driving cultures
January 22, 2021 10:28 AM   Subscribe

Does where you live have a driving style, dominant driving culture, or set of unspoken rules for drivers? Are all big city drivers more likely to be aggressive? Of course, not all freeway drivers in LA are hellaciously aggressive, but on balance, there's more 90mph swerving in and out of lanes. I noticed that "Drive Friendly the Texas Way" did seem to mean that drivers were more likely to make room for others to merge in traffic. In Arizona, though, it seemed like the majority of drivers passed on the right even when there was ample room to pass on the left.

One example I am certain of: In Waimanalo on O‘ahu, local drivers on the main highway will stop to let in drivers waiting at stop signs in the side streets, since it can take super long for a big enough gap in traffic to turn left onto the highway.
posted by spamandkimchi to Society & Culture (82 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
I have driven in at least half the states in the nation and customs absolutely differ between regions. Highway and road design also differ, as do traffic laws in some cases!
posted by restless_nomad at 10:33 AM on January 22 [7 favorites]


Chicago has so few speed limit signs because all main streets are 30mph unless otherwise posted Here is an abc7 news article about it). When I moved here I was so confused.
posted by AlexiaSky at 10:34 AM on January 22 [2 favorites]


Atlanta: slow and aggressive. Someone will always insist on going 3-5mph below the speed limit in the left hand lane on the freeway (which has at its skinniest 5 lanes and often more like 8-9 lanes) and will object (usually with glares, sometimes with hand gestures or honking) to being passed.

No one uses turn signals; turn signals are perceived as a sign of weakness. You do not wave when you get into a lane because no one let you into the lane, instead you wedged your way in when the driver behind you wasn’t paying enough attention and they will irritably ride your bumper for a few seconds after you merge.
posted by arnicae at 10:35 AM on January 22 [3 favorites]


In NJ, people will actually get out of the passing lane, it's real but sadly quite limited to NJ.

In NY near NYC, you need to get used to someone driving in your backseat. And that the person in front of you will brake at anything and everything. Someone else will be zipping in and out of lanes, fruitlessly. Because someone else is at the front of a very long line, aggressively only going 70 mph. It's sidewalk behavior, but at highway speeds.
posted by Dashy at 10:36 AM on January 22 [4 favorites]


In California people sit in the left-hand lane like it's a rent-controlled apartment. I think some people plan to die of old age in the passing lane. At least in the Bay Area.

In Ontario the highway speed limit is supposed to be an upper limit but in practice it's a lower limit. But people mostly move out of the left lane when possible, but of course within 100km of the GTA it's not actually possible.
posted by GuyZero at 10:42 AM on January 22 [8 favorites]


I honestly don't think anyone is capable of objectively talking about driving styles in different parts of the US--as far as I can tell, most people's characterizations are strongly affected by how they feel about a place and its people, or (like with airlines or computer brands) how memorable their worst experience was.

That said, eastern Contra Costa County in California suffers from a compulsion to pass on the right even if all lanes are open, and to run red lights even on a left turn. I have data.*


*I do not have data.
posted by wintersweet at 10:47 AM on January 22 [10 favorites]


Drivers in New York, New Jersey, Missouri, Michigan and Ohio never use their turn signals, drive the wrong speed in the wrong lane, and generally drive like maniacs. Also everywhere I’ve ever lived has people who call rolling a stop sign “the Placename stop”.

I’m starting to have suspicions about people.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 10:49 AM on January 22 [18 favorites]


NYC and Tri-State driver here with big pickup truck. Having lived in 4 other states, there are definite differences. I actually like NY the best. You know to expect the most aggressive move possible. Can anticipate consistent aggressive behavior. Inconsistency is the worst and dangerous. I drove in Shanghai once. That was insane.

Knowing what to expect is key. It is like Chicago politics. Want something done, pay off your Alderman with a campaign donation. In NY, no ONE person to pay off. In NY driving, expect to be cutoff, expect to find people going slow in the left lane, expect to see the car behind you grill in your rearview mirror.
posted by AugustWest at 10:55 AM on January 22 [6 favorites]


People in Pittsburgh do the "Pittsburgh Left": when they're waiting to turn left at a light (and there isn't a turn arrow present), they'll go left as soon as the light turns green, and drivers on the other side wait for one or two cars to go through this way before obeying the green light.
posted by jabes at 10:57 AM on January 22 [13 favorites]


Baltimore is riddled with red light cameras (or was when I lived there, anyway), so a lot of people will slam on the brakes at a yellow light that would otherwise be totally reasonable to go through. I was very confused when I first moved to Massachusetts, where people routinely gun it through yellow (and sometimes red) lights. And this is small-town Mass, nowhere near Boston.

(The red light running pisses me off, but not as much as the red light cameras, whose legality I still don't understand.)
posted by catoclock at 11:01 AM on January 22 [1 favorite]


Yeah was gonna say the Pittsburgh left is real, and as someone who just moved there, it really pissed me off. Still does, actually.

Louisville, KY has the slow merge, where someone will simply mosey into another lane or turn without any signal or indication that they are doing so, because everyone drives completely spaced out like they are the only ones on the road. But if you drive there long enough you can eventually tell when someone is about to do it.
posted by Young Kullervo at 11:02 AM on January 22 [1 favorite]


Salt Lake City metro area has two main patterns I've noticed that I haven't seen in other medium/large cities: camping in the right (exit) lanes, and lack of desire or ability to zipper merge.

Nearly every time I drive on the freeway, you get stuck trying to merge onto the freeway by someone who is driving 50 and will remain at 50 in the right lane until their exit 7 miles away, instead of going the posted 70 mph in a middle lane.

Zipper merges here are a joke - instead of merging close to the lane reduction, people see a lane merge warning (even miles away) and get into the lane that is staying open. This means there is a huge line in the open lane, and no one in the lane that will close in a couple miles. Anyone who goes down the lane that will close will get dirty looks, the finger, or some ass in a big truck driving on top of the lane line so they can't pass them. I think this is based on some sense of fairness, but the reality is that filling the closing lane up to the merge point actually reduces traffic, so this pursuit of "we're in line already so get behind us" is really just making traffic worse.
posted by _DB_ at 11:07 AM on January 22 [6 favorites]


I live and drive in New England. There is no unspoken set of rules. There are no rules, really. I was actually just telling a co-worker about how, in three years of living here, I've seen people driving in reverse on the highway on three separate occasions in three different places. People do what they want here. One time I was driving behind a guy who would run every stop sign but stop at every green light.

The thing that immediately sticks out to me, but apparently not to anyone else I've ever spoken to about it, is how when you see a sign saying "right lane ends merge left", invariably someone will change lanes into that right lane trying to pass before the lane ends. Even if there are four other lanes on the left with no traffic.

I used to joke that the reason traffic was so bad is because every mile or two the people in the right three lanes have to stop to let the people in the left lane exit. That's not really a joke though.

Nobody's mentioned the breakdown lane yet, which is surprising because it's common enough that the Massachusetts DOT actually makes signs about it. If you've never lived in New England, you probably refer to it as "the shoulder", and don't consider it part of the actual road, but up here people drive on it for miles as if that's a normal thing to do.

I've only ever driven this once, but once I took the Farty-Far from St. Louis to Tulsa, and it was the calmest and most courteous driving experience I'd ever had.
posted by kevinbelt at 11:11 AM on January 22 [4 favorites]


The thing about Boston drivers is not just that they are aggressive, honk at you .06 seconds after a light turns green, yell out the window at you, cut you off, and are just generally assholes.

