Wikinvest Wire

Crazy Drivers and a Crazy Jobs Report

Friday, April 06, 2007

Having returned from parts north of here late yesterday, it is a good feeling to know that the round trip just completed may never have to be made again.

Drivers are getting crazier.

The growing age gap between yours truly and the twenty-something motorists on the road today surely has much to do with it, but, with each long trip like this the perception that the country's roads are less safe as a result of a generation of drivers trained on video games is confirmed anew.

Generally hanging out in the fast lane and moving along at whatever pace seems reasonable (usually 75mph or so), time after time, vehicles approached quickly from behind only to remain about 10 feet off of the back bumper until a hasty retreat to the middle lane was accomplished and they quickly passed.

The sight of the rear view mirror suddenly occupied by a young man in a big truck or a young woman in a sedan or SUV with a cell phone to her ear - these images were equally frightening.

We're getting out of here just in time.

The vast majority of drivers today seem to be quite reasonable, but aside from the 95 mph crowd described above, there is another group that is particularly bothersome - at least to me.

These are the "latchers-on", for lack of a better word - the people who, instead of using their own cruise control, pick out another car and go at whatever speed the other driver goes.

Now, realizing that many people fail to ever use their rear-view mirror, it may come as a surprise that those who do use it get tired of looking at the same car for miles and miles and miles.

It's not clear what they are thinking, but my thoughts on this subject are pretty simple - let's do this separately.

Time after time, after adjusting the cruise control up to 85 mph (much to the displeasure of the copilot), the "latcher-on" stayed close behind. The same result was seen when 70 mph was the chosen pace.

Lane changes didn't seem to matter either - they would stay back there 8-10-15 car lengths and adjust accordingly. Only after slowing to below 60 mph would some sort of threshold be cleared where the driver would begin looking for a new host.

Acquaintances have actually told me that this is their preferred approach to freeway driving - it's weird if you ask me.

Aside from the driving, it was a good trip. We decided against the ergonomically challenged rental home with the gorgeous views and opted instead for much more practical digs on a lot that sloped less than 60 degrees.

We can always walk over to see the view.

The Labor Report

What the heck is going on in the labor market? A total of 180,000 jobs were created in February led by 56,000 in construction and 36,000 in retail trade.

What year is this - 2004?

As usual there were significant revisions to the data for the last two months, both the January and February data being revise up 16,000 to 162,000 and 113,000, respectively.

They say that the pickup in construction hiring is a result of the weather-induced slowdown in February. Another possible explanation is that home builders are rushing to complete what they've already started before lending standards are tightened too much.

We'll see.

The bulk of the new spots were in nonresidential specialty trade (34,000) as opposed to drywall nailers for single family homes (11,000), but it still constitutes a heady reversal from last month's overall decline of 61,000.

It was funny to watch the CNBC crew lamenting the closure of the stock market in observance of Good Friday. "This is another reason why we're losing ground to foreign stock exchanges", someone commented.

If only we could all be trading stocks today ...


Anonymous said...

California highways are too wild for me. Last month, when I took my kids to Disneyland, I decided to fly from where I live in Silicon Valley rather than experience the exact same frustrations you described on the I-5.

I moved to California from the New York metropolitan area where speed limits are 55 MPH and traffic cruises mostly at 60-65. So California's 65 and 70 MPH limits are fine with me, and I actually don't feel safe driving any faster than that. Once time I had a CHP officer at the table next to me at McDonalds,and I remarked to him about how fast most Californians drive and asked what speed would get you a ticket. He said that he has discretion on that but rarely ticketed anyone below 75, and that he himself drives 80 MPH on I-5 when off duty. Then he went on to inform me that he also tickets for driving too SLOW, and that I have a responsibility not to slow the pace of traffic and create a hazard. I couldn't believe it.

I guess it truly is the Wild West out here. Why do we let CHP sell those special KA4993 and 11-99 society license plate frames and badges which are essentially a license to speed? Check out Welcome to California where the laws are really just suggestions. Except, of course, for the tax laws.

Anonymous said...

It really is crazy out there and I think you're dead right about the video games. It doesn't help matters that cars are made so good these days that almost anything will do 80 or 90 without shaking itself apart like cars would 20 years ago.

Anonymous said...

