Driving In America

[Commentary]

12th February 2000

I have managed to survive more than 12 months driving here, and I thought I would share some tips with you, in case you ever develop masochistic tendencies and evince a desire to drive here. These tips will help you blend in.

Blame

  • No matter where you are in the USA, always throw the blame elsewhere. The best line is "The people here in [insert current location] don't know how to drive in [insert weather condition]. Back home in [insert any other location] we know how to drive in [insert weather condition]." For example: "The people here in Virginia Beach don't know how to drive in snow. Back home in Vermont, we know how to drive in snow". Generally speaking, these statements will be true. When Virginia Beach had a slight snowfall early in 2000, there were over 400 car accidents when people tried to drive home that night. They obviously didn't know how to drive in snow. In February 2000, a little rain iced up a bit on the Virginia Beach roads, and that caused 200 car accidents in one night. They obviously didn't know how to drive with a little ice on the road.

Choice of Vehicle

  • Choose the largest vehicle you can. Because petrol is so cheap here, no matter how large your vehicle is, it still won't cost much to run. A very large vehicle gives you several advantages.
  • A large vehicle will allow you to see the traffic. If everyone is driving normal size cars, everyone can see ahead to watch for stopping or danger, and everyone can see if it's safe to turn left or right. However, no-one drives normal size cars here. Everyone is driving large vehicles. If you drive a normal size car, the sort found in the rest of the world, you will be unable to see anything other than the tops of the wheels of the other vehicles. This is clearly dangerous. Your only recourse is to drive a huge vehicle yourself. The bigger the better, because then you can peer over the tops of the other vehicles and be alert for danger.
  • The larger the vehicle you are driving, the more you can intimidate the fools who choose to drive anything smaller. You will often need to force other vehicles out of your way, especially those fools who misunderstand the speed limits. And any fool who hesitates. If you have a vehicle the same size as the one you want to intimidate, you are going to make no impression on the other driver. Remember, they aren't usually watching the road, so they won't notice your vehicle unless you are really, really HUGE. If your vehicle is 6 times their size, then they will notice you and they will hear you. You can happily ignore them. They will stop or veer away from you because they know they will be crushed by your juggernaut if they don't.
  • When you choose your large vehicle, it will be unfinished. You will need to modify the vehicle to suit your personality and abilities. Generally speaking, you should enlarge your vehicle. Make it an extra 3 feet higher by adding massive shock absorbers and hydraulics. Make it bigger again by adding oversized tyres. Make it wider by adding wide tyres or huge side mirrors. You should aim to make the vehicle appear bigger and bulkier. The bigger you are, the better you can be seen. The bigger you are, the more vehicles you can intimidate.
  • The improvements to your vehicle can be finished by adding a personalised number plate. You have 7 letters. Choose something that reflects your personality, and is badly spelt. Remember that the issuing authority is alert to number plates that could be offensive, so disguise is imperative.

