Obligatory Traffic Rant

Everybody does it. Everybody who drives, that is. Rant about the drivers where they live. It’s obligatory, part of being American.

“The drivers in my city suck! Worst I have ever seen!”

Well, no. Atlanta drivers are not the worst ever. If asked to pick a place with the crappiest drivers, I’d demur. I’ve lived in a lot of places and driven a car in many more. LA, Chicago, Boston, Houston, Dallas, Philadelphia, New York, San Francisco, DC, Baltimore. Roads, congestion and basic human crappyness pretty much guarantee that every major city will evoke cries of “worst ever!” from locals, many of whom are the ones causing the problems. No one thinks they are a bad driver. Almost no one.

Me, I’m not the best driver. I occasionally make mistakes, thankfully rarely resulting in metal-to-metal contact. What I am, however, is observant and conscientious. When I drive, I drive. My attention is focused on the task at hand, which necessarily includes observing the behavior of my fellow drivers. So along with piloting my own car I find myself judging all the drivers around me. No, I’m not a road rager. I judge silently, although maybe with the occasional flipping of the bird.

And I at least try to be considerate of others on the road, which I think might separate me from the masses. Most people it seems don’t think about others while driving. I do. I let people in; I park between the lines; I hardly ever use high beams in the city and always dim when cars approach. You know, considerate stuff.

So this is my rant. Why aren’t people more considerate? It’s as if when they encase themselves in a mobile, metal ‘safe house’, that gives them license to let their inner asshole take control. Why? People aren’t that rude in person, generally. It’s not just blatant assholes that I’m ranting about. More benign expressions of a lack of consideration are much more frequent. Parking might be the best example of this. The people who don’t take care to park between the lines, making it difficult for others to squeeze into a space or maybe even taking two spaces (although that might be deliberate assholiness).

The parking lot itself is a cesspool of assholes. How many times have you had to back out of a space but couldn’t see past the adjacent cars? A lot, right? So you back out slowly to give unseen approaching cars a chance to see you. Do people pause and let you back out? No. They lay on their horn and glare at you angrily for attempting to pre-empt their parking lot priority. Assholes.

Anyway, I don’t need to elaborate. Everyone has experienced the phenomenon. I have no answer for the question, either. I’m sure there’s some psychological explanation for why people’s asshole quotient rises once behind the wheel. I just wish it weren’t so.

2 thoughts on “Obligatory Traffic Rant

  1. Something that I have noticed about car drivers here in LA – and no one wants to believe it, I have found – is that they are very considerate of pedestrians. The high death toll of walkers in this city doesn’t back me up but doesn’t necessarily negate my observation either. A great many other factors besides sober driver culpability could be operating.
    This phenomena is something I’ve noticed because I almost exclusively take public transportation (it is an urban myth that Los Angeles doesn’t have one) which always involves some amount of walking and, because of the kinds of activities I’m involved in, I go all over the city a lot. This gives me ample time to get run over by drivers pulling into crosswalks without looking, to get hit while jay walking, to get barreled into while crossing at a yield-to-pedestrians sign in the middle of busy boulevards, etc. but I’m still alive mainly because the crazy drivers here back up a few feet when they notice someone is actually walking in LA and in the crosswalk they are on and they screech to a halt in the middle of the street no matter if the pedestrian is in the legal right or not. They do all this with apologetic little handwaves and smiles. Afterwards they race off to blast their horns at the first of their ilk to impinge a centimeter into their space of course.
    I can’t remember if this was the case in all of the many of the other cities I’ve lived in. Goes without saying tho that in NYC it was open warfare and Mexico City was an escalation of that.
    Also it has crossed my mind that who I am – an older white woman – could be in play. I wonder if a black homeless male would get the same consideration. We all know the answer to that but still I find it interesting.

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    • That’s an interesting observation and one I hadn’t considered. Here in Atlanta, it probably runs more hot and cold in terms of driver’s tolerance to pedestrians. In some neighborhoods – such as the ones I’ve lived – people tend to obediently stop at the mid-block pedestrian crossings (sometimes even when there’s no pedestrian in sight!). In other areas of the city, peds take their life in their hands if they dare challenge a driver even while in the supposedly safe confines of the crosswalk striping.

      Atlanta has a lot of pedestrian accidents, mainly because of the number of jaywalkers crossing in places they really shouldn’t even if you grant that some jaywalking is acceptable. A lot of people seem not to care at all about the danger.

      In recent years, the city has installed stop-lighted mid-block crossings on streets with a high number of pedestrian incidents.

      One thing I had noticed that relates to both your comment and my post, is how few people here stop their car before the crosswalk at a red light. Even in ‘walkable’ neighborhoods, I constantly see people regard the far end of the crosswalk as the proper point to stop, thus blocking any pedestrians waiting to cross. That’s an example of inconsiderate behavior.

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