Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Day 34 - Road rage

Tonight it's Mattias blogging, I've reclaimed control of my computer for one night. Mostly because we have had two days filled with driving and no sightseeing. Or anything interesting at all, really. So I thought I would take the opportunity to vent some excess rage I've accumulated over the trip while driving.

Disclaimer: Of course I'm a perfect driver that never makes any mistakes ;-)

To begin with, the roads. Overall, the American roads are crap. Make that Crap, with a capital C. Massive bumps that makes you think the suspension will give up any second, cracks and potholes, concrete pavement (sometimes with grooves that makes the car steer off unexpectedly)... Any possible damage you can think of, you'll probably experience it on any given road here. Today both me and Vanja actually started laughing over the sorry state of the road we were on. It was asphalt, but with massive cracks roughly every two meters. I believe sometimes the old concrete roads are "fixed" by simply adding a layer of asphalt on top of it, resulting in cracks when the slabs shift ever so slightly.

Which brings me to my next pet peeve. Where the roads aren't too bad, you'll probably find yourself in the middle of a road work that stretches for miles and miles. It wouldn't be so bad if it wasn't for the fact that it's mostly unpopulated with actual road workers. After driving at half the normal speed limit for 20+ miles without seeing a single person working or even an abandoned machine, you tend to get slightly annoyed. Unfortunately the result seems to be that most drivers here ignore the warning signs and the lowered speed limits and just keep on driving in 70 mph. Especially the truckers with their massive 18-wheelers. But more whining about that later.

Even newly paved roads are kinda bad. They usually have an uneven surface making the entire car vibrate, together with bumps and undulations that almost make the car make a lift-off.

Next up, my fellow drivers. I've identified a number of archetypes:

The Undecided. These people seem to have a problem keeping a fixed pace. On a 70 mph limit road they tend to reach 75 mph only to slowly drop down to about 65 mph. If you are unfortunate enough to catch up with an Undecided, you can find yourself being overtaken three of four times during their peak periods, until you finally had enough and either increase your own speed or dropping down below their low water mark.

The Speeder. Don't care about anything, usually driving at 85 mph or more. Loves to switch lanes to find the smallest possible gap in order to never have to go below 80. You could think they're in the movie Speed or something. Always keep an eye out for these suicidals when you're about to switch lane, just because there wasn't any car in that lane two seconds ago doesn't mean he (yeah, almost always a male driver) won't be there now.

The Constant Driver. These guys (or gals) seem to have set their cruise contol and have no idea how to release it. They go down the highway at a reasonable pace, usually slightly below the speed limit, which makes you overtake them every now and then. If you're unlucky to reach a reduced speed area right after overtaking a Constant, you can be sure they'll soon annoy you by driving one inch from your back bumper, wanting you to keep going in their beloved cruising speed. Sometimes a Constant Driver turns into an Undecided once they actually realize there are real road workers nearby and that maybe they should slow down. If a Constant would ever take a seat in a truck, they would become...

The Trucker. Truckers seem to be nice people, switching lanes to give you space when you enter the highway and all. But there seems to be a construction fault in every truck in America, and it's that the gas pedal is glued to the floor. If a truck wants to switch lanes to overtake another truck, you better get out of it's way. Or if you drive past a truck going at roughly the same speed as you, just to reach a section of the road sloping downwards, for the love of god, don't get in front of it. It will pick up speed in the down slope and run you down. Or just overtake you, if you're lucky.

Also, unlike Swedish roads where the normal procedure is to use a left lane to overtake someone. Here, most people seem to like to use the right lane for this operation. This usually means that when there's three or more lanes, the middle lane(s) are the slow ones, the leftmost lane is going slightly faster, and then the innermost right lane is used by the Speeders to zoom past.

I've also found the answer to the question "Why is rush hour actually called rush hour when it's usually not moving at all?". In Sweden, when there's a lot of cars, traffic usually slows down a lot and we try to maintain a reasonable distance in proportion to the present speed. Not so much here. Here you can rush down a six-lane highway at 70 mph, every single lane completely filled with vehicles at an average distance of two meters of each other. Throw in the odd Speeder switching from lane to lane and a few Undecideds and Truckers and you have yourself a wonderful mix. No wonder there are a lot of accidents happening. If you think you can try to slow down a bit to create a gap, I can promise you it will be filled by a Speeder in a second or two. Just go with the flow and hope for the best.

Oh, I almost forgot. When we first started driving down the east cost, we were surprised by the number of shredded and torn pieces of tires we saw along the roads here. I'm not so surprised anymore. The combination of horrible roads and the number of accidents makes it completely reasonable that the roads are lined with the leftovers of the cars populating them.


  1. Ja herregud, det här är saker man som mamma inte vill veta förrän ni kört er sista mil därborta och återlämnat bilen till den rätta ägaren. Men vi får be en bön att även de sista etapperna går bra. Roligt förresten att se att du är en lika bra bloggare som din käresta. Ha det nu så gott och njut ordentligt av de dagar ni har kvar på er resa.

    Många kramar

    P.S. Det här med att vara en skicklig bilförare är nog något som ligger i generna. Som du vet har även jag svårt att göra några misstag i trafiken ;)

  2. Det där var en riktig och grundlig beskrivning av det amerikanska trafiknätet, dess regler och inte minst hur de olika kategorierna av trafikanter tillämpar dem och beter sig mot både fordon och varandra! (Och som Du ser, Mattias, så har din gamle morbror åter "halkat in" på bloggen, oavsett "vägbeläggning", men tack vare Dina occh mamma Gittans anvisningar - Tack!) Det var roligt att läsa det Du skrev!
    Nu får Du kanske greppa ratten igen - eller har Vanja möjligen fått lust att "överta styrandet!? Hursomhelst, ha det så bra, så hörs vi! "Ta´t lugnt, ta en Toy", som det hette förr i reklamen, hälsar Kal å´ Ada, å´

  3. Och vi kallar detta "Ode to the average American driver?"
    Japp precis såhär är det. Man inser ganska snabbt att de såkallade stadsjeeparna gör sense. Trots att amerikaner kör som de gör så tycker jag ändå att det finns en förståelse för svänger vänster i korsningen från högerfilen (ja fyr eller femfiligt förståss), eller att man kan åka mil efter mil med blinkers på.
    Kommer ni stanna till något mer i New York innan ni reser hem, så att man skulle hinna med middag?

  4. Ojoj...har man något att se fram mot nu eller?