, whether they’re in the car with him, or in the line of 5 cars driving behind him.

And that was the final impetus to get me to drive the speed limit. I didn’t care about every single driver passing me by the entire trip (except those going the speed limit. Obviously I wouldn’t see them). It was also noon on a Sunday, rather than a Sunday evening, so maybe the more aggressive drivers weren’t out yet, but I expected more people to tailgate or try to force me to go faster, but they didn’t.

So if you find that you have a lead foot or drive aggressively, try forcing yourself to drive ONLY the speed limit out on the highway and see if you can do it. For me, it took a couple tries, but honestly, I found going the speed limit to be the easiest and least stressful (vs going 5mph over). Just try it. You’ll be surprised.

About the author

Clever Dude

3 Comments

  • I have self-diagnosed road rage. I drive like a maniac. I have also found that when I choose to drive the speed limit, I am calm and actually laugh at all the other maniacs who are speeding. Thanks for the reminder!

  • I suggest that you’re subconsciously showing off when you have a passenger – especially as you note that it’s worse when Stacie is in the car.

    Still, if that’s your worst habit and your doing something about it, it’s not too bad.

  • Driving the speed limit is fine, but driving below the speed limit with a line of cars behind you is rude! Though, I guess you realize that because you note he doesn’t care about others. I don’t wish harm on others, but I wouldn’t feel sorry for someone like that if someone took a bat to them. Maybe I’ve been driving in NJ rush hour traffic too long.

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