I stare into every car, truck, van, or SUV that shares the roadway with me. Women probably think I'm checking them out. Sometimes there might be an element of that. I'm human. I stare at guys just as often, though. No matter what they think, I'm not checking them out. I am stereotyping them, though. I know that's politically incorrect, but there it is. Like the marketing gurus say, "impressions are everything." Or "image," something like that. I don't have time to get to know these people. I'm not even interested in doing so. I just want to know, as quickly as possible, what kind of hazard they present to me. Cops call this "profiling." Lawyers get really upset at this practice. So sue me.
The average person has an IQ of 100 points. I grant that and start from there. My built-in point system adds or subtracts from that number almost as quickly as I can make out the interior of the vehicle. From there, I either disregard the driver, more or less, as a threat or apply evasive tactics to get as much distance between me and the hazard. The dumber the driver, by my IQ accounting system, the quicker I want to escape their sphere of disaster influence. You probably do the same thing, either more or less aggressively than me.
Driver is in a 4(or more)-wheel vehicle: -5 points (How smart do you have to be to drive a cage?)
Driver is a cop. This class of government official has an inflated sense of driving skill, not reflected in performance. They are prone to make sudden, irrational moves when their radio distracts them. They regularly ignore stop signs and stop lights. They scare the crap out of other drivers, making everyone in their vicinity a little less skilled and attentive: -10 points.
Coffee, hairbrush, and/or cigarette in hand: -15 points for each item
Driver is tipped at 45 degrees, so that his (always a guy) head is right under the rear view mirror: -20 points (This appears to be a Minnesota thing, because I've never seen it anywhere else, but it always means the driver is drunk, stupid, physically incapable of holding himself upright, or all three. I treat this driving posture as a flashing "beware of idiot!" sign.)
Backwards baseball cap, blue hair, cowboy hat, or ski mask on driver's head: -25 points
Coffee in face or driver is most often looking in any direction other than the vehicle's path of travel: -30 points
Driver looking at self in rearview mirror with hairbrush, coffee, or cigarette in hand: -40 points
Cell phone in use or beer in hand: -50 points
"Start Seeing Motorcycles" or other pro-biking sticker on the vehicle: +2 points
I catch the driver's eyes in the rear view mirror: +10 points
After seeing me once, the driver looks again every few moments to see if I'm still there: +10 more points
Both hands on wheel, head and eyes in motion: +25 points
The driver is towing a trailer full of dirt bikes: +50 points
After I've made the above calculations and classifications, I use a modified version of the David Roth (ex-Van Halen frontman, current-EMT-has-been) crowd intelligence rule. I roughly count the number of vehicles in a 100' distance, front to back and both sides, of the vehicle and divide the driver's IQ by that number. In heavy traffic, everyone is a menace to my safety, almost by logical default. I'm the least likely vehicle on the road to harm the passengers of another vehicle, so I'm in the logical space for an escape route for other vehicles.
Just to calibrate your appreciation of my scoring system, an article in Scientific American Magazine once stated, ""Adults in the bottom 5% of the IQ distribution (below 75) are very difficult to train and are not competitive for any occupation on the basis of ability. . . " and "Persons of average IQ (between 90 and 100) are not competitive for most professional and executive-level work but are easily trained for the bulk of jobs in the American economy. . . " That's pretty cold, isn't it? Nature and the highway are cold as the floor of an icehouse. As far as my own survivability is concerned, a web article on IQ gave me the following information about the brainpower behind the numbers and I've added my own "Estimated Driving Skills" column to assess my own risk based on the driver's IQ:
|IQ Range||Estimated Driving Skills (Alert Level Color Code)|
|Below 30||Flashing Red: This driver is clearly an unpredictable moron, an outrageous hazard at any speed, expect any damn idiot move from this rolling example of chaos theory. Ultimate alert.|
|30 to 50||Red: Mostly unpredictable, slow-witted, prone to panic and irrational lane changes. High alert.|
|50 to 60||Orange: Unless a slight change in traffic, road condition, or the moon's position relative to the sun occurs, you can probably count on this driver to remain stable. Check for distracted behavior every second or two.|
|60 to 74||Yellow: Loud noises, bright colors, anything sparkly or in motion will distract this driver, but he/she will probably do something mildly predictable when panic occurs. Moderate alert.|
|74 to 89||Blue: Mostly, this driver is stable. Pay special attention to this driver at intersections, on curves, and near fast food entrances. Fairly low alert.|
|89 to 100||Green: Probably not a risk, if anyone else in the above categories is sharing the road, this driver warrants minimal attention. I'd still avoid spending any time in an adjacent lane with this driver.|
|Above 100||Invisible: The chances are slim that this driver provides much risk. Based on past experience, one of these guys will probably be who kills me.|
I realize these generalization are culturally "unfair," "biased," and even irrational. They are based on my nearly half-million miles of motorcycling and they are habitual. I constantly and automatically balance my belief that most people are decent and well-intentioned and that most drivers are nuts and "out to get me." My riding state boarders on paranoia, I'll admit. My confidence in my ability to deal with these contradictions varies with the road conditions and my concentration. You'd think that this would take the fun out of riding a motorcycle and it does put a damper on outright highway euphoria, but I'm disinclined to that mental state as you might have noticed. Riding a motorcycle is risky and that's part of the attraction. However, there is a definite line between assuming risk and committing suicide and evaluating the folks I share the road with is part of my risk assessment.