The thing is, it's not actually their fault; there was an article years ago describing how the streets of Boston, laid out by cows in 1630, literally make drivers crazy. Oh, you want to get off at your exit on route 93 in Somerville? After the ramp from Storrow drive has just dumped you into the left lane? You have about 1000 feet to get over four lanes of traffic. Need to enter that oval-shaped rotary on the Fellsway from one of the side streets? You have to pull past your stop sign in order to see the oncoming traffic, during which moment you will probably get hit by someone who's trying to do the same thing from one of the other side streets. Assholes are made, not born.

The Boston Driver's Handbook, originally written 30 years ago, is updated from time to time and is still very relevant.
posted by Melismata at 11:12 AM on January 22 [10 favorites]


I drove in Miami exactly once and I will never, ever do it again. I'd always thought Dave Barry was joking, but he was not. I was there for truly three days and saw the following:

- Freeway speeds in the same section of freeway ranging from 30mph to 100+ (all the time)
- When I was stopped at a red light, the car behind me WENT AROUND ME to run the red light, dodging cars and pedestrians the whole time (that was the most egregious, as there was plenty of opposing traffic, but running a red light that was "too long" appeared commonplace)
- A car REVERSED DOWN THE FREEWAY to get to an exit
- People changing 3-4 lanes on the freeway at the same time, just like, on a diagonal

Look, I'm sure some of this is bias against Florida, but I have never seen that kind of shit anywhere else.
posted by goodbyewaffles at 11:20 AM on January 22 [6 favorites]


In Arizona, though, it seemed like the majority of drivers passed on the right even when there was ample room to pass on the left.

This is an interestingly worded sentence. It could give the impression that it's standard practice to pass on the right in AZ. I don't think it is. What does seem to be common is to drive as though there aren't any other cars on the road. That means, drive as fast as you dare, don't use turn turn signals, tailgate to your heart's content, and pass on whatever side requires the least amount of effort at the moment. This all seems to get worse in the winter when the snowbirds arrive (and bring their home area's bad driving habits with them), and in the summer when people are in a hurry to get out of the heat.

Regarding speed cameras, anecdotally it seemed like the ones on the freeways around the Phoenix metro area caused more accidents because speeders would slam on their brakes as soon as they saw one and the tailgating problem would come into play. Apparently however, studies have shown that the freeway cameras didn't/don't have much of an effect on accidents at all and have served mainly as a money grab. People still drove over the speed limit, they were just more careful not to do it within range of the cameras.
posted by fuse theorem at 11:23 AM on January 22


Oh, there's also this maneuver that New Englanders do. I don't know if it has a name, but I see it daily. If you come up to a stop sign and you're planning to turn left, you pull your car out into the intersection so that it blocks all four (or, you know, sixteen, because it's New England) directions of traffic. I'm gonna have to do an ASCII image to show you what I mean.
			|	|	|
			|		|
			|	|	|
			|		|
------------------------                 ---------------
turning here
- - - - - - - - -- - - -       \--\      - - - - - - - 
                                \  \
------------------------         \  \    ---------------
                	|         \--\  | stop sign
			|       |       |
			|		|
			|	|	|
Please excuse the orthogonal streets; that's not what New England is like, but ASCII doesn't have appropriate characters to represent the tangled mess that is a New England intersection.
posted by kevinbelt at 11:29 AM on January 22 [13 favorites]


Grew up in Massachusetts, did most of my driving on Cape Cod and in the suburbs west of Boston.

The #1 terrible-but-necessary habit I learned as a teen is the Massachusetts Left, most often employed while making a left-hand turn out of a parking lot and onto a main road in cases where there isn't a traffic light.

There are a ton of two-lane highways with way too many cars on them, and the average MA driver is an aggressive asshole who also isn't paying attention. As such, if you try and wait politely to make a left-hand turn out of a parking lot, you will be there for an eternity.

So instead, you wait for a break in traffic on the "near" lane. Then you "stick your nose out" and pull into that lane, effectively blocking traffic, until a break appears in the "far" lane and you're able to turn left.

USUALLY if you're already blocking traffic, someone will take pity on you and slow down enough to let you complete your turn in a timely manner.

I grew up thinking this was a completely normal thing to do, until I was driving some friends around in my early twenties and they were all horrified by my making a left-hand turn this way.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 11:30 AM on January 22 [6 favorites]


NYC drivers are absolutely aggressive compared to everyone else. Drive too fast, take the lane, butt into traffic, turn too fast, don't yield to pedestrians, etc... If you hesitate for even a moment when the light turns green, the jerk behind you will honk. That jerk will also honk if you drive the speed limit, and will drive around you into oncoming traffic to pass you.

Whenever I leave, I am always amazed at how much more calmly drivers from other regions proceed. It's one of the few things I would love to change about my hometown.

When it comes to laws, there is no right on red in NYC, and very few signs mention it. It's just something you have to know.
posted by soy_renfield at 11:32 AM on January 22 [2 favorites]


A lot of the narcissism of small differences here, as people compare regional driving styles in the US.

As an outsider who now lives here, let me tell you the two defining characteristics of driving culture across these United States, in comparison to western Europe:
  • Undertaking, i.e. passing on the right, is considered a sane, reasonable thing to do rather than an extremely dangerous and illegal thing to do.
  • Here are the rules for turn signals in the US: If you're going to turn, you can turn your blinkers on, but it's totally optional. If you're not going to turn, you can turn your blinkers off, but that's also totally optional. Have fun with your blinkers!

posted by caek at 11:37 AM on January 22 [15 favorites]


Kevinbelt, there's a diagram exactly like that in the Boston Driver's Handbook.
posted by Melismata at 11:39 AM on January 22 [4 favorites]


*tears of laughter* Mr. Kouti and I moved to the Bay Area a year and a half ago from Boston, and the difference between Masshole drivers and Bay Area drivers was one he started remarking upon almost instantaneously, because he found California drivers so hard to understand after 25 years in the Northeast. Our consensus is that for Massachusetts drivers, what's the most "asshole" move you can think of? The other driver is going to do it; drive with that expectation and you'll do fine. Left turn from the far right lane going across three lanes of traffic? Merging into the lane that's ending to try to get around one more car? Making a U-turn during the cars' red light phase of a Barnes dance when there are pedestrians peppered throughout the entire intersection? Those are all Mass driver moves.

But most Massachusetts drivers pass on the left, at least on the highway, and then mostly get back into the non-passing lane once they've passed the slower drivers in that lane. And if they stay in the passing lane for an extended period, they're doing it intentionally to punish a driver that's pissing them off.

California drivers, OTOH, can be characterized by "oblivious." They don't see that you've had your turn signal on and have been trying to merge for the last half mile, they just change their speed and behavior in ways that make no sense to anybody but them, but make it hard to understand when a given move would be safe. Passing lane? Left, right, take your pick. And at crosswalks, that car coming towards you? May stop, may not, isn't coming at a particularly high speed unless they're one of those douchey "light" trucks where the top of the hood is over my head as a fully grown adult, but is the driver actually paying enough attention to see you and give you your right of way as a pedestrian? Flip a coin! At least in MA, you *know* the driver isn't going to stop, and can pretty reliably plan accordingly.

Also, WAY more Californians personalize their cars, probably because they spend so much time in them. I walk down my block and half the cars have personalized license plates, mirror jewelry, detailing, multiple bumper stickers, or a non-default color. In MA, probably 20% cars of cars on the road are your bog-standard nondescript silver sedan, and another 20% are the suburban SUV version of that car, and the only way you can differentiate between them is by license plate. There's a reason Mr. Kouti finally put a bumper sticker on his silver sedan, he was tired of not being able to find his car in parking lots, even with things like parking apps being invented in the last decade or so!
posted by Pandora Kouti at 11:49 AM on January 22 [6 favorites]


- Freeway speeds in the same section of freeway ranging from 30mph to 100+ (all the time)
- When I was stopped at a red light, the car behind me WENT AROUND ME to run the red light, dodging cars and pedestrians the whole time (that was the most egregious, as there was plenty of opposing traffic, but running a red light that was "too long" appeared commonplace)
- A car REVERSED DOWN THE FREEWAY to get to an exit
- People changing 3-4 lanes on the freeway at the same time, just like, on a diagonal


I have seen all of these things in & around Cleveland, OH. Admittedly, over the course of some 25-30 years, not 3 days.

