Driving in the US

Just a quick aside and then we will resume our usual broadcast.

Speed limit: 70 MPHI drove to work today. Well, I did it at 9pm, but I drove there anyway since I need to practice for tomorrow morning. It is 29 miles from where I am living to work. That’s 46 km, or 30 minutes at an average speed of 60 mph (96 km/h). The speed limits on the interstates here are 65mph or 70mph (112 km/h) but everyone does about 5mph over the limit as usual.

I really enjoy driving here in the US. Even though I keep using the windscreen wipers to try indicate and I always grab to my left for the gear / hand break, driving on the right-hand side of the road is not all that difficult. I just need to keep reminding myself and I am ok. It turns out that two facts about American drivers really helps a lot:

a) They are quite courteous. Surprisingly, they seem to be very forgiving and accommodating on the road, this is most likely due to the second fact:
b) They are, often multitasking while driving. You think people using cellular phones while driving in New Zealand is bad? Hah! Think again. Fast food, mobile phone, you name it, they have them in their ear or their mouth (not necessarily respectively). This means some of them can have a tendency to drive rather erratically, so they forgive a jet-lagged little kiwi drifting nervously on the right hand side of the road in his teeny tiny “compact” car. The size of American cars is something else entirely, I will elaborate on that later.

This rather laid back approach to driving all works because the roads are generally very good… as long as you know where you’re going. The signposts are quite cryptic and they will often refer to roads by a number rather than a name. The road markings also appear to be optional in many places. Many is the time I nearly ran a stop street because I didn’t see any lines on the road.

There are some weird rules, though, the strangest is the rule that says you can run a red light. Yes, you heard me. If the traffic light is red and you’re turning right, then treat the intersection like a stop street and go on through if the coast is clear. It makes me feel a little guilty every time I do it.

Interstate and service roadsOn either side of the interstate there is a road called a service road, this has on-ramps and off-ramps every few miles or so, meaning you can get off the interstate at any time and carry on along the service road. So, if you made a mistake you can hop back on without any worries, or bypass the interstate altogether. The one scary thing about this, though, is there are no (repeat, no) traffic lights or any other features of the road to stop traffic hurtling off the interstate at 75mph. Traffic coming off the interstate gets right of way so you just better watch out or you may get creamed by an 18 wheeler.

Doug: I will post images of humorous American road signs as soon as I get my bearings, okay?