Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Road Rage: New York drivers suck

For my first post in a while, I'm going to tackle what's become a BURNING ISSUE for me: New York drivers. They suck. They have to be the worst in the world. I've seen videos from Mumbai, India, which is notorious for bad driving (supposedly), and it really doesn't seem that bad there after what I've been going through for the last couple months of commutes.

I mean, just basic, basic mistakes. Repeatedly. By the same drivers. Complete ignorance of any sort of traffic laws. And it's pervasive. It's like not a single driver in this entire state has ever gone to driving school or passed any sort of driving test.

Let's take a look at the different types of drivers on New York highways:

The Road Hog. My least favorite type of driver. Whereas you see road hogs in other states, most drivers in New York are road hogs. These are the people that will be driving 50mph down the highway behind another car, cut in front of you just as you're changing lanes to pass them, and then continue going 50mph, thereby blocking you in. All just to enjoy looking at the miles of open and traffic-free road in front of them.

The Nervous Nellie. This is the guy who simply must get where he's going at any speed at any cost. They think they're cool, they think they're the only good drivers on the road, but they end up looking like somebody who's just had way too much caffeine and has so little control over their lives that they can't even explain away a 5 minute lateness to follow basic traffic etiquette. They tailgate, they sit behind you at stoplights repeatedly tapping their brakes, they dart in and out of traffic with inches to spare. Most of their cars are scratched and dented and look like they've been driven by somebody who got their license at K-Mart.

The Signal Alzheimers Sufferer. These people turn on their signals and then instantly forget them. I'm not even talking about the phenomenon that's common elsewhere of people signaling, changing lanes, then forgetting to turn off the signal. I'm talking about people who turn on their signal, then do nothing! It happens all the time here. How do you even drive like this? You don't notice the "click click click"? You don't notice the flashing light blinking in your face from straight ahead on the dashboard? And why the hell did you turn it on in the first place? I've never owned a car where it was that easy to do by mistake.

The Faux-Drunk. These are people who drive like they're drunk even when they're not. They go 20mph below the speed limit. They think lane lines are merely suggestions. They never signal. When they do change lanes, they drift over lazily so you're not even sure what they're doing. (Hey, isn't this the whole point of using a signal?) These people are even more likely than the Nervous Nellies to have dented and scratched up cars. They wander aimlessly through life never knowing or caring what happens to themselves or anybody else.

The Actual Drunk. Long Island specifically seems to have a huge problem with this. It's way worse than anywhere else I've lived. On a given Friday or Saturday night, I'd say one in ten drivers is obviously drunk just by watching them drive. How they manage to get home without killing anyone or getting caught week after week is beyond me. (The photo at the top is a drunk driving accident on one of New York State's highways, though I'm not sure which.)

The Serial High Beam Abuser. Oh, this one really pisses me off. These people have their brights on close to 100% of the time at night. You flash them yours and they do nothing. Half of them probably don't even know what that little blue icon on their dashboard means. A sub-genre of this type is the Serial Backdoor High Beam Abuser, who think it's ok to give it to you from behind. They'll dim their brights for oncoming traffic, but think there's no problem shining their brights in your face through a mirror. Hey, assholes, mirrors still reflect light. That's kind of their job.

The Gas Pedal Phobics. I'm not just talking about people who drive too slowly (they're covered above). I'm talking about people who can't figure out that you actually need to step further down on the gas pedal depending on the situation. For instance, going up a hill? Step on the gas pedal, dumbasses. I used to laugh when I'd pass signs in other states that say "Upgrade - Maintain Speed". I was like, who the hell needs a sign to tell them to step on the gas? Apparently, New Yorkers do. And we don't have those signs, so there you go. Every goddamn hill around this city, traffic slows to a goddamn crawl because people cannot figure out that they need to step on the gas so they don't slow down.

The Lane Purpose Confuser. Ok, New Yorkers, I'm only gonna say this once. The right lane is for entry/egress. The middle lane is for cruising. The left lane is for passing. This is in every driving textbook and course you'll ever read or take. It's Driving 101. Why the hell do you then get in the left lane and go 10mph slower than the guy in the middle lane, who himself is going 10mph slower than the guy in the right lane? This is not even unusual, this is the norm here. The worst is when you get stuck behind three people spanning three lanes, all going the same speed, all 10mph below the speed limit. LPC's can also be Road Hogs. An LPC/RH, if you will.

In most other states, people will actually get out of the way if somebody pulls up behind them in the left lane. It's just the nice thing to do, not to mention the legal thing to do. If you're not gonna pass, get the hell out of the left lane.

Probably my most hated trait of New York drivers, though, is that they are universally dead fucking slow. I know, the speed limit on most NYC highways is 50. That doesn't mean 40 is an acceptable highway speed. In most other states, drivers drive at least the speed limit, and cops will look the other way as long as you're less than 10mph over. But drive 60mph on a New York area highway (if you can) and you'll pass other traffic like it's not even moving. I don't get it; it's like nobody wants to get where they're going. There's nothing wrong with New York highways that would cause this. I take the Van Wyck home every night, and it's just a long, flat straightaway, and people still drive 40mph on it. And it's not out of an abundance of caution either, as discussed above. These people clearly don't care about traffic laws or safety. I still pass at least one accident every day.

I remember when I was a teenager and probably more reckless than I am now, but I remember driving around Chicago in fog so dense you could barely see 20 feet in front of you, going 90mph in traffic. I wasn't weaving in and out, I was following and being followed by other traffic. And people there did it every day, it was just normal. And there were fewer accidents than I see driving around NYC.

I will say this: driving to my store every day is still better than taking the train. But these other idiots on the road are gonna give me a conniption one of these days.

About This Blog

This is increasingly not a blog about Alphabet City, New York. I used to live in the East Village and work on Avenue B, but I no longer do. Why don't I change the name if I'm writing about Japan and video games and guitars? Because New Yorkers are well-rounded people with varied interests, and mine have gone increasingly off the rails over the years. And I don't feel like changing the name. I do still write about New York City sometimes.


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