Like r_n, I've driven in a lot of states & cities, and while there are definitely regional vibes/common practices/unspoken rules, this is not the same thing as just noticing and complaining about shitty driving. There's a LOT of shitty drivers in a LOT of, well, ALL states.


Nthing the "Pittsburgh left", the New England/Boston/Massachusetts "stick your nose out to turn left" thing, that NYC driving requires a sort of calmly aggressive style (you don't actually have to yell and honk (although I do honk just on principle every time I drive into the city), you just have to instantly nose yourself into any gap you see.)


One Cleveland thing that I have not really seen anywhere else (and I've looked) I call "The Cleveland Creep." This is where you stop at an intersection waaaaaaaaaaay behind the line or the car in front of you and then just sort of periodically drift forward a little at a time.

One assumes folks start doing this to make sure they don't crash into the car in front of them when braking on snowy/slushy/icy roads, and to have some momentum going when starting forward on same, but a metric fuckton of people here do it 365 days of the year no matter the weather.
posted by soundguy99 at 11:52 AM on January 22 [4 favorites]


Toronto: do not merge onto the highway until you are forced to do so by the disappearance of the onramp. Do not accelerate on the onramp; that's what the highway is for.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 11:54 AM on January 22 [1 favorite]


If you want to experience left-lane camping, passive-aggressive horn honking, a belief that turning on your hazard lights gives you carte blanche to double park, and complete oblivion about what to do at a four-way stop then the Puget Sound is the place for you!

Some of these behaviors are exacerbated by odd highway design (we have a lot on on-ramps and exits on the left side of the highway and many crazy all-way stop intersections with 5+ streets all converging at once), but mostly it's just idiocy and entitlement.
posted by brookeb at 11:56 AM on January 22 [4 favorites]


There was a song parody on the beloved radio station of my youth about how we drive in Nashville: Drive Like A Nashvillian
posted by oomny at 11:59 AM on January 22


Re Massachusetts drivers passing on the left or the right: In my experience, they pass on whatever side doesn't have someone driving 20+mph below the speed limit. Usually that's the left, but not always. When someone in the left lane of the highway is driving 30mph, I can't really blame them for passing on the right. That's the most understandable thing New England drivers do.
posted by kevinbelt at 12:15 PM on January 22


Not from there, but when I visited Oregon, I found the most courteous drivers I have ever experienced in my life--did the zipper thing, slowed down and yielded when they saw someone trying to get in...
posted by Rumi'sLeftSock at 12:15 PM on January 22 [1 favorite]


My girlfriend and I spent fifteen months driving across the U.S. in an RV (and our tow vehicle, a Mini Cooper). There are absolutely 100% different driving styles in different pasts of the country. I think I've rambled on about this in past questions on this topic here at AskMe. The differences aren't always what people think they are either. Some of the differences are due to local laws, yes. Some are due to local custom. But they're very real and can be very scary if you're not aware of them.

For instance, although pedestrians by law have the right of way in nearly all (all?) states, that doesn't mean shit in the southeast. Want to cross the road in Georgia or Florida, even if you have the light and the clear right of way? Too bad. The law doesn't matter. Cars go first, and that's just how it is. If you complain about this to law enforcement (as I did a couple of times), they'll look at you like you're crazy. But where I'm from (Portland, Oregon), pedestrians ABSOLUTELY always have the right of way. You can get big fines for violating this law. (I almost got run over in a crosswalk in northern Michigan too. I was crossing legally.)

That's just one example. Many, many others exist.

And the worst driving I saw during that fifteen month trip? That's a tough call. Orlando drivers were terrible (although the locals always blame this on tourists, which I think is a cop-out). But I'd have to say that drivers in Nashville scared the shit out of me. At the time (mid 2016), there was a huge "don't text and drive" campaign going on in the city, and I think that was the issue. People could NOT stay in their lanes. It was crazy. When I returned for a week in 2018, drivers were still bad.

And while I admit it could simply be personal bias, I think drivers here in Oregon are fairly good. Maybe they're not the best in the country, but they're generally polite and aware of others. They don't treat driving as a competition. Not always, mind you, and not everyone, but generally speaking. (This extends throughout the northwest, actually, although maybe not Seattle proper. Certainly into Idaho and Wyoming, though, until you get to Colorado.)
posted by jdroth at 12:18 PM on January 22 [1 favorite]


The only time you can go 90 on an LA freeway is at 2am. And yes, people do at that time. Otherwise there's only so aggressive you can be at 12mph next to someone you may spend the next mile beside.

Also, because our freeways are so bad about merging/splitting both right and left, sometimes in quick succession, plus there may or may not be an HOV lane, the whole "slow lane" and "fast lane" thing is a clusterfuck. Sometimes you are more or less simultaneously in a right and a left lane, and everyone passes on all sides.

On surface streets, LA does not have a lot of protected left turns - a green left arrow in which nobody coming your direction also has a green light. You get an unprotected green on the turn lane and just have to get up there fully into the middle of the intersection and be READY!! the moment you can risk turning.

The. Very. Moment. Do not hesitate, do not dawdle. You floor that shit, so the two cars behind you can also turn on the yellow and just as it turns red. This is the way. To that end, you generally do not expect to squeak a yellow going straight, because someone's going to be turning in front of you.

I wouldn't move to LA from some interim years in San Diego (after Texas, which loves a protected left) until I had come to terms with this behavior and stopped getting honked at during visits. Now I'm the one behind you in the turn lane screaming "HOW MUCH GREENER DO YOU THINK IT'S GONNA GET??"

Other than that, I actually find LA drivers pretty reasonable and low-aggression. There's the occasional asshole, but then again everybody knows you may not be able to get away for half a mile or more, so you kind of have to attempt some kind of manners.

Motorcycle lane-splitting is extremely jarring to anyone coming from states where that doesn't generally happen, and I live in constant terror of mirroring someone because they come up on you so fast and often constantly lane-switching so you don't know they're there until they're right there.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:23 PM on January 22 [10 favorites]


Yes yes yes, Pittsburgh left. I actually just wave people across at this point, because they're gonna go anyway.

Another Pittsburgh thing is that we often have ridiculously short onramps, or onramps with stop signs at the end. As a result, many folks are... skittish... about merging. Skittish being kind. We're not good about letting people merge in (the zipper merge before the Liberty Bridge is one of my highest blood pressure points) so there are a few parts of the highway that I try to avoid just to not come across someone attempting to go from a dead stop to highway speeds.
posted by librarianamy at 12:29 PM on January 22 [1 favorite]


I have 2 different driving experiences:

North east PA highways without much traffic - on the highways switching lanes without turn signals, going below 80 is frowned upon, if you are side by side with another vehicle on a 2 lane highway, staying the same speed so no other car can get around is an act of aggression.

CT on I-95 between Bridgeport and Stamford - expect to sit and wait during rush hour. Merging is every other car. You'll be stopped most of the time so keep your head up because if you don't move when space opens up ahead of you, you will get beeped at aggressively.

