Thursday, January 29, 2015


As I watched a car drive across three lanes of traffic on the freeway, onto the exit ramp and out of sight, doing approximately 20 miles per hour above the speed limit and without displaying any signal I mused on the different styles of driving I had observed in various parts of the US.

Of course, it is hard to generalize as so many Americans move from state to state, but I think many quickly adapt to the local driving style, and I believe that there is a local driving style.

For instance, when I first moved from Dublin to Austin Texas, I was charmed by what I thought was good manners and patience, for I never heard a horn honk no matter what the traffic situation. Then I was told that no sensible person in Texas honks their horn for fear of being shot!

My opinion is that Texans all drive like they believe they are in a NASCAR race. In fact probably more like those drivers who were the originators of NASCAR - bootleggers. Driving fast, showing no lights and lightening changes of direction with minimum indication of intention, and no consideration for other drivers. In fact, I have long believed that the drivers in Texas take the attitude that if you ignore it, then it is not there. They do this with other drivers, snow, ice, rain, you name it, they ignore it. Except of course, for slower drivers in front of them, then they herd them out of the way like the cowboys they are, getting as close as they can without actually pushing the slower vehicle off the road, though I have no doubt that is what they would like to do.

New York drivers and Dublin drivers are very similar - I guess in part because Dublin traffic and New York traffic problems are similar, but also perhaps, because there are so many Irish in New York? Lots of honking, yelling and hand gestures but very little movement.

In the San Francisco Bay Area, where drivers are subjected to long lines of slow crawling traffic, a gap wide enough to change lanes is very rare, they appear to have developed the uncontrollable need to change lanes if that gab does appear, I swear they do it because they can, irrespective of whether or not they need to be in that lane. Perhaps they think that a gap in the traffic means movement and any movement is better than none, even if the are only moving sideways and not necessarily in the direction they want to go.

I used to ride a motorbike in the Bay Area, where it is legal for motorbikes to drive between the lanes of traffic, and useful because these lanes are usually stationary. More specifically, I rode my bike across the San Mateo Bridge, which is usually at a standstill during rush hours. However I did learn very early on to be aware of this sidewards movement. As I drove, I watched for gaps and slowed down because it was inevitable some driver would dart sideways into the space.

In Seattle everyone is so incredibly polite! Drivers stop for pedestrians of all sorts, from hurrying commuters, old ladies, homeless people pushing carts, mothers pushing buggies, dogs, cats, squirrels, the WA drivers stop, smile, wave and wait patiently. No one has to wait very long to move into traffic or change lanes, they all signal their intention, and everyone stops and waves, most of the time taken to maneuver in traffic is the time it takes to demonstrate gratitude.

Next time I am traveling I must make a note of driving styles.