On US drivers

So over a long weekend, I drove between 1100-1200 miles from Boston to New York, to Washington D.C., to Monticello, to Washington D.C., to Edison, to New York, and back to Boston. In that time, I saw all of the usual appallingly bad examples of driving common in the US. Let me itemize a few that particularly annoy me:

1). Separation distances aren’t known or understood generally. People seem to have absolutely no issue driving a mere few feet behind you when at speed on the highway, but then often drive with wider distance in urban areas. They often seem to have absolutely no comprehension of breaking distances, and so on. Trucks do the same thing, at speed, without engaging any intellectual thought.

2). The speed limit is viewed with the usual contempt, but it is miss-directed such that vehicles generally speed less than in Europe (where limits are higher anyway) but ignore construction speed limits and fail to slow at tolls and other places where safety limits have been imposed. The net result is that drivers react with incredible hostility toward those who slow down in such situations. The new law in Massachusetts (and many states) requiring drivers to slow down and move over for stopped emergency vehicles also seems to be widely ignored.

3). High beams (non-dipped lights) are frequently used indiscriminately on the highway with no regard for other drivers and the impact it will have on their ability to see. Some people do think to adjust their lights when there are oncoming cars, but not while sitting and tailing you (some of these lights are so unpleasantly bright that they can’t be mitigated through the mirror setting), or driving past you and hitting you with glare in your side mirrors.

4). Signals are generally taken as a sign of weakness. Many people never signal at all (their license should be revoked), many frequently change lanes way too often (recently attributed in a study as a significant cause of accidents – that should incur a fine), many trucks do the same (disgustingly dangerous – should result in criminal prosecution).

5). People don’t plan ahead. Rather than reading signs, they’re drinking coffee and juggling fast food without watching the road (probably talking on the cellphone aswell). Then last minute lane changes result in massive tailbacks while people try to get in the lane they should have been in ten minutes before.

Those are just a few of the things that annoy me about the non-standards of driving in the US. It’s not that Americans are bad people in any way, it’s that this country has no real national standards for driving, nor an adequate standardized national driving exam (“drivers ed” is typically non-compulsory for adults). Law enforcement often seem to convey a sense of caring less about things that actually cause accidents (lack of signalling, tailgating, etc.), preferring instead to generate revenue by meeting speeding citation quotas, and missing the point.


2 Responses to “On US drivers”

  1. Joe says:

    “breaking distances” – while apt, I think you mean braking.

    How much actual driving have you done in the UK, Jon? You do make it sound worse than the UK, but try being a biker for a while. Your observation skills become much sharper and you notice even more (if possible) idiocy.

  2. John says:

    What about passing on the right, and people going 10 below the speed limit in the fast lane? I’m sure you came across that…

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