I now live in NYC and don't drive at all, but live directly on the FDR and the rule here seems to be honk your horn constantly and try to have the loudest engine possible.
posted by elvissa at 12:58 PM on January 22


I only have long-term experience in two places, Vancouver and Montreal, but they have very different cultures. I learned to drive in Vancouver and it seems similar to Oregon. Drivers generally stop to let pedestrians pass at crossings, even if unmarked. Most drivers use their blinkers, the speed limit is more or less respected. People tend to be polite for the most part.

In Montreal I learned that the overarching rule is that you can do whatever you like as long as you do it quickly. People routinely drive 20-30 km over the speed limit on city highways and many main roads. Blinkers are optional. It is also rare that anyone uses their horn. Merging can happen wherever or whenever. Pedestrians act like think they are cars, stand in the middle of the road, cross on reds. Despite this, if you are driving and a pedestrian is waiting to cross a street (even if they are standing in the road) it is often actually better NOT to stop your car. This is because the cars behind you won't know why you are stopping and may pass you on the right and mow the pedestrian down and/or the pedestrian will look at you with a confused expression on their face, not sure why on earth you would be giving them the right of way. Montreal, like NYC, has a rule that you can't turn right on a red light. Supposedly it is to protect pedestrians. Parking rules are notoriously opaque and road construction with orange cones everywhere is constant.
posted by Cuke at 1:00 PM on January 22 [1 favorite]


Having commute biked in several locations in BC and AB there are two distinct driver interactions while on a bike.

In cities with lots of bikes the people who see you treat you, more or less, like other cars in that they won't give you any special treatment.

In cities where I might be the only bike they've seen on the road that week a good percentage of drivers kind of freak out and treat you like a dog that wondered out on a freeway. And they end up being annoyingly/dangerous differential.
posted by Mitheral at 1:09 PM on January 22 [4 favorites]


Los Angeles is terribly lacking in left arrow signals. It's getting better but there are still a ton of intersection where they don't exist. So after the light turns red 2 or 3 cars will make their left. Often there will be several cars in the left hand turn lane who have to wait through two or three lights before they're able to turn. Coming from a place where left turn arrows are on pretty much everywhere it's incredibly frustrating. Just making the left turn towards my office can have me sitting at the light for 5-10 minutes.
posted by downtohisturtles at 1:15 PM on January 22 [4 favorites]


> Cuke: "I learned to drive in Vancouver and it seems similar to Oregon. Drivers generally stop to let pedestrians pass at crossings, even if unmarked." [...]

In Montreal [...] if you are driving and a pedestrian is waiting to cross a street (even if they are standing in the road) it is often actually better NOT to stop your car. This is because the cars behind you won't know why you are stopping and may pass you on the right and mow the pedestrian down and/or the pedestrian will look at you with a confused expression on their face, not sure why on earth you would be giving them the right of way.


Can confirm both of these and throw in Seattle as being similar to Oregon & Vancouver. I describe these two driver/pedestrian regimes as follows: In Montreal, the agreement between pedestrians and drivers is that pedestrians can and will cross wherever and whenever they want with the understanding that drivers will not slow down or yield to them unless absolutely necessary. Meanwhile, in the Pacific Northwest, pedestrians are expected to not jaywalk or cross against the light but, in exchange, drivers will yield very generously to pedestrians.

Speaking of generous yielding, I'll also offer that, in my experience, drivers in the Mountain View/Palo Alto, CA area will yield very generously to cyclists (e.g.: drivers waving bikers through at a 4-way stop even when they arrived first and had the right of way), to a degree that it was very noticeable to me. I'm not sure about or the rest of the South Bay Area since those were the only places I bicycled frequently.
posted by mhum at 1:18 PM on January 22 [2 favorites]


Lived on Oahu a few years and when I met my boyfriend, he seriously said to me, “Notice that nobody here beeps their horn.” I was like, umm okay, because it was never an issue where I’d lived either but then I realized his mainland experience was watching tv shows set in LA that featured massive traffic jams, engines overheating, and drivers leaning on their horns. So that was fine until one afternoon we were flying down the Nimitz and suddenly came upon a car stopped in the middle lane. He leaned out the window and screamed.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 1:47 PM on January 22 [4 favorites]


OK, here's a voice from Europe. Italy is famous for insane traffic, and I have seen some stuff, no-one takes traffic lights seriously, and there can be bicycles on car-only highways. But the thing is, everyone is very alert and considerate. When you get the anarchistic system, it works very well.
France, and especially Paris, is a whole other game. If you can survive driving in Paris, you can handle everything. It's all knives out. Cities all over the world famous for wild traffic are simple in comparison.
In Germany, there are highways with no speed limits, which is fun, but they are in no way universal. Mostly driving in Germany is strongly regulated and the rules are enforced with great rigor.
In Belgium, driving is just very strange. I have gotten lost there several times, because even road signs are highly politicized and infrastructure is a mystery.
I don't recall anything special about other European countries, so I assume they are just boringly sensible. I haven't been to all 27 EU countries, but maybe 22.
So in conclusion: for a European, I think there are two strange things about driving in the US, both of which are mentioned above: that cars rule -- in Europe pedestrians absolutely have the right of way, and that a lot of drivers are really slow, even in the left lane. I've driven in NY, Tennessee, VA, and Texas, so my experience is limited.
posted by mumimor at 1:53 PM on January 22 [4 favorites]


When I lived in Peoria, people were generally more chill when driving; they were more likely to let people in, they waved, they used their turn signals. BUT if the traffic got heavy (due to a special event, or a big accident, or a water main break), people lost their GODDAMNED MINDS and all became stressed-out road-rage machines.

In Chicago, people are more aggressive, and people drive a LOT faster on the highway, especially the Tri-State. I will calmly drive 30 mph behind a farm machine for ten miles on a rural highway posted 65 when I'm downstate, but some asshole is only going 70 mph in the leftmost lane on the Tri-State? WE LIVE IN A SOCIETY, THERE IS A SOCIAL CONTRACT, SPEED UP TO 80 AT LEAST OR GTFO. (Actual posted speed limits vary from 55 to 70; studies repeatedly show fewer than 5% of drivers on the Tri-State obey the posted speed limit even when it's 70.) Otoh, being stuck in traffic is annoying, but nobody loses their mind about it and starts trying to bull their car out of the jam by force.

Also I feel like you can tell people who've regularly done long-distance interstate drives and people who mostly drive urban interstates, since there's a whole etiquette to sticking in the right lane and moving in the left to pass and how and when to move over for trucks and when to expect trucks to make space for you and it's all a very smooth ballet on the nation's rural interstates, even when the truck traffic is heavy, until one dickhead college student who's never driven outside the cities before screws up the whole system.

People in Illinois are mostly pretty cool about cyclists, everywhere I've lived (or biked). Like there's a percentage of assholes, but people mostly move around you, slow down without beeping if they get stuck behind you, etc. But when I lived in North Carolina, people were UNBELIEVABLY hostile to cyclists, honking and yelling and trying to edge them off the road on purpose. I saw people throw cups full of soda out their window at cyclists MULTIPLE TIMES when the cyclist was just sitting at a stop sign or red light! I don't know if it's still like that (this was 20 years ago), but I never got used to that, and I saw it ALL THE TIME.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:34 PM on January 22 [4 favorites]


The flip side of NYC aggression (which is as described above) is that other drivers expect it and yield to it. If you need to be in a different lane and there’s no space in it, you just start edging in and the space will be there. My impression is that other places, that’d turn into a lot more accidents than it does here, because people wouldn’t get out of the way.
posted by LizardBreath at 2:39 PM on January 22


I'll also offer that, in my experience, drivers in the Mountain View/Palo Alto, CA area will yield very generously to cyclists (e.g.: drivers waving bikers through at a 4-way stop even when they arrived first and had the right of way)

Oh god yes, it's the worst. Please do not block traffic and encourage me to break the rules of the road. I will wait for you to go then turn because this is a normal 4-way intersection. It makes me nuts.
posted by GuyZero at 2:40 PM on January 22 [4 favorites]


yeah i find a weird comfort in NYC driving, though when I first started doing it regularly it made me grind my teeth at night. I feel like NYC driving proves that exposure therapy works.. at first it is nerve wracking but make yourself do it regularly, and it becomes fun. I love finding a needle in a haystack, beating traffic, finding a parking spot where no one thinks there is one.. it's like a game. a bit high stakes, admittedly, when it comes to moving vehicles but what others have said about it being "predictably aggressive" feels true to me, you do know how people will behave: impatiently and on the offense. I also like listening to 1010 wins for transit and traffic on the ones (?). easier than looking at the traffic colors on the google map. I think nyc driving is better if you attempt to learn it without step by step GPS, because with step by step GPS you never learn the big picture, and it's knowing the big picture that makes it less stressful and more of a ballet.

