(james benedict brown) on the road

(Don’t want to be) on the road behind you

Posted in Posts by James Benedict Brown on 11 October, 2007

The last day of my little jaunt around Minnesota and Wisconsin was spent covering the mad dash from Lake Namekagon in northern Wisconsin back to Chicago. After a particularly good diner breakfast in Glidden, Wisconsin (and other waitress who, on hearing my accent, stopped dead in her tracks, smiled and said “where in  the world are you from?”) the roads gave way to highways and freeways, and the miles sped past.

On the final approach the Chicago, the Illinois traffic crowded around Tony and the empty roads I’d been pounding over for the last five days turned into distant memories. My last experience of driving on busy American freeways was on the crowded I-95 between New York City and Washington DC.

Not wanting to make any sweeping generalisations about people, but Americans know (to use an Americanism) jack-sh*t about driving on motorways. The principle on British dualled roads is that you stay left (nearside) unless you’re passing. In America, any lane will do, and because most cars have automatic transmissions with cruise controls, any fixed speed will do. That just leaves room for the drivers who think a stopping distance is the length of time it takes for a cop to pull you over.

Name and shame time. Not that we’ll say anything about me taking pictures behind the wheel of a moving car, but I had to get these pics when I saw the driver of this grey Nissan Altima tailgating every vehicle on the road. Here’s a particular scary lane change.

Followed by an aggressive and uttlerly pointless bumper to bumper persuit of the van in front. Another good rule to remember is “tyres and tarmac”: when stopped in traffic, always allow enough room between you and the car in front to see that vehicle’s tyres and a bit of tarmac, so that if you’re shunted from behind you’re less likely to hit the car in front. This driver doesn’t even follow that rule at 110km/h.

It was only when I got these pictures onto my computer that I noticed the driver’s somewhat appropriate license plate.

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  1. A different Scott said, on 29 November, 2007 at 16:36

    >>but Americans know (to use an Americanism) jack-sh*t about driving on motorways. The principle on British dualled roads is that you stay left (nearside) unless you’re passing.<<

    You can make that generalization and most good American drivers will agree. ALL DRIVER TRAINING in the US teaches to remain in the right lane unless passing. Most student drivers must have fallen asleep during that 30 seconds (driver training here absolutely sucks, by the way – you can ask my 19, 18, and 16-year-old kids – they’ll tell you it’s a complete joke). In addition, many states have a LAW that says the same thing! I travel extensively all over the US and Canada for business. What’s really strange is that it seems that it depends on what state or province you’re in. For example, Californians are clueless when it comes to this – I’ve experienced it; my Californian sister – originally from Ohio – swears she’s gonna buy a gun and start shooting the left-lane bandits (she’s kidding, of course). In Ohio where I live, it’s pretty okay, and when it’s not you can generally honk and somebody will move to the right. The left-lane bandits do all of this while passing signs that say “slower traffic keep right” and “stay in right lane unless passing”!!


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