Saturday, July 19, 2008

Driving ...

This is my last gripe – I promise – but a story about driving home wouldn’t be complete without a few words on driving. Let me be clear: I avoid the Autobahn. The Germans have perfected a system where the craziest drivers on the road are free to risk their lives and yours by all but eliminating the speed limit on sections of major highways. The twist in the German scheme is that almost everyone follows the local rules of the road. If you ride in the left lane, you will eventually have to move aside to let a faster car pass you – on the left. If you ride in the right lane you are fairly safe in assuming that you will be left alone to plod along with the trucks.

Driving on America highways isn’t that dissimilar from driving on a German Autobahn with the exception that that rules of the road have been thrown out the window. I have a suspicion that a group of Italian road warriors has secretly infiltrated the driving schools of America. Riding your neighbor’s rear at high speeds when there is absolutely no place to go because a tractor-trailer has decided to occupy the passing lane, was standard procedure. Drivers seemed possessed with the desire to push each other off the roadway. Now at this point you could say that the experience sounds a lot like the Autobahn. The difference is, that when there was no chance of moving out of the way these drivers persisted in extremely dangerous maneuvers, swinging in and out of lanes pushing for a hole to sprint through, riding dangerously close to the driver in front of them, rarely using turn signals and seeming to have no regard for their safety or yours.

If I had happened once or twice or even three or four times I might have passed it off as aberrant behavior, but it was relentless. When they finally managed to get by, these loco drivers would speed up to the next car and do the same thing. They rarely made much progress and maybe progress wasn’t the point, maybe they just had to do it, had to bully their way through the traffic. I don’t know but I was relieved when we made it home in one piece.


Anonymous intensive driving said...

I fear the same Italian group has infiltrated the driving schools here in the UK.
Would that the drivers here had the discipline and ability people have in Germany...

9:50 AM  
Anonymous ian in hamburg said...

With cars screaming down the Autobahn at 200km/h, bad drivers here are weeded out of the gene pool pretty quickly.

It's not just in your neck of the North American woods, either, Richard.
In Beautiful British Columbia they dawdle along in the passing lane without a care in the world, think nothing of turning without signalling or leaving their signal on for miles and miles, turning left at an intersection from the right-hand lane, driving cars what wouldn't get near passing the TÜV, and on and on.
Hope you and your family are enjoying your time there despite the stress on the roads...

2:55 PM  
Blogger edward said...

jersey drivers are our italian hi speed lane changers in my NY region. almost every time it's a nj plate !my cousin is from jersey and proud of his hi speed lane changing tactics--he says it's a nj thing and i wouldn't understand it-- the need to speed. he says driving is supposed to be fun and i don;t get it! i stay in the slow lane--no drama there.

6:23 PM  
Blogger Ralph said...

The worst driving encounter I ever had was on Interstate 95 in Connecticut. A biker, probably high on meth, popped a wheelie on his Harley. Two cars ahead of me, in rush hour traffic.

I've often wondered what makes these aggressive and dangerous drivers tick. Frustrations at work, a shrewish wife, subconscious death wish?

Best to ignore them, to remain sovereign behind the wheel, especially when driving over long distances with a small child.

Easier said than done, I know.

11:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In Germany, driving is a competitive sport.

6:47 PM  
Blogger RC said...

I disagree. I'm an American and I can honestly say I enjoy driving in America and hate driving in Germany. Okay, I haven't driven everywhere in America, but I've driven my share of cities and fast-paced highways, and I find that driving there is far more relaxed than in Germany. As is driving in France, Belgium, Austria, and even northern Italy. Simply crossing the border into Germany, tension explodes and you suddenly feel like a Formula 1 driver without the necessary training or safety equipment.
True, the best strategy is to stay calm and confident in your place on the road, but that certainly doesn't make it enjoyable.

9:14 AM  
Anonymous Megan in Munich said...

I used to be terrified of traffic in Germany and completely at home in San Francisco. Maybe I'm just a brainwashed convert, but I feel like Americans have lost their minds when it comes to driving. I love the German way of driving although I an in no way as ballsy as the natives.

6:48 PM  

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