I also recommend having a scrappy car with some body damage already, for maximum fun and less worried NYC driving. driving something expensive and precious in that city would take the joy right out of it, for me.
posted by elgee at 3:13 PM on January 22 [2 favorites]


I love road trips and have driven in 48 states.

Memories that stand out are:

Texans CANNOT drive in the rain or merge into freeways.
Louisianans can drive in flood water two feet deep.
Virginians take forever to pass your car on the freeway. Seriously, I think they drive one mile an hour faster than the car they're trying to overtake.
New York state drivers were the best mergers I've ever encountered. I wanted to marry all of them.
posted by ChodenKal at 3:15 PM on January 22


In Chicago, people are more aggressive, and people drive a LOT faster on the highway, especially the Tri-State. I will calmly drive 30 mph behind a farm machine for ten miles on a rural highway posted 65 when I'm downstate, but some asshole is only going 70 mph in the leftmost lane on the Tri-State? WE LIVE IN A SOCIETY, THERE IS A SOCIAL CONTRACT, SPEED UP TO 80 AT LEAST OR GTFO. (Actual posted speed limits vary from 55 to 70; studies repeatedly show fewer than 5% of drivers on the Tri-State obey the posted speed limit even when it's 70.) Otoh, being stuck in traffic is annoying, but nobody loses their mind about it and starts trying to bull their car out of the jam by force.

Can confirm. I once drove the entire length of Illinois from South to North on the interstate. I had my cruise control set to 7 mph over the posted limit and I passed literally about 5 vehicles the whole way that weren't heavy trucks until I hit Chicago traffic. It wasn't for a a lack of cars.
posted by Zalzidrax at 3:16 PM on January 22 [1 favorite]


Note: I’m pretty sure LA drivers and Bay Area drivers have different customs, though the same state level laws. And when it comes to left lane laws, CA may have the same rules as other states (“keep right except to pass”), but our customs are that it’s fine to cruise in the left lane as long as you’re going faster than whatever’s to the right.

The first time I encountered the “Pittsburgh Left”, I was actually in Portland. It confused, terrified, and angered me *until* I realized that it was often necessary for the flow of traffic. Since the streets are so narrow and don’t always have left turn lanes, if the person in front didn’t turn left, they’d be blocking the car behind them that might be going straight. Not sure if that’s the case in Pittsburgh, though.

A quasi-regional traffic thing that has been encroaching on LA (much to my fury) is the flashing yellow left arrow. It means “yield to oncoming traffic, but turn if it’s clear”, much the same as a green circle, but with much less clarity. And unlike the green circle, the flashing yellow left arrow gives less information about what oncoming traffic is seeing. I totaled my car the first time I encountered a flashing yellow left. I will never forgive them.
posted by itesser at 3:36 PM on January 22 [2 favorites]


In San Francisco there's a maneuver locally known as the "jerk merge".
posted by Lexica at 3:42 PM on January 22 [2 favorites]


Memphis: passing on the right in the shoulder on the highway. Also, pull into the middle of the intersection if you’re turning left, and go ahead and finish your turn once the light turns red and oncoming traffic stops.

The entirety of Interstate 40 in Arkansas between Memphis and Little Rock is one line of trucks doing 63, passing another line of trucks doing 62, forever. (The speed limit is 70.)

The people of Alabama are surprisingly law-abiding, at least when it comes to speed limits.

In Matthew 5, Jesus says “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.”
The traffic planners in Atlanta seem willfully ignorant of the teachings of the Lord, and instead hide all the signage for all highway on-ramps behind trees, or point them in the wrong direction, or remove them entirely. Woe betide you if you get off the highway, as you will surely never get back on.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 3:56 PM on January 22 [1 favorite]


I grew up and learned to drive in Northern Virginia. My behind the wheel instructor told me to add 5 to the speed limit "to keep up with traffic." My dad was pissed. But it's true.
posted by basalganglia at 4:19 PM on January 22 [1 favorite]


Came in to say that my experience of driving on Oahu is that the Aloha spirit applies; people wave you in and I didn't experience cutthroat driving, or if I did, attributed it to tourists.

There are still a lot of Portland, Mainers who lollygag at busy intersections, don't close gaps, and generally make the people behind them miss the light. People stop instead of speeding up to merge into the flow of traffic. When I moved to Maine, there wasn't much traffic, it was unheard of to not get through an intersection in 1 cycle. Sigh, traffic is so much denser and faster now, and when the Pandemic ends, will go back to being even more congested.
posted by theora55 at 4:24 PM on January 22 [1 favorite]


Shanghai: do whatever the fuck you want. Toddler needs to pee? Sure, stop suddenly on the elevated highway with cars doing 150 km/h. Missed your exit? Just slam on the brakes and back up, those heavy trucks with poorly secured loads will go around you. Traffic too heavy on your side of the road? Just drive into the oncoming traffic (or bike lane, or sidewalk), they'll get out of the way. All of the above seen multiple times in a couple of months.

Naples gave me similar vibes, only the cars are a lot smaller. But so are the roads!
posted by Jobst at 4:29 PM on January 22 [1 favorite]


My experience with Texas is that many will just cruise for miles in the left lane on multilane highways even if the right is open even if someone overtakes, forcing passing on the right.

But on 2 lane highways, they are extra polite and will make it easy for people to pass by slowing down a bit, hugging the right shoulder, etc.

The juxtaposition of this clueless bad behavior and extreme politeness is bizarre and maddening.
posted by jclarkin at 4:32 PM on January 22


--In southern CA it is in fact totally normal to drive along in the left lane on the freeway. We call it the "fast lane"; I have never heard anyone call it a "passing lane" unless they're from out of town.
--I would say the normal speed for this lane is 80 mph and generally you won't get a speeding ticket for that. Lots of people do drive a lot faster and they will pass you however they can. Once in a while you'll see this person a ways down the road, having been pulled over, and you can gloat.
--When driving in the fast lane, you should be paying attention to any drivers behind you who want to go faster than you, and if so, move one lane over.
--If you are the person who wants to go faster, and the person ahead hasn't noticed, it's totally normal to pass on either the left or right, wherever there is a space.
--People cruising along at 70 in the fast lane annoy everyone else and are probably from Arizona. Do that shit in the middle lanes, guys.
--If for some reason you need to drive less than the speed limit (which is usually 65 or 70), you should stay in the right lane.
posted by exceptinsects at 4:55 PM on January 22 [8 favorites]


In Minnesota we have a thing called the Minnesota Standoff. Two or more cars will pull up to a 4-way stop at roughly the same time, and then everyone just sits there, waiting for someone else to go first.
Inevitably, two (or more!) cars perpendicular to each other will say "enough of this..." and will make the tiniest, slowest movement forward and EVERYONE will screech to a halt. Everyone stares at each other. Some will wave "no you go first!" until finally someone gets so frustrated they just hit the gas and boldly go through, leaving the others to think "how rude!".
Repeat, ad nauseum, at every 4-way stop.
posted by Gray Duck at 4:55 PM on January 22 [14 favorites]


jclarkin I have noticed the same and I think it might be a matter of alertness - those 2-lane roads, even if there's a center/turn/emergency lane, are damn dangerous and often there are driveways and residential roads that just dump out onto them (plus deer and the occasional livestock in the road), so people pay more attention. Pretty much everyone knows somebody who's had some kind of accident there.

