Sunday, July 24, 2005

Zoom, zoom, zoom

I think most people would agree that I have a lot of driving under my belt. I have driven in 49 of the 50 states over the past 42 years, most of Canada, Europe and some of Mexico. I've spent extended periods of time in many areas. I think I am qualified to make the following observation: People in Massachusets and Rhode Island drive faster than drivers anywhere else in the country!

Now, I am not talking about a few drivers. Every area has some people who are going to blow by everyone else. And some areas have very high average speeds which means some are going very fast and some are driving near the speed limit. What I am talking about just about every driver of every vehicle. Posted speed limits here are interpreted as "minimum" speed and almost no one drives the minimum.

We noticed how fast everyone drove during the 2 months we lived there this past winter, and I have made several trips to the area since then. Each time I am again overwhelmed with the speed of the drivers. I-95 between Providence and Boston is three lanes most of the way. It is posted at 65 mph, but in my experience (including this morning on the way to the airport) if you are not driving at least 75 you will pass no one and be passed by almost everyone. This is regardless of changes in the speed limit such as when it drops to 55 for construction. The closest experience I can relate driving in this area to is my experience 34 years ago driving on the autobahns of Germany.

The high speed is not limited to the interstates. People drive the narrow streets and roads of the area at whatever speed they wish. Speed limit signs serve no purpose whatsoever and you almost never see anyone stopped by the cops.

Of course, there are some places where even someone who wants to obey speed limits is inclined to ignore them. Every area has some speed limits that make no sense, but Rhode Island is at the top of my list. When we lived there last winter I took a back roads route to work. It was scenic and fun. The road through MA wound through some small towns, up and down hills and in and out of built up areas. Just before you cross into Rhode Island, the speed limit is 45 as you wind your way up and down a heavily wooded hill and around some blind corners. 45 to 50 is about all you could drive on this section without skidding off the road.

Just as you cross the RI state line the road widens considerably, straightens out and moves into a much more open area. Here you would expect the speed limit to stay 45 or maybe even go up to 50. But no. It drops to 30 for about 2 miles! There is no way anyone is going to drive 30 in that area, and no one does. After the road makes a sweeping turn to the right the speed limit goes up to 40. Same good road, same open country, and people average 55.

Makes me wonder if it isn't time for national standards for speed limit guidelines in places other than interstates. I think it is way past time for national drivers licenses and for vehicle licenses. All the different rules and charges are merely a throwback to the old days when we were far flung colonies and are now being used to fund programs that have nothing to do with driving. I realize this is less important to those of you who have never moved out of the state you were first licensed in, but for those of us who have moved a few times it is a big hassle and expense.

Just wanted to get that off my chest. If Don can use his blog as a bully pulpit, so can I.


  1. I bet you've started something here!

    Everyone will want to add their two bits about drivers and roads. I get to be the first followup!

    I noticed the couple of times I have driven in Boston that they seem to drive very aggressively there. You have to be very determined to merge onto the freeway. This seems to fit with your observations of MA drivers, I think. Kind of the opposite of England, where everyone gives everyone else a break.

    But The Philippines or Thailand are probably the worst traffic places I've ever been. Lines in the road mean nothing. Leave an extra inch, and someone will fill it. They consider themselves "good" drivers if they can control the car at high speed, but patience, discipline and safety mean very little.

  2. And bully for you! That's one of the things I like about the blog. Say what's on your mind.

    But on to the subject at hand, drivers. I've been in a few places and would have to say Manhatten is where they drive the most carefree. Not only the drivers but also the pedestrians. Traffic lights are only suggestions seldom heeded. You take your life into your own hands every time you step off a curb.

    I've driven around Boston a few times and didn't notice what Daryl did. Maybe that's because it isn't a lot different than the 405. Most Southern California drivers are ok but there's so many of them you see all kinds. I notice it a lot more on my 450 lb motorcycle than I do in my 4000 lb truck. Probably a good thing.