Overall my experience of driving over here in the US is quite positive. I remember the first time I drove on American roads, when I was a visitor to Los Angeles, and picked up a hire car at LAX airport. The volume of traffic there was amazing, but it worked OK, and I found people would let you in on the freeways and generally everyone followed the rules.
Here in Midwestern USA, particularly outside of the big cities, there is simply not as much traffic, so it’s easier to drive around. The majority of drivers are just want to get safely from A to B, and do so reasonably well. Just a couple of days ago I was driving along an Interstate where one lane was closed. By half a mile before the lane closure, we were all driving slowly in the other lane, and I thought how safety conscious and considerate everyone was being.
There are some drivers who just astound me with their recklessness.
This morning I was driving along a fairly busy city street in a line of traffic. It’s a street where there is one driving lane in each direction, plus bike and parking lanes. In these sort of conditions I always try to drive with about a car’s length between me and the vehicle in front, and that’s what I was doing today. We were all going at about 30, along a street where the speed limit is 35.
I became particularly aware of the car behind as it got closer and closer to my rear. Soon, it was so close that I could no longer see its lights in my rear view mirror. Now, I assume that the object of this sort of driving is to intimidate the driver in front. To make them nervous, and speed up or move out of the way. For me, I know that driving that close is really dangerous – if I had to stop in an emergency the driver behind would have to be exceptionally gifted if he was going to avoid hitting me. So I did the one thing I could do, slow down so that I could, as far as possible, avoid the need to stop suddenly. The other driver’s reaction was to pass me the inside, which meant he had to drive through the bike and parking lanes. He then proceeded to get as close as possible the car now in front of him.
The driver may have thought he’d “won”; after all, he was now a car’s length further ahead. But I think I got the best of the deal, because any collision he was going to have would now be in front of me, and I was pretty sure I could stop in time to avoid being involved.
I’m not outraged at drivers like the one I came across today, because they are all too common (although, I would point out, still a minority). But it saddens me to see it, and to see that my reaction is that I’ve come to expect it from a minority of drivers.