On the big freeways there's the idea that there's plenty of room and now's a great time to zone out.
posted by Lyn Never at 4:59 PM on January 22


The culture can be VERY different from region to region. I used to drive in Texas myself, but that was decades ago, and I cruise at 70-80, and I used to joke that Houston drivers are faster than DFW drivers when I drove down there.

I later moved to Northern California and usually, drivers here are more considerate, and I leave gaps and whatnot, having learned defensive driving for a while. But I've seen some jerks too.
posted by kschang at 5:02 PM on January 22


I could never understand how people in Ottawa drive the way they do - with one thumb on the horn button and one finger in the air.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 5:02 PM on January 22


This might be common in many places, but in the GTA:
- heavy-duty pick-ups are often breathe-down-the-neck tail-gaiters; not every tail-gaiter, not every pick-up: but they tend to go together.
posted by ovvl at 5:15 PM on January 22 [1 favorite]


I grew up and learned to drive in Northern Virginia. My behind the wheel instructor told me to add 5 to the speed limit "to keep up with traffic." My dad was pissed. But it's true.

I've lived in Northern Virginia off and on for the past decade, and the key defining characteristic I've noticed is what I call the "new drivers" - consistently drive 10-20 under the speed limit, cut across multiple lanes at the last minute (and will even BACK UP to get to a missed exit), and just generally drive like they just somehow magically appeared in a car and have no clue where they are what is going on around them.

My wife and I grew up in the Midwest (Kansas City and Chicago) and we both find it both strange and utterly maddening. We're used to handling aggressive drivers (plenty of those in Chicago) but clueless drivers are much worse.
posted by photo guy at 5:18 PM on January 22 [1 favorite]


This might be common in many places, but in the GTA:
- heavy-duty pick-ups are often breathe-down-the-neck tail-gaiters; not every tail-gaiter, not every pick-up: but they tend to go together.


This applies to Florida as well. The opposite of the usual tailgating pickup driver, though, tends to be the person who owns a minivan. (Not all minivans, minivan drivers etc. Just a tendency I've noticed.) These people like to go ten under down the road, preferably side-by-side if they can manage it. Both extremes are pretty obnoxious, imo.

Someone mentioned Miami; I lived in Fort Lauderdale for a time, close enough to make me never ever want to drive in Miami. You hit the 595 coming off Alligator Alley, which is a pretty calm across-the-state drive, and are instantly embroiled in an inferno of slow cement trucks, infuriated people in SUV's, that pickup whose back end is sagging alarmingly from a huge pile of rocks and who is going 30 under, people who pass on the shoulder, people who would run over you, monster-truck style, if they had half a chance... you better not miss your exit. You'll be making a tour of the city in no time, construction-blocked-take-a-detour style.

Also, surprised nobody has mentioned it: you get raging debates down here about whether it is legal to use hazard lights when it is raining heavily. People use them regardless of what the law is, so whenever it rains, everyone slows down and you get a sea of blinking red lights.
posted by Armed Only With Hubris at 5:59 PM on January 22


Vermont

- if the roads are snowy and they haven't plowed it down to the asphalt yet, it's a thing to sometimes drive right down the center of a two-lane road and move to the side again if you see oncoming traffic
- similarly, if you are on a single lane road, you should drive slowly enough that either you or the person approaching you can pull over into a pullout (if possible) or actually back up
- if you see someone who has clearly slid off the road on snow/ice and you're the first person to see them, you should stop and try to help them if you are on a not-very-traveled road (if it's safe to do so - obviously it's not always safe for a variety of reasons but you don't want someone to freeze to death)
- don't drive too close behind the sander/salter because you will ruin your car's hood
- on back roads, wave to everyone who waves at you
- on super shitty roads (snowy, rainy) traffic will be going more slowly, pulling in to the passing lane to speed by everyone is potentially dangerous and destabilizing to traffic so avoid it if you want to be polite (many people are not polite, this is fine, but also dangerous)
- if someone is riding your ass because you're going the speed limit or slower on a back road, it's usually a good idea to just pull over (if possible) and let them by you because they're likely to continue to be a pain and maybe they either have to get somewhere like work or something and/or they're armed and/or they just know the roads better than you and you're going too slowly for that road and those conditions

Massachusetts

- You can drive in the breakdown lane of some highways, this is very unnerving to people who are not used to it (as kevinbelt has said)

No one in Seattle seems to be able to drive in the rain and I have never understood it. Traffic grinds to a complete halt when it's snowing.
posted by jessamyn at 6:00 PM on January 22 [2 favorites]


The thing is, nobody in Seattle can go over 50mph, ever. If it's raining one will observe this and make excuses: "oh, they are wary of the rain! good cautious behavior!".

If it's sunny and clear, it's the same. One has to make another excuse "The glare! Those poor people! Not used to Sunshine!"

They just suck at drivng.

It was amusing when I grew up there, now when I visit it's just...... grarr!!11!!.

In SoCal where I'm at now, it's kinda reversed - nobody can go under 75, regardless of conditions. Hilarity (read: death and destruction) ensues. Sigh.
posted by soylent00FF00 at 6:08 PM on January 22 [2 favorites]


Bay Area:

People avoid the slow lane on free moving highways with 3+ lanes. Trucks don't even use the slow lane. It is reserved for people merging on and departing, by unspoken agreement. You see this in particular on the 101 and 280.

Splitting lanes on a motorbike does not require that you be a suicidal idiot doing it at 60mph at ever opportunity, for all that that is popular. But what I have noticed is that if you go between the two fastest lanes in slow traffic (when it's a better idea, since no one has a space in the other lane to move to), about every fourth car actually notices you and pulls aside a little bit to make some extra room. (I don't need the room, to be honest, but I do appreciate the indication that they've seen me.) In the UK, lane splitting is also legal and well understood by car drivers, and that has never happened to me once while over there.
posted by How much is that froggie in the window at 6:17 PM on January 22 [1 favorite]


To amplify on Salt Lake and on Utah more broadly:

Not only do people camp out in the exit lane, they camp out in the passing lane. They do both because they know if they wait to make a lane change when they actually need it, no one will let them in, because Utah. Letting someone in is like using a signal or wearing a seatbelt and what are we, a bunch of latte-drinking, NPR-listening commies?

Drunk driving is culturally shunned, but distracted driving is winked at.

Aggression isn’t uncommon, but what really does us in is obliviousness. Everyone drives as though they’re playing a video game with extra lives, and all the other cars are non-playing-characters.

People have a really hard time remembering to turn their headlights on at dusk or in bad weather. Paradoxically, once the brights are on, they’re staying on, and they’re not dimming for anybody.
posted by armeowda at 7:03 PM on January 22


When I lived in S. Korea, taking a taxi was putting your life in the hands of a mad person (usually male). Stop signs were optional if no one was coming. U-turns without warning. Best of all is the numerous marriage proposals I got from the drivers or the drivers on behalf of their sons. I was so sick of it at one point, I put a cheap ring on my left hand and told them I was already married.

soundguy99's "Cleveland Creep". I experience it daily. Crossing 4 lanes of freeway traffic on a diagonal is terrible on 271N coming up on Harvard. And people love to stay in a lane that's going to be closing for construction until the last minute. It's come to the point that I'm an asshole and don't let those people merge in. There have been signs for the last 2 miles notifying you of the change.