A co-worker of mine got a ticket on I5 going 100 mph. The judge couldn't give her traffic school, she was going so fast. Fine? $390.

TJandTheBear said...

Count me as another "latcher-on", provided the lead vehicle is moving fast enough (usually 80+). I stay well back, of course.

The main idea is to let them smoke out any potential trouble lying in wait ahead. ;-)

TJandTheBear said...

p.s.: Tim, did you see your site plugged in "Financial Armageddon"?

Anonymous said...

The United States Uniform Vehicle Code states:

"Upon all roadways any vehicle proceeding at less than the normal speed of traffic at the time and place and under the conditions then existing shall be driven in the right-hand lane then available for traffic..."

In other words, if you're going 60, 70, 80, or whatever, you should not stay in the left lane. If everyone would use the right lane for passing, slower drivers wouldn't be worried about cars on their bumper, and faster drivers wouldn't be annoyed with slow cars in the passing lane.

Slower Traffic Keep Right
(It's the law in Texas and most states.)

From Wikipedia

Tim said...

TJ - do you mean in the book? They sent me a copy but I haven't gotten around to reading it yet.

Anonymous said...

Traffic would be much better, if slow traffic shifted to the right lane.

In CA now, the operating principle is "faster than right lets me drive left".

If traffic in the left lane is moving at 70, and the right lane is moving at 60, and if you are trying to drive at 65, you belong in the right lane. Move to the right, and slow down to 60. Or speed up to 70 and drive on the left.

Just because you are driving faster than the right lane is not reason enough to drive in the left lane.

Most people cannot bring themselves - one single vehicle - to slow down and adjust to the right lane speed. So they drive on the left.

Yup. And then try to adjust the *entire left lane traffic* to slow down to the *their* desired speed.

And then turn around and complain that people drive crazy.

Unknown said...

When margins are tight construction is much more seasonal..

Anonymous said...

you forgot to mention that these idiots that follow you are always in your blid spot!

what scares me is that 55-70 year old women seem to think they need to drive 85mph now. i think those drivers are worse than 18 year old males now............

Anonymous said...

Left lane is for passing. Right lane is for following. Please stay out of the left lane if you are not going fast enough to pass cars traveling on your right. Otherwise, you are what is called a left lane bandit.

Anonymous said...

"A co-worker of mine got a ticket on I5 going 100 mph."

All depends on where you live. In N.H. 100 mph will get you a suspension and perhaps time in jail. And your car will be seized and auctioned. As for California, $10 gallon gasoline would cure the 95 mph crowd.

Anonymous said...

One tactic I've used many times for going really fast is to team up with another car. Leave about 3-5 seconds of separation depending on how fast you're going. The one in front concentrates on scanning forward while the one in back concentrates on scanning backward.

Anonymous said...

"Left lane is for passing. Right lane is for following. Please stay out of the left lane if you are not going fast enough to pass cars traveling on your right. Otherwise, you are what is called a left lane bandit."

Agreed. European drivers are crazy also but they follow this rule and do fine.

Go for the place with the view you only live once :)

john_law_the_II said...

tim, you were mentioned in a stagflation article, but if you read the article, it contradicts itself.
it says we may have stagflation, but still keep your money in stocks and bonds. no more than 10% in inflation. the article also says that the fed is paranoid unnecessarily about inflation.

Start saving, a new period of 'stagflation' may be just around the cornerBy Linda Stern  |  April 6, 2007

john_law_the_II said...

Start saving, a new period of 'stagflation' may be just around the corner

"Remarks in the Fed's latest policy statement "just scream stagflation" writes investment blogger Tim Iacono. The word "stagflation" was mentioned some 2,480 times in recent blog postings, according to online monitor"

"the Fed's fear of inflation borders on paranoia"

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Tim said...

There are very few rules here, but one of them is that you have to post under something other than anonymous if you want to call me names.

Anonymous said...

As a proud latcher-on (thank you, for leading the way, by the way :-)) here are my reasons.

1. The guy out front does the hard work, so I can just follow without much thinking. This frees up my mind to do other thinking.

2. No chance of getting a ticket.

3. Many "lead" drivers are proud, and are actually happy to be leading. By not passing them, I make them happy knowing that they are going at the "correct" speed. That builds good karma for me, as long as I stay a discreet distance behind, so I don't annoy them.

