Passenger Rage

Americans’ driving behavior has gotten on my nerves.

We were on a road trip for the past four weeks, touring a couple of places including Montreal and the Maine coast. My husband did the driving while I sat in the passenger seat navigating like a co-pilot.

Countless cars sped along on the freeways as if they’re ambulances on a rescue mission. They passed us from the fast lane as well as the inside lane. We weren’t slow either! Our car was often on the fast lane, passing others. Yet, other drivers tailgate and change lanes without a signal. Some drivers turned up the auto stereo so loud that they’re completely deaf to the honks from other cars.

As I peeked quickly through the passenger’s window, I saw that drivers had all sorts of positions. I was infuriated to see drivers chatting or texting on the phone with one hand. The ones who stuck out their arms from the windows were most confusing. Were they giving hand signals or just resting? Even a bad Chinese taxi driver would know how dangerous it is to stretch an arm out of the window as the car moves at high speed. These American drivers practiced all the don’ts for a safe driving. How could they control the wheel with one hand or even no hands?

It is my impression that drivers from Massachusetts and New Jersey are particularly reckless. (I happened to see many of them on the northeastern highways.) Our host from Boston said half-jokingly that they called Maine drivers “Maineiacs” and Massachusetts drivers “Massholes.” What about New Jersey drivers? I would call them “New Jerkers.”

I was extremely nervous when other cars followed so closely to ours or zipped in front of us suddenly within twenty feet. Occasionally, trailer trucks outran sedans, too. If our car ran at speed limit, those cars which passed us must be well over the limit. Why is everyone in such a rush?

Based on my observation, a majority of American drivers are speeders. They rarely obey the speed limit. My American husband is one of them. On average he drove at least ten miles more per hour than speed limit. Perhaps because of my psychological reaction to speed, my heart pounds faster as the four wheels spin faster. When our car passed the others on the road, I could feel the cold sweat in my hand grabbing the door handle. I kept praying for a safe journey. Thank heaven! We managed to get to our destination without incident.

Autos run much faster on the expressways in the US than in China, perhaps more than in Canada, too. A good comparison was when we entered Quebec province. The speed limit was 100 kilometers per hour, approximately 65 miles per hour. Many American cars slowed noticeably. I wondered if the metric system constrained the free-spirited American drivers. An average speed limit for Chinese highways is 120 kph, roughly 80 mph. But autos seldom run that fast. One reason is the increase of autos in China. Also, the road condition isn’t as good.

Anyhow, I still remember what my American driving instructor says: being a good driver yourself is not enough; be cautious of dangerous drivers around you.

She’s darn right. Too many dangerous drivers loom around me even when I’m just a passenger. As a driver, I must be EXTRA careful!


Filed under: Prose, Songyi Zhang's America