It's been 20+ years since I lived in Austin, but I remember an ice storm that hit. The whole city practically shut down, but people didn't know enough to stay off the roads. 35N and 35S both had 30+ car pile ups. I'm from Cleveland, and hate driving in ice. A friend was from the Pittsburgh area and felt the same. We stayed off the roads. We didn't want to get hit by people who had no idea how to drive in the ice. And sand is not very effective on the roads in those conditions.
posted by kathrynm at 7:05 PM on January 22 [3 favorites]


In the US Virgin Islands they have a fun mix of driving cars with the driver on the left hand side but also driving on the left hand side of the road!

But in terms of culture it’s common to give “thank you honks” if someone lifts you in, make a right hand turn, etc. It’s kind of rude not to do it, but also a little weird because my mind still have honking and aggression tied together.

In Northern NJ, the “Pittsburgh Left” was common as was sitting in the middle of a intersection to turn left, the main reason for this being that with many narrow roads, you’d create a big blockage behind you of people who just wanted to go straight but there’s no room to maneuver around the left turn car until you’re further into the intersection. I think that’s also why the “turn left before the green” thing also happens
posted by raccoon409 at 7:16 PM on January 22


Also, surprised nobody has mentioned it: you get raging debates down here about whether it is legal to use hazard lights when it is raining heavily. People use them regardless of what the law is, so whenever it rains, everyone slows down and you get a sea of blinking red lights.
This really is unique to the Miami area, so much so that there are billboards, flashing DOT signs, and frequent articles in the news trying to get across the idea that you shouldn't do that. People do it even in light rainfall.

A couple of other things:

During the two years I lived in Miami I can recall at least 8 or 9 times when I saw a driver in a left-turn lane who had no intentions of actually turning, but instead used it as a passing lane and continued straight through the intersection, causing or nearly causing collisions with other cars every time.

Also, there are rather a lot of Maseratis in Miami and every one of them, without exception, is driven by a selfish, reckless, raging asshole.
posted by theory at 7:56 PM on January 22 [4 favorites]


And people love to stay in a lane that's going to be closing for construction until the last minute. It's come to the point that I'm an asshole and don't let those people merge in. There have been signs for the last 2 miles notifying you of the change.

If waiting till the last minute then zipper merging isn't the norm everywhere then this is a major difference. Here they have been heavily advising this technique for years. There will even be signs put up around major construction telling drivers to do this.
posted by Mitheral at 8:08 PM on January 22 [5 favorites]


New Zealand here - coming late to the party.

Where to start! Many drivers are aggressive (especially if they have a German car, or a Subaru) - IMO it's the dominant selfish group sport 'culture'. There are regional differences - down here @ 46°S corner-cutting is the big thing (lower traffic encourages this, but for people who do it consistently it's only a matter of time before cuttings become collisions). When I lived in Auckland in the 80's no one would give way on the motorwar motorway unless you had a rough-looking vehicle; when I switched from a compact to a basic XA Falcon people became very courteous! Man that vehicle was fun.

I seldom drive further than Christchurch but that place IS different, seems speeding is more tolerated there post quake, I have a sense the cops let people blow of steam as it's a tense kind of place now.

NZ has thousands of km of unsealed so-called metal (gravel) roads. To drive on these comfortably (and safely) takes some time. They generally have a 100kmh speed limit but that is seldom a safe speed on loose surfaces (and the degree of looseness varies). Traditionally approaching vehicles would slow to avoid stone-throwing and broken windscreens (and over correction collisions), but as NZ demography has become more urban many city-folk do not slow. 80 kmh is the most comfortable speed as you kind of fly over most of the ruts/corrugations, but many don't like going about 50, which is very annoying if you're going to work.

As a farming country we often have stock on the road and that too takes real care and skill and many urbanites never seem to learn. If it's cattle it's always fun when a tourist forgets to wind their windows up.

Tourist drivers
With Covid we have zero tourists and driving is definitely safer for several reasons;
There's ~20% less traffic, so anyone driving is a resident/citizen and generally drives near to the speed limit given local weather/road condition. Many, many tourists hug the (soft) shoulder, or hug the centre Many drive really slow, and/or at erratic speeds. In highly scenic areas they are apt to just do a hard stop and jump out for pics. Different ethnicities seem to specialise in each of the above in my experience.

We also have thousands of single-lane bridges (almost all with clear signage about who gives way) many tourists are involved in crashes on these where they fail to discern what is going on.

Tourist drivers (especially from some countries) really are a threat here and I won't be sorry if mass tourism never returns.

* (no roads outside cities are kerbed which makes foreigners nervous for some reason).
posted by unearthed at 8:20 PM on January 22 [2 favorites]


I learned to drive in early 1980s DC and got used to people doing dangerous stuff all the time. I know it is far worse now because I can listen to nighttime traffic reports on WTOP all the way down here. The thing that really bothered me up there was that if there was a spectacular accident people would stop, get out of their cars, and just stand there looking. I'd have to start barking orders at them.

I saw a big Crown Vic station wagon miss the 270 split and flip end over end up the hill toys flying out all over the place and my friend and I were the only ones to run up there. The kids in the back were fine but screaming and only when I had one in my arms did anyone else come up.

Western NC gets quite a few tourists and they are annoying and unpredictable but people that grew up here will help you even if you have a Clinton sticker. And they are good sane drivers too. You have to be. These roads will kill you if you are not.

One of my roomies went off a cliff with no witnesses and somebody saw the skidmark at night and got help. Because we look for things like that.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 8:28 PM on January 22 [1 favorite]


In New Orleans people never use turn signals, often do not have visible license plates, and will pull out in front of you with 5 feet to spare almost every time. Yet road rage seemingly does not exist. People barely even honk.
posted by Jess the Mess at 9:01 PM on January 22 [2 favorites]


In Bermuda, honking is always meant to be interpreted as a hello or thanks. Honking out of anger is not condoned.
posted by jasondigitized at 9:09 PM on January 22 [1 favorite]


Sounds very similar to the Pittsburg Left mentioned up thread, but in Vancouver (proper) BC, its expected in busy traffic once the light turns red 2 cars from the left turn lane will turn. If you are one of those first two cars and you do not go, you may hear those behind you voice their displeasure.

Be the 2nd car in the less busy suburbs though and now youre the ass running the light.
posted by cgg at 9:12 PM on January 22


Virginians take forever to pass your car -- in much of the state there are hills and such for cops to hide behind and they'll pull you over and give you a ticket for going just a couple of miles over the speed limit. Especially if you have out of state plates.

California... rules really depend on which parts of the road you're on at the moment and the state is big and long. The left turn rule is that two or three or four cars get to make the left after the red. Even the protected left turn lanes are often on timers so you only get an arrow during heavy peak traffic times. Then it's still a few cars after the red. Rolling stops, if you get to a stop sign or a light in the middle of the night and it's clear... don't actually come to a full stop and roll right on through. Left vs Middle vs Right vs OMG like six lanes... trucks and such keep to the right, the rest is a free-for all. Lane splitting motorcycles suck, I have had my mirror torn off, the cyclist slammed into the car in front of me, my insurance settled because the cyclist wass off in one of the gulf wars and out of reach... GAH!!

The stretch between the south border of the LA area and San Diego is full on drive 95. The right is for the trucks and RVs and such and the road is full of potholes and such from the heavy load traffic so everybody keeps to the left and moves over quite nicely for someone coming up doing 110.

