I just got home from Florida, driving some 2300 miles up and down the East coast of America. And I can tell you, without equivocation, that the worst traffic on the entire Eastern seaboard is around Washington, DC. The roads contain all the ingredients for a horrific driving experience: Too much traffic. Lots of trucks. Miles of road construction. And plenty of aggressive, impatient drivers who speed, tailgate and basically flout the traffic laws.
A distant second for worst traffic is the Orlando area -- while, surprisingly, the rest of Florida isn't that bad. The biggest surprise, at least to me, is that the driving in New Jersey is not the awful experience I expected it to be.
I'll admit my own bias. I like to travel about 5 mph above the speed limit. I think that is a reasonably safe speed, and figure it's basically still within the speed limit.
However, if you go 5 mph above the speed limit, you are one of the slowest drivers on the road. The flow of traffic on I75 and I4, up I95 to the Garden State Parkway and the Taconic Parkway, ranges somewhere between 10 and 15 mph above the speed limit. And a significant minority of drivers punch it up to 20 mph over the speed limit.That's right, when the limit is 55, they go 75. When the limit is 65, they go 85. At least until they get pulled over by a cop, which I noted takes place occasionally but not too frequently.
So a lot of people passed me on my trip -- too many passing on the right, not the left. There were a number of instances when I was cruising along in the second lane of a four-lane highway. Two lanes open on the left. One on the right. A driver would pull up behind me, tailgate for a minute or two, then break to the right -- even though the left lanes were wide open. I figure these people are just ignorant. They don't know that they're supposed to pass on the left.
Some people pulled up behind me, then went to the right even though there was a truck or slow driver just ahead of me in the right-hand lane. The driver would pull even on the right, inch ahead of me, then realize there wasn't enough room to pass without getting stuck behind the slow driver in the right-hand lane. So they slowed down, fell back, and angled into the left lane to pass the way they're supposed to. I figure these people are stupid. They couldn't figure out that the right-hand lane would block them when they tried to pass.
There were a few people who watched and waited for a free lane. If they saw the right-hand lane was clear, they'd take over the lane and speed past a line of cars in the middle lane, until they closed in on a slow car -- then they'd veer into the middle lane and continue into the left lane, where they'd join the line of faster cars until the right lane got clear again, and then they'd jump back to the right lane to get ahead of another half-dozen cars. I figure these people are sociopaths. They don't care about other drivers, don't appreciate that they're putting anyone in danger. They think solely of their own convenience and need to get ahead.
Of course, it's easy to criticize and make fun of drivers who don't drive like we do. I think I'm a good driver ... but most people think they're "better than average" drivers.
But when you're out on the road for days at a time, you realize that it's dangerous on America's highways. But where's the outrage when over 30,000 people are killed on the road every year (even though it used to be even worse before airbags came on the scene)? People understandably spilled gallons of tears for the 27 people killed in Newtown, Ct. But that very same day, more than three times as many people were killed on America's highways. People protested wars in Iraq (4,486 American soldiers killed in 11 years) and Afghanistan (2,083 killed in 12 years). But those losses are infinitesimal compared to the casualties on our roads at home.
Every once in a while, you see a cross on the side of the road marking the loss of someone's life in an auto accident. Probably involving someone who was speeding, tailgating or passing on the right. Those crosses should remind us -- school's open, drive carefully.