On The Road

  • You will often notice speed signs on the side of the road. These are speed limits. The number is in miles per hour. It is a lower limit. Other countries indicate an upper limit that you are not allowed to exceed. America posts lower limits that you are not allowed to fall below. Seriously underpowered cars will travel at or just above the limit. Most drivers will travel at 10 mph above the limit. Larger vehicles that are lovingly maintained will usually travel between 30 and 50 mph above the limit. If you do happen to fall below the speed limit, this causes dangerous conditions. It could cause an accident as other drivers will not be expecting it. At the very least, it will cause a great deal of ill-will and you will be subject to large amounts of abuse from your fellow drivers.
  • Acceleration is the key to good driving. You must always be accelerating. In other parts of the world, drivers are encouraged to settle at a speed they are comfortable with and stick to it. This reduces consumption of petrol. As petrol is so cheap in America, this is not a consideration. It has been discovered in America that travelling at a steady speed is dangerous because it contributes to boredom, and falling asleep at the wheel. You must always be accelerating. If you are not accelerating, the rest of the traffic will be moving away from you. You will fall behind, causing personal anguish, and confusing the traffic behind you that is catching up. This is a dangerous situation. Constant acceleration will let you stay with the pack.
  • Stay with the pack. No matter what the weather, no matter what the speed, you must stay about 2 feet behind the car in front of you. As they will be constantly accelerating, it is up to you to be constantly accelerating in order to stick with them. In other parts of the world, drivers tend to stay a lot further away from the car in front. This is because drivers of other nationalities are untrustworthy. You do not know what they are going to do, and they can be quite erratic, so you have to stay further behind them in order to be safe. Thankfully, this is not the case in America. Here, everyone trusts everyone else. Everyone does the right thing. You know with complete certainty that the driver in front of you will be constantly accelerating. He will not suddenly stop for animals or pedestrians or other vehicles. If he has to avoid something, he will simply and suddenly change lanes without indicating. You can trust the other drivers with your life, and stay within 2 feet of them.
  • Occasionally, you will find a driver that you cannot trust. This is not a situation that can be tolerated. The entire driving pattern in the USA depends on being able to trust everyone. Watch for drivers who are not to be trusted. These are those dangerous fools who travel below the speed limit, who hesitate for a fraction of a second before changing lanes or merging lanes or coming onto a freeway, who stupidly won't cross unbroken lines, who stop at stop signs. These drivers need to be made aware how dangerous they are. You must PUNISH them. This will either make them correct their ways, or stop driving. Either result is satisfactory. In order to punish them, it helps to be driving a very large vehicle. If they hesitate for anything, roar past them, cut them off, force them off the road, force them to stop. Make sure you verbally abuse them. The horn is also a nice touch. Remember, he who hesitates is lost. Make sure it isn't you.
  • Do not use your indicators to change lanes. It is a sign of weakness, a warning that you not confident or skilled enough to simply move into the next lane. Indicators are usually used by drivers who are not travelling with the pack and are unable to simply move into a gap. If you use your indicators, you will be seen as a dangerous driver and other drivers will PUNISH you. They will punish you by immediately moving up to block your passage.
  • Do not use your indicators when turning corners. It is unnecessary as no-one needs to know if you are turning or not.
  • Because of the nature of the roads, you will often enter a highway in the right-most lane, and need to turn left almost immediately afterwards. You will need to cross four or five lanes almost immediately. This is relatively easy and should be done without the use of indicators. If you use your indicators, other drivers will close up and prevent your passage. Most drivers will be travelling in packs and travelling at speed. You can trust them to maintain their formations. Simply swing across into the desired lane. They will trust you too and they will not slow down or swerve. They will simply ignore you. This is correct behaviour and traffic will flow smoothly.
  • You will occasionally notice gaps in traffic. A gap is when a driver is not within a car length of the driver in front. These gaps are an abomination and must be filled. If the driver in front of you won't fill that gap, then it is up to you to do two things - you must fill that gap and you must PUNISH the driver in front for failing to do so. Continue accelerating, swing out and overtake the driver in front and plug that gap. If you manage to fit into the gap with less than two feet between you and both other drivers, you are doing very well and should be applauded. In order to punish the driver behind you for failing to fill that gap, brake. Make them brake and swerve to avoid you, then you can continue on your path knowing that you have educated another fool.
  • Braking is a last resort. You will rarely need to brake, except to punish some fool. Although you will be travelling at high speed, within two feet of other vehicles, and all accelerating constantly, it is rare to need to brake. Braking is also inadvisable because it gives the driver behind you an indication that you are slowing. It is far better to let the car slow without any indication. You can tell how good the drivers are behind you, by seeing them simply switch lanes and continue accelerating away from you. Admire their skill. Foolish drivers will brake and this will set off a chain reaction behind them. Grind them beneath your boot.
  • Occasionally, the weather will turn nasty. Rain is easy to handle. You should immediately speed up so as to get your destination faster. There is no need to put a greater distance between your vehicle and the vehicle in front.
  • Here's a handy hint if you are driving a pickup. Remove the tailgate. Leaving the tailgate up slows the vehicle, and will cause you to consume more petrol. Removing the tailgate, or letting it lie flat will let you go faster and save you as much as a dollar a year in petrol costs.
  • Red lights. When the lights turn red, you are occasionally expected to stop. You should stop if you cannot get across the intersection before the traffic flows against you. Unless you are driving a really large vehicle and you can intimidate the others to stop and let you through because they just know you'll cause far more damage to their vehicles. A good rule of thumb is that after the lights turn red, another 4 vehicles can get across.
  • When you first obtain a drivers license in your state of choice, you have to sit for a small examination to show that you know the rules of the road. You will be given a small booklet with the rules in it and expected to memorise it. Two things to remember. The book contains rules and numbers that you have to remember just long enough to pass the exam and get your license. It can then be forgotten. This is a small exercise in short-term memory abilities. And anyway, the rules are optional. They are for ideal conditions, like when a traffic policeman is watching you carefully. They are not meant to be used in the real world. For example, the book says you should not cross unbroken white lines. In reality, you should not cross unbroken white lines unless you want to.
  • There are some situations in traffic that are explained inadequately in the rule book. These deal with conflict resolution. For example, you are at an intersection and there are four stop signs. Who gets to go first? You guessed it! The biggest, most intimidating vehicle gets to go first. And if anyone else tries to usurp your right to go first, the sheer imposing bulk of your vehicle will soon let them know that they better stop again and let you go through or else they will get crunched. This rule applies at all intersections not governed by red lights, whether the intersection has none, some or many stop signs.
  • When you are one of several lanes that are turning left, there is a safe way to turn and a dangerous way. It is dangerous to stay in your lane. As you get around the corner you must slide to the lane to the right of you. This makes the turn much shallower and safer for you to make. Occasionally you will find fools who think they should stay in the lane that they started in. They must be trained. And PUNISHED. When you start moving into their lane, they will soon move out of your way. It doesn't take too many times for this to happen before they understand the rules of the road.