In other places often it's best to keep to the right with the trucks and the slow and steady wins the race. You can watch the cars/trucks across half a dozen lanes of traffic far enough up ahead to notice that the right lane actually makes it there faster. The truckers leave enough space to keep things rolling along at a steady pace (mostly) even leaving enough room for people to come on and go off exits that you still get past the fuckfest logjam of aggro drivers on your left. Up the grapevine is the same as that fast stretch except people don't go as fast.

Evidently being stuck behind a car at a red light when you're turning right and you can cut through the parking lot of a business and out the other side to make your right is fine. I got a fucking ticket for that in New Mexico.

At least in my area, in high volume times will stop and leave a space for you to left turn into your apartment driveway. Everybody knows how close to home you are.

My pet peeve if anything is people who come up the entry ramp at a snails pace expecting to merge into fast traffic. You're supposed to accelerate to the speed of the traffic you're trying to merge into so you can slip in. If you do that people will make the room to let you in.
posted by zengargoyle at 11:00 PM on January 22 [1 favorite]


"Jerk merge" is a thing in queens and long island BIG TIME. This is why reaper drones were invented. FFS, military industrial complex, GET ON IT.



---

NYC and Tri-State driver here with big pickup truck. Having lived in 4 other states, there are definite differences. I actually like NY the best. You know to expect the most aggressive move possible. Can anticipate consistent aggressive behavior. Inconsistency is the worst and dangerous. I drove in Shanghai once. That was insane.




this this this - assume everyone is a psycho who knows exactly where they are going....lived in SoCal for 4 years, now NYC. The spectrum of obliviousness in the inland empire was amazing. I saw someone applying their makeup while driving on the freeway at 80+.
posted by lalochezia at 1:46 PM on January 23


No one on Florida has ever heard of zipper merging. It's insanely stressful when people start piling up in the right hand lane miles before their exit.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 3:54 PM on January 23


Just remembered Mongolia- more than an hour or two outside of Ulaanbaatar there's no such thing as traffic so things are very chill. Inside Ulaanbaatar it's absolute chaos, but at very slow speeds.

In the roads leading in and out of the city, it's utterly terrifying. Half the cars are right hand drive (they drive on the right), and these tend to be very low to the ground things like a Prius (these are the urban drivers). The rest of the cars are trucks, buses, or minivans. So a right hand drive Prius, used to complete gridlock and slow inching, goes as fast as they can until they inevitably come up behind a larger vehicle. These are all two lane roads (one in each direction). The Prius driver can see nothing, being on the wrong side of the car and hard up against a large vehicle. But they want to pass. So they SWING OUT ONTO THE WRONG SIDE OF THE ROAD, BLIND, TO SEE IF ANYONE IS COMING. Also, there's often livestock wandering all over the road. And road conditions are terrible, with huge potholes everywhere. So cars are swinging all over the place avoiding things, trying to overtake things, trying to peek out behind other cars. I've never been more afraid in my life, including the harrowing shit mentioned in my comment about Shanghai above.

My driver was very aware of all these shenanigans, and had his hand hovering over the horn at all times. The first sigh of the edge of a Prius poking out from around an oncoming vehicle was met with aggressive honking that generally sent them back where they came from.
posted by Jobst at 3:59 PM on January 23 [1 favorite]


And people love to stay in a lane that's going to be closing for construction until the last minute. It's come to the point that I'm an asshole and don't let those people merge in. There have been signs for the last 2 miles notifying you of the change.


For heaven's sake , that's called zipper merging and its how you keep traffic moving and don't back up the right-hand lanes for miles. It's not an asshole move it's f***ing skilled driving. Not letting someone in just makes you the ***hole.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 4:00 PM on January 23 [4 favorites]


Zipper merges here are a joke - instead of merging close to the lane reduction, people see a lane merge warning (even miles away) and get into the lane that is staying open. This means there is a huge line in the open lane, and no one in the lane that will close in a couple miles. Anyone who goes down the lane that will close will get dirty looks, the finger, or some ass in a big truck driving on top of the lane line so they can't pass them. I think this is based on some sense of fairness, but the reality is that filling the closing lane up to the merge point actually reduces traffic, so this pursuit of "we're in line already so get behind us" is really just making traffic worse.

This, this! A thousand times this!
posted by WalkerWestridge at 4:11 PM on January 23 [1 favorite]


I don't know how widespread it is in the US but in Anchorage 1990 I was out with a friend very late when she just blew a red-light, straight-thru, zoom.

I'd noticed red lights at some intersections were flashing but thought it was a fault. Apparently low-traffic light-controlled intersections switched to a drive-thru on red state after mid-night. Anyway that's what she said and she seemed a very law-abiding lady, but was my leg being pulled?
posted by unearthed at 6:05 PM on January 23


Rural MN checking in late here: My college roommate, as we were driving back to our mutual hometown area, complained that a driver ahead of us hadn't given her the "Stearns County Left," a phenomenon I was unfamiliar with, living in an adjacent county. A Stearns County Left is when you are driving on sparsely-trafficked rural roads and you need to turn left, and there's someone behind you, but no one oncoming, so you pull into the left lane for that portion of time you are slowing down before the turn, so that the person behind you need not slow their progress. It's practical, and obviously completely illegal, but I don't hate it.

I now commute through Stearns County, and live in the same adjacent county. I can confirm that I've seen that behavior repeatedly in Stearns County, but never anywhere else.
posted by cinnamonduff at 7:52 PM on January 23 [1 favorite]


Virginians take forever to pass your car -- in much of the state there are hills and such for cops to hide behind and they'll pull you over and give you a ticket for going just a couple of miles over the speed limit. Especially if you have out of state plates.


I've never seen as many speed traps as I have in Virginia. Until recently, driving over 80mph or 20mph over the speed limit was an automatic reckless driving charge, so traffic will often move at exactly 79mph for everyone. Reckless driving charges are a specific pain in the ass, requiring a court appearance, often in a faraway rural county you don't live in. Nobody wants this.

Apparently it's 85mph for a reckless now. As such, passing takes a long time, and since passing on the right is also a ticket, it is rarely done unless someone is camping in the left lane.

Californians routinely pass on the right at great speeds, which is concerning. I ... am not even sure if speed traps in California are regularly done.

The worst drivers I have ever interacted with were in Miami.

The only people using their blinkers forgot to turn them off. Seniors plodding along because they learned to drive on Model Ts share the left lane with coked-up red Lambo drivers driving at 110mph, crossing 4 lanes, and flipping off the side of the road (this was personally witnessed). A sign reminded drivers that there were stiff fines for running over the plastic bollards protecting the HOV lanes. Pa la pinga.
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 9:22 PM on January 23 [1 favorite]


"I'd noticed red lights at some intersections were flashing but thought it was a fault. Apparently low-traffic light-controlled intersections switched to a drive-thru on red state after mid-night"

Flashing red lights are treated as a stop sign in Illinois, and it is common in rural areas for traffic lights to switch to flashing red at a certain time of night and stay that way until morning.

It is illegal to run them people people run flashing reds and 4-way stop signs in rural Illinois ALL THE DAMN TIME at night, generally correctly assuming that they're the only car on the road. Roads are flat, at 90* angles, and there's not a lot of trees or brush, just big flat fields, and the roads are a little higher than the surrounding fields for drainage. It's probably pretty safe, I guess.

I used to talk to my students about this when I was teaching philosophy in downstate Illinois and we talked about the social contract, and I gave the example of how you stop at a stop sign at night even when there's nobody there, and my rural students thought I was a LITERAL LUNATIC to be stopping at stop signs at night in the middle of nowhere.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:23 PM on January 23 [3 favorites]


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