Thursday, July 19, 2012

On the American Highways

For more than 10 days, I've been driving American highways. I've driven from upper New York State down to Hollywood, Florida, down through to Key Largo and over to Orlando, up through to Savannah, Georgia, to Charleston, South Carolina, and finally to Washington, DC, where I'm now relaxing after a long day of travelling the interstates. And on my journey, I've learned one thing.

Americans have no idea how to drive.

I know I'm going to get a lot of flack from this post, but I'm writing from experience. I know a lot of Americans and have many friends who are wonderful, kind, generous people. On this trip, as on other ventures I've made into the United States, I've encountered some amazing people. No matter where I've been, I have been met by kindness and warm hospitality.

Except on the roadways.

On every highway that I've driven, I've noted the following truths:

  • Turn signals are seldom used to indicate that a lane change is being made. I've seen blinkers on; just never with an accompanying lane change. Folks have driven for miles with a left or right indicator blinking.
  • Drivers don't observe or respect the left-lane rule, which states that you use this lane to pass slower vehicles. Slower cars are supposed to keep to the right-hand lane. Not so on American interstates. I've been caught countless times behind a driver, mindlessly cruising in the passing lane, with no other vehicles in sight. Flashing my high beams has had little effect, and so I have been obliged to pass the slow poke in the right lane. This problem becomes a dangerous issue when I do find myself in slower traffic and I'm unable to continue past the slower drivers by using the left-hand lane. And if a faster driver comes behind me, I become boxed in, with nowhere to go. The rule is simple, drivers: use the left lane to pass other cars; use the right lane when you're not passing. If you can't understand those rules, use the exit lane and get off the damned road!
  • Drivers don't know how to maintain a speed. If you have cruise control, it's really easy: set your speed and keep to it, adjusting only for the change in speed limits and or surrounding traffic. If you're passing someone in the passing lane and come up behind a slower car, adjust your speed until the slower car passes the slowest car and then moves into the right-hand lane, and then resume your speed and continue to pass both cars before joining them in the right-hand lane. If you don't have cruise control, watch your speed. It's not that hard, but if you have trouble, get off the road.
I also noticed that the state of the roads have been something to be desired. There are obstacles on the road, especially countless carcasses of shredded rubber and coils of ripped treads all over the highways. So many, that I wondered how long these pieces pile up before the highways are impassable. The interstates in the Carolinas are particularly bad, especially North Carolina. What's up with that? I can only imagine the accidents caused by drivers colliding with this debris, the damage inflicted when someone drives over the large chunks of spent tires. I've never seen anything like it. And after what I've seen in the daytime, I no longer want to drive on American highways at night.

I've driven on many roads and in many countries: England, Scotland, and Wales; Italy; South Korea; all over Canada. But no roads have infuriated me more than the highways along the eastern seaboard of the United States. That's right: you're worse than South Korea!

And that's saying a lot!

1 comment:

  1. As an American driving I'll say it's all true, and not just in the East. And the crazy thing is states keep building more roads, don't want to take care of the roads they have and don't want to build more mass transit.
    Last week I was in a hurry going to Columbus and got stuck behind someone crawling in the passing lane and I just wanted to scream. Happens all the time.