Monday, September 24, 2007

Driving 101

If there's one thing that brings the worst out of me, it's road rage. There's something about being behind the wheel that empowers people to say things they wouldn't normally say or to throw up a finger they wouldn't normally use to point. No matter where it is I drive in the U.S.--be it through the Midwest, the East Coast, and up and down California--there's always the chance of encountering that idiot of a driver that ruins your whole day.

If you've ever driven in So Cal, particularly L.A., you'd know to prepare yourself either for some insanely heavy traffic or some really aggressive speed-racers. The carpool lane may also be a very frustrating place since, if not planned carefully, you could easily miss your exit because of those evil double solid yellow lines. In my experience, the problem is that the majority of drivers down south aren't considerate or patient enough to put up with slow or wishy-washy drivers. The pace of the lifestyle doesn't allow that.

Moreover, I've encountered the most obnoxious drivers in So Cal: there's the tailgater, the sporadic lane-changer, the non-signaler, and the list goes on. At the very least, however, I think people try to get to where they're going with a quickness, even if they are jerks. If you've been sitting in traffic on the 101 and you're already 30 minutes late for an appointment, once traffic starts picking up (if you're lucky), people don't remain driving 20 MPH. People pick up the speed like they should. And best of all, there's such thing as a left-hand turn in L.A.!

While this may be true, driving in Nor Cal sure is a change of pace. Though San Francisco is an urban city, I found that the drivers overall are patient ones indeed. But where L.A. drivers lack patience, Bay Area drivers overcompensate. I drive every week to and from my internship in Redwood City, and on my way there, I usually encounter the following problems before reaching my destination:

-I honk at the people who don't know when it's their turn at a four-way stop.
-When entering the freeway, the driver preceding me is going 35 MPH on the on-ramp, and accelerating at a turtle-pace into the freeway.
-When on the freeway, someone is driving 60 MPH in the fast lane.
-People who are signaling to go into my lane practice defensive driving to a whole new level and take a million years before actually moving into my lane.
-Drivers who can't decide whether they want to go fast or slow, as indicated by their constant speed changes.

I'm not quite sure if it's my Southern California driver's nature, but am I wrong to think that Nor Cal drivers drive like they have nowhere to go? I mean, come on! The traffic started moving a long time ago, and in frustration I overtake the cars in front of me who choose to lollygag along without realizing that they could get pulled over for obstructing traffic and going too slow. From my observations, drivers up here are so relaxed that they make me look like the asshole driver when that's just normally not the case...back home anyway.

In brief, I've concluded that both sides of California have their share of horrible drivers. So Cal, with the term "road rage" coined there, has their inconsiderate, crazy drivers, while Nor Cal has their timid, pushover drivers. Just as much as I hate to find myself stuck in L.A.'s carpool lanes, those no-left-turn signs and inconspicuous traffic lights in San Francisco drive me out of my mind.


Not Larry said...

I'm unsure whether you're attempting to have a biased or unbiased comparison between San Francisco and L.A.

You state that you dislike issues with driving in both places, but never argue which one is the lesser of two evils.

Maybe the Northern Californians tendency derives from their innate ability to unapologetically flake, and expect everything to be alright. Maybe Nor Cal is just better at planning.

I tried to find more information on NorCalifornians being a bunch of "Flakes." (I find it to be accurate, and it might be an interesting comparison topic.) Maybe the research hasn't been done, because people never showed up to be tested...I don't know.

As far as Road Rage goes, try and let it go, honestly. It's not worth the peak in blood pressure that will steal years off your life. Imagine that every person who drives like an idiot is recovering from brain-tumor surgery, and hasn't regained the cognitive ability to drive well. Pretend that it's not their fault, and give them the benefit of the doubt. I know it sounds silly, but it works. If you give the other driver the benefit of the doubt every time, for a period of six months, your road rage will decrease significantly. And you can imagine anything that would justify their driving behavior. Imagine that anyone who changes lanes without signaling is trying to get to the hospital to deliver a baby. Whatever it takes to excuse their behavior, and have it be justified in your head, is what is going to make it acceptable.

And sometimes you might say to yourself "Wow, everyone must have had severe head trauma today" or "Man, it seems like everybody reeeealy has to pee!" When it comes down to it, you know that it would be better to stay calm and relaxed and let guilty stupid drivers be, than to accidentally yell at one woman who has bandages on her head.

But even she should get out of the fast lane if she's going 60. Come one, even my grandmother goes faster than 60.

Nicole Leigh said...

I agree, I sometimes exhibit my fair share of road rage. I've tried to calm down and I don't get aggressive I just yell at people in my car. I'm sure I do some dumb things to get yelled at sometimes too. I'm trying to be a better driver since I just got a new car. I've found idiot drivers in Nor Cal as well as So Cal but I haven't lived in LA so I can't talk much about the drivers, just that the traffic is horrible!

Pope Ryannn said...

I lived in LA for two years and used to drive this disaster of a freeway every day commuting from the valley to Santa Monica College so I'm getting a kick out of the NorCal/SoCal drivers comparison. I think it all depends on your mood. Most people in LA are miserable or know they will be shortly, and this attitude probably effects their driving.

My brother still lives down there and gets his road rage issues now and then. He also claims nobody knows how to drive whenever he's somewhere else. It's funny, really.

I found it best to just slow it down and enjoy the ride. You wrote that people here drive like they have nowhere to go, and I offer this: Why are you in such a hurry and is it really so important?

But I am ultimately imperfect and still occasionally get the rage while driving. I try to catch myself when I do so I don't do anything stupid.

don't haight. said...

I'm from Los Angeles too, and I know what it means to drive aggressively. As soon as that light turns green, i'm rollin'...

Do you notice though that in San Francisco, especially on really fast and busy streets like Oak and Fell people don't let you in their lane? Driving is too hectic here, thats why I usually just take the bus. No hassle. No parking. Just waiting... a lot of waiting.

Zoe said...

I've had some crazy times driving in San Francisco as well. As much as the driving and the traffic aggravates me, the parking situations makes me even MORE angry. Back home in Missouri parking tickets were $ a quarter would get you an entire hour in a parking meter. Here in the bay area a parking ticket is a freaking $55 fine> and 25 cents gets you what, 15 minutes? For those facts alone I miss the midwest...although I must admit that I love having the choice of taking public transportation. The choice of having the monthly Fast Pass> however rocks my world. I can take the fun cable car without paying $5 each way! I also make myself feel like a FABULOUS samaritan when I give that fast pass to tourists near the end of the month when I've already purchased the next months card. My a good SF citizen, give everyone good directions and send them in the right way towards a fab restaurant (even if it doesn't compare to your favorite so-cal meal). p.s. God bless our SF indian summers!

mariedrennan said...

Hehehe, great picture of you! Great links; I loved L.A. Can't Drive. Jury duty for the road! Very thoughtful breakdown of the different types of nightmare drivers. Funny, when I went to L.A. recently I was struck by how relaxed the drivers seemed -- smoother flow, no one freaking out doing crazy maneuvers. Pretty mellow, even around Hollywood Blvd.
I can see from the comments on your post that many others can relate to your topic!

Bugs to fix:

"where they're going with a quickness" (do you mean "quickly"?)

"defensive driving on a whole new level" (change "to" to "on" or "at")