Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Unspoken Traffic Rules... Texas vs California


One thing that I have noticed since I moved to Texas is the rules of the road are completely different. Coming from Southern California to Farmland, USA has been a refreshing adjustment...until you get in your car. I had no idea the things you are expected to know. I will give a few examples of my observational Texas driving... but I am mostly still like a deer in the head lights while learning these unspoken rules. Why didn't my Texas license come with a handbook??

Rule #1
All 3 lanes must yield (or, more appropriately, stop the flow of all traffic for two miles) on the service road for vehicles exiting the highway. Sounds easy enough, right? That is until you are driving 50 mph and can only determine if someone is exiting the highway when you approach the exit and are required to cock your head 180 degrees behind you like an owl. Holy collision, Batman!

Rule #2
Never drive less than 80 mph on a two-lane, back country farm road. You will be angrily passed by very large farm trucks, tractors, horses, cows, a flock of sheep...Nothing would shock me. If you want to drive like a grandma, do it on the highway.

Rule #3
Never question the abundance of troopers that lurk in the grasslands off of the highway. When they have only seen one car pass in the last 15 minutes... you WILL be doing something wrong. They will make sure of it... and light you up like the 4th of July.

Rule #4
Texans LOOOOVE their horns. And I'm not talking the casual slight toot of the horn when you are not paying attention with the red light turns green. I am talking about 8 cars trying to merge onto a service road, at one time, and you have the audacity to let another car into traffic. HONK. Socially shamed. Never make a mistake while driving. You WILL be called out. You WILL be honked at. And it will most likely be from my husband.(He's learned this rule remarkably fast and seems to enjoy it thoroughly.)

Rule #5
When you hear sirens blazing behind you, keep with the flow of traffic. No one pulls over for emergency vehicles here!! I am flabbergasted by this! My instinct is to always pull over to the right... but when I look around, I'm the only idiot doing it! Unbelievable!

Oh, how I miss the days of having it all figured out! Southern California driving was brutal at times, but at least I felt like I understood and could abide by the unspoken rules of the road. For those of you that haven't "figured out" Southern California driving...let me assist you with what I like to call:

Southern California Rules of the Road: A Crash Course (No pun intended) in Unspoken, but Much Understood, Traffic Rules… MELISSA'S TOP TEN LIST

When two vehicles on different roadways reach an uncontrolled intersection at the same time, the vehicle with less bling must yield. For example, if you pull up to a stop sign and you are cruising your tricked out Honda Sedan on very respectable Dubs… and an Escalade on Dub Ochos happens to roll up at the same time… you must yield to the Ochos, for they are more worthy of the right-of-way. If your ochos are spinners, you need not stop at all… roll down your window as you cruise through the intersection, point to your wheels, and all will be excused.

If, at any distance, you see a pedestrian approaching a crosswalk, accelerate immediately. It may not be too late. You still may have a chance to beat the pedestrian to the crosswalk. If the pedestrian insists on taking the risk and presents their body as a moving target in front of your vehicle, slam on your brakes until you are within inches of clipping their heels. Not only will that give them a good scare, but it will teach them a lesson for the next time they think they are invincible. This technique is applicable to any and all situations involving pedestrians... including, but not limited to, intersections, crosswalks, parking lots, and neighborhoods.

During a lane change: Never, and I mean NEVER use your blinker. A blinker is an invitation to be mocked. When another car signals their desire for a lane change, Southern California drivers are programmed to automatically speed up while murmuring to themselves “I don’t think so, Buddy”. A proper lane change can be best compared to a “sneak attack”. Do not look over your shoulder. Do not give any other driver a suspicion of your intention. Through subtle glances in your side mirror, take note of the amount of inches between you and the vehicle in the next lane. If you can convince yourself beyond a reasonable doubt that you will not scratch metal… make your move. (Objects may be closer than they appear does not apply to Southern California.)

There is no such thing as a passing lane. Pass in whatever direction gives you an opportunity, and pass as often as you would like. Time is our most prized possession in Southern California. If weaving in and out of traffic and changing lanes 28 times can shave off 3 minutes on your morning commute… that is time well spent. And there really is no comparison to the feeling of watching a car weave in and out of traffic and not save any time. The only indisputable topper… is watching the same car get lit up by the POOOO-leeece. This may very well define euphoria.
Driving is a menial chore that we haphazardly perform while we multitask. Nothing is more appalling than the thought of wasting precious time doing useless activities, such as watching the road, during our time in the car. Southern Californians have an exceptional ability to prioritize a maximum amount of tasks in a minimal amount of time. Unfortunately, driving is not usually very high on the priority list. It is not uncommon to simultaneously be changing the tune on your ipod and eating lunch, all while safely talking on your Bluetooth. From reading the paper over a cup of coffee to applying makeup or shaving… there really is not a multi-tasking activity that would be considered “shocking” to witness during your morning commute.

Everything and anything are grounds for rubbernecking. A fender-bender accident, flat tire, sirens 4 miles off of the freeway…smoke vaguely in the distance… a train… a bicyclist…Cal trans… Orange-suited, fine quality citizens picking up trash for community service (chuckling to self, “sucks to be them”.)…someone getting pulled over by the 5-0 (again, sucks to be them)…any event, circumstance, situation or distraction that could possibly be more interesting than what is currently going on inside our vehicle will cause immediate slowing, if not stopping, to visually investigate the scene. Once we realize that we can’t see anything and curse the car next to us for also slowing, thus, blocking our view… we carry on with whatever activity we were previously engaged in.

When we are unfortunate enough to have a flat tire or car trouble, we are immediately on the phone with AAA or a tow truck. All the while, praying that someone doesn’t stop to try to help. We’ve seen horror movies. We know what happens to the stranded motorist when a car pulls over to help; they are never seen again. Then we chuckle to ourselves, “who are we kidding?” This is Southern California. Your car could be on fire, blocking three lanes on the freeway and everyone would drive around you…inevitably slowing to rubberneck at your misfortune with a “sucks for them”. Of course you can expect an occasional horn blow to let you know what an inconvenience you’ve been. Rest assured, not one car will stop to help. Even our creeps don’t have that kind of time.

Word association is an important part of drivers education in Southern California. 91 Freeway= Parking Lot. Pedestrian= Accelerate. Cyclist= Get on the side walk. Speed Limit= Suggestion. Freeway interchange= learn to merge. Yellow light= hold on tight. Stop sign= Roll through. Giving the bird= invitation for road rage and/or murder. Seatbelt= duh. Safety device= packing heat. Temecula Red light= 10 more cars drive through. Interstate 15= Auto baun.

The abominable vehicular sin, which so happens to also be a blatant invitation for road rage and/or retaliation: Failure to give a courtesy wave after mercifully being let into a line of traffic. There is no other single action that will provoke an incalculable amount of rage combined with a psychotic level of wrath. It is inescapably a recipe for disaster.

Finally, the most important rule to heed in Southern California….. There is nothing more dangerous than an insured Kia Rio. Avoid them at all costs. Easily replaceable, completely disposable, utterly dispensable… and costs approximately the same as a nice meal, minus dessert. They truly have nothing to lose. Anyone who would make a conscious decision, and feel good about the purchase of this portable death trap must operate with few, if any, marbles. And they drive accordingly.

Extra Credit Bonus Points: Our motorcycle cops have the best posture in the country. Only those with the sub human ability to sit in a perfect 90 degree angle can attain the prestigious status of MotoCop.

Anyone with additional observations... please share! :)