Parking

  • Most car parks provide neatly marked spaces for cars to park. These spaces are designed to comfortably fit small cars, not the large vehicle that you are driving. These small spaces are an attempt to usurp your right to park wherever you want, however you want.
  • Be bold. Park right near the entrance of where you want to go. Be really bold and park in front of the sign that laughingly says "No Parking". Your vehicle should be large enough to completely obscure that sign.
  • If you are not so bold, or just want a peaceful parking visit, park where the lines are marked. Do not attempt to fit your vehicle into the marked space. It will not fit. Consume at least two spaces. To do this you should park at an angle. If you go over the front marks, you can often manage to consume four spaces. This is a good thing. It lets you PUNISH the little people who drive those small vehicles that are beneath your contempt.
  • Many car parks have special areas marked for handicapped drivers. These areas are generally empty and are close to where you want to be. Feel free to use them. If your vehicle is large enough, you will be able to obscure the signs and the special markings and no-one will know that you are parking in the handicapped zone. Even if you are discovered parking in the handicapped zone, it will not be a problem. What are they going to do? Shake their wheelchair at you? And if you happen to feel a little guilt about using these extremely convenient parking spaces, fret no more! It's relatively easy to fake a small injury and get one of those special number plates that lets you park there legitimately.

Sharing The Road

  • Eventually you will discover that other vehicles share the roads with you. These will generally be smaller vehicles and should be ignored up to a point. Bumping them can sometimes cause small scrapes to your vehicle. If your vehicle is newish you might want to approach these lesser vehicles with a little more care. If your car is already rugged, or has been carefully ruggedized to reflect your manly attributes, then you won't want to bother. A few more bumps and scrapes will only add to your reputation.
  • You might sometimes notice that there are things on the road that are smaller than smaller vehicles. I refer to motorcycles, bicycles, pedestrians and animals. These are small and can generally be ignored.
  • Motorcycles are small and move fast. You can safely ignore them. When you change lanes suddenly without indicating, it pays to give a cursory look to see if there is anything in the lane that could hurt you. In other words, a vehicle bigger than you like a semi-trailer or a tractor. Lesser vehicles like motorcycles are easily missed in that brief glance because you are looking for BIG objects and a bike is not. You might occasionally sideswipe a motorcycle but you probably won't notice it if you do. They generally slide away from you with a gentle bump.
  • You might occasionally come in contact with bicycles. These fragile vehicles are ridden by people with strange ideals and even stranger clothing. You will encounter bicycles when you want to turn a corner and they are in the way. Not to worry. They are timid and fearful creatures of the road and they will be watching out for you because you can hurt them. Just turn when and where you need to. They will stop, or turn rapidly to avoid you, or simply fall off to avoid you. If you do bump one, just continue on your way. They won't be in any condition to take down your details in order to sue you. You don't have to take any especial care of bicyclists. Many don't bother to make themselves especially visible by wearing bright clothing or lights, so if they can't be bothered making themselves visible, why should you be bothered looking for them. They are too small for you to notice, and too small to cause you any damage. Some bicyclists wear protective clothing like small helmets and knee pads, and so do not suffer much damage when they give way to you. Other bicyclists see their clothing as a fashion statement, witness the tight lycra clad groin parts, and they often exhibit unfashionable injuries after coming in contact with you.
  • Pedestrians are rare. People drive, not walk. Pedestrians are like bicyclists - strange. They have strange ideals and believe in public transport and exercise. Whatever their beliefs, they are too small and too slow for you to worry about. They cause little damage so you can safely ignore them.
  • Animals come in two categories - big ones that can damage your vehicle, and small ones that are damaged by your vehicle. Avoid the big ones, and aim for the small ones. Help natural selection and develop animal breeds that are smart enough not to travel on roads.

Notes

Petrol Despite the fact that cars are powered by a product derived from petroleum which is usually abbreviated to petrol, Americans prefer to call the product gas, when it is clearly a liquid.