The Boston Globe published this article today that makes an attempt to identify the characteristics of the “Boston Driver”. The article inevitably divides the readers into 2 groups – those who consider themselves a “Boston Driver” and those who don’t. The article suggests that the non-“Boston Drivers” are a little slow with figuring out what lane they should be in, how to get there, where they are going, and whether they are even in a car. The so-called “Boston Drivers” on the other hand, so the author, are those who think a little quicker, generally know where they are going and what lane they should be in, and are well aware that they are in a car and driving. The author laments that drivers should be more respectful to those who may be a little slow upstairs, but alas, “Boston Drivers” take issue with drivers of the non-Boston group being in their way, and show this in a not always friendly way. The author finally implies that Boston’s reputation of being a bad place for driving a car is because there are so many Boston Drivers, and because they are overly aggressive and unforgiving. Clearly, the article’s author does not consider himself a “Boston Driver”
This is completely wrong. Here is why.
1. “Boston Drivers” exist everywhere in- and outside of the US. They are in fact not specific to Boston. Most Europeans can be considered “Boston Drivers”. This is a matter of survival – over there, you have to know the rules of the road and follow them. Day-dreaming in the passing lane of a German Autobahn, for instance, is a sure way to get rear-ended by a large heavy object approaching faster than you can say “WTF”, and is a favorite way to commit suicide among German teenagers. I’d like to suggest that the “Boston Driver” does not exist as a species, and I would like to call this group the “Good Drivers”.
2. On the other hand, non-“Boston Drivers” occur in high concentrations everywhere in the US and outlying islands (at least at all the places that I have driven in, which include Puerto Rico). They are rarely encountered overseas, however. Recognizing this, we should rename this group and call them the prototypical “American Driver”.
3. The only reason why driving in Boston – and any other American city – is so difficult and frustrating is because there are so many American drivers. They day-dream in the passing lane, drive side-by-side at the same speed for miles on the highway, turn and change lanes without ever using a blinker, stop on highway on-ramps, yield to side street traffic with 200 cars behind them, think of traffic signs as landscape decor (this includes speed limits in densely populated neighborhoods), fail to stop for pedestrians in cross walks, etc. They will yield to you not because they are so nice and friendly, but by default because they don’t know who has the right of way. To sum it up, the American Driver is completely oblivious to the basic rules of how traffic works. I don’t even want to begin wondering what American drivers do to bicycles or motorcycles. It certainly does not occur to them that they might encounter such things on a public roadway.
No wonder that good drivers get upset with American drivers to a degree that makes them flip the bird. So, dear Boston Globe, lamenting about a lack of courtesy and good-will does not help. What would help is lamenting about the lack of basic driving skills, and some constructive suggestions for how to fix this.
My recipe is simple enforcement. Here is a section of my proposed schedule of fines:
$250 – Stopping on a highway on-ramp
$250 – Driving in a lane that is not the right-most lane when there are no cars in the lanes to the right
$400 – Driving side-by-side for more then .5 miles without passing when there are no cars ahead
$600 – Exceeding the posted speed limit on a local road by more than 20 mph while driving a mini van, having a phone conversation, and sipping coffee all at the same time
$1000 – Breaking on a highway while approaching the top of a hill, for no apparent reason other than the top of the hill