Saturday, December 15, 2007
Among the things I love about living in Northern California is the traffic. Not that I enjoy traffic jams, but it’s amazing, after living in driving hell for so long, how a traffic jam really works. In Sacramento, the freeways get jammed because there is a lot of traffic. There are tens of thousands of people trying to get to or from work, all in a relatively small window of time.
In Reno, though, traffic would jam because two cars were trying to get on the freeway. See, Nevada drivers do not know the term, “merge.” They have heard this word, and believe it means, “Turn your signal on and wait five minutes to get into the next lane,” or, “When you see someone put their turn signal on, speed up just enough so they can’t get in front of you…or behind you.”
It doesn’t help that the intersection between the two freeways, affectionately referred to as the “Spaghetti Bowl,” was fashioned to allow 10 cars to be on it at a time, regardless of the direction you are heading. Cram any more than that, and it’s an automatic jam. Add to that the constant construction (as long as we lived there, I have never been on the freeway and not had a lane closed or a slower speed limit due to construction. I was going on 9 years prior to moving here) and you have traffic.
Then you have the California drivers. See, California drivers know how to drive. (While this may not be applicable to places such as LA or San Francisco, most California drivers drive well.) They may speed and they may refrain from using their signals. Heck, they may even cut in front of you. But here, it is expected. It is done to you, because it is a well-known fact that you’re going to do it right back to them at some point in your life. This, though seemingly chaotic, is a good thing. It keeps traffic flowing nicely. You drive, expecting that the driver next to you will cram into that small spot in front of you. But they do it nicely. You let them in, because they will let you in when you “cut” in front of them two miles down the road. See? It’s not cutting. It is etiquette.
In Nevada, drivers try to mimic this. They, however, do not really know how it’s done, having been surrounded with other NV drivers for so long. They add this to the supposed “merging” and cause accidents, which slows down traffic even more (if that’s even possible.)
The list goes on and on with bad driving techniques I’ve witnessed while living in Reno, but, thus far, I’ve only seen two problems with California drivers. The first is the rubbernecking. A California driver is literally unable to pass by an accident (or even a police car having pulled someone over) without examining it on their own. They have to be sure everything is being handled correctly, which, of course, slows traffic down. Luckily, the number of freeway accidents is small comparatively, unless it’s a weekend when all the Reno-ites come to town.
The other problem is the Acuras. I first started noticing this phenomenon years ago, when I would travel to Southern California on road trips. Since then, I’ve been counting. Statistically speaking 2.5/3 California Acura drivers mean bad news. They drive like they are alone on the freeway. I’m not sure why this is, but I would be interested to find out what insurance rates are on California Acuras compared to any other vehicle. I’d bet the results would be surprising.
Of all the stupid moves I’ve seen from drivers around the Sac area, 98% of them have either been Acuras or Nevada drivers. Need I say more?