So why lead when you can follow!

Anonymous said...

Maybe if Californians learned to time their entry onto the freeway, say by identifying a gap in the traffic and adjusting their speed to merge into it, then the slower traffic, you know, guys like Tim who only go five miles over the limit, might actually be able to use the right lane without a near-accident every mile. Until then, please avoid the right lane, Tim. I'd miss your column if you had a bad wreck.

Anonymous said...

If you're only gonna do 75 in the fast lane, just as a courtesy, you should tow a ramp that extends up over top of your car, past the hood, so people like me can just go over top of you instead of having to pass on the right.

Anonymous said...

Just like in the stock market, people like to herd. Followers will follow until your leadership is proven very bad.

Also... please stay out of the left lane unless you are passing someone. thanks.

Aaron Krowne said...

In my opinion all of these traffic complaints stem from there being too much traffic on the roads relative to what they were designed to handle.

People get nasty when it's crowded.

Re/the jobs report -- who the hell knows anymore. The birth/death models will keep producing phantom growth until some bureaucrat declares us officially in a contraction (which I guess will be approximately when the Democrats take the presidency, or when civilization collapses, whichever comes first).

There must be hundreds of thousands of housing jobs that are effectively nuked but not registering statistically.

Tim said...

For all of you "only use the left lane to pass" idealists, please realize that this is California I'm talking about, not the Autobahn.

If it's daytime and you are able to do 75 in the fast lane of just about any California freeway (i.e., not during rush hour), by definition, you will be passing vehicles to your right about once every ten seconds, making constant lane changes both impractical and dangerous.

Anonymous said...

Maybe you ought to let someone else pass? Or are you the definition of speed -- no matter how old you get? Anybody who goes faster than you is automatically crazy so of course it's your job to prevent them from going faster by any means possible. You were also deputized by the police with this role? Ah the great arrogant rich american who thinks the road is made for him, driving along in his SUV, making sure that no one else can pass. Good on ya mate, that's right neighborly. Maybe if you throw enough sand in the gears things will get better in this country.

We are all real impressed by the pompous old men, and stupid women who refuse to be civil on the freeway. Real impressed. And we love the self-righteousness with which they enforce their rude arrogance, very, very impressive.

Ah yes, the wisdom of the elders. The world really does revolve around you.

Oh very good, still more self serving justification: All those 'idealists' are so stupid, only I have a handle on what's real. If you are so right how come you are finding people hanging on your bumper to be a problem? Sounds like you are put-putter who thinks he's right and everyone else is wrong.

Anonymous said...

Hey Tim, It looks like you should stick to writing about the economy!

Anonymous said...

Maybe Tim really was writing about the economy. The guy who gets on the freeway and thinks damn the laws and everyone else is not that much different from a guy like Casey Serin who takes out one fraudulent mortgage after another. Believe it or not, laws have a purpose. Crash your car at high speed and you might kill me too. Take out loans you can't repay, and you might crash my economy too.

Tim said...

I'll stick to economics and finance from now on...

TJandTheBear said...


Check the "Investments" chapter, page 155.

You keep on writing about anything you d@mn well please, too!

p.s.: FTR, I try to use the left lane only for passing, too.

Unknown said...

Undercover cops will drive up your *ss like that to get you to speed up. Really it is wise just to get over if someone is approaching you quickly.

Tim said...

Thanks TJ

One final comment on the "crazy driver" gripe that seems to have been misinterpreted, at least to some degree.

I am not a "fast lane blocker" - the guy who goes 60 or 65 in the left lane when most everyone else wants to go 75 or 80. I go with the flow and if there is little traffic, I'm more than happy to stay in the right lane.

If I happen to be in the left lane and I see someone approaching slowly - doing say 85 - then I move to the slow lane at the earliest opportunity and they go by. No problem.

The crazy drivers I'm referring to are the ones who want to do 95 or 100 and come up behind one car after another very quickly, hang ten feet from their back bumper and either wait for the driver to move, or make a break for it in the right lane when the opportunity arises.

If this was not clear in the original post, then it should be now.

As for the "latchers-on", I don't consider them to be crazy and Sidney's comments provide some clarity on the subject.

Anonymous said...

Crazy driving? Come to Miami....

Panzner's Financial Armageddon is a great book, read it ASAP!


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