Monday, November 16, 2009

Commuting – NASCAR or Simple Driving?

I have lived many places, and experienced many types of driving. While each place is different I have noticed certain elements of NASCAR racing in each of them. Now don't get me wrong, I am not one to turn down the opportunity to execute an out-in-out maneuver on a turn that is rated way below the speed I am driving. There is the satisfaction of maintaining as much speed as possible to shoot out of the turn and pull ahead of the person driving behind you.

One clear example is the rush-hour freeways of Los Angeles. There are so many cars there that people drive literally bumper-to-bumper, something with mere centimeters separating them. Granted, they are moving slower than a snail with nowhere in particular to go. There isn't much danger of a serious crash unless the person coming up on the miles of crawling traffic fails to notice this and can't slow down in time. I was that person once driving in Belgium, that is a story for another time. I'll just say I was not at fault in the collision with either of the cars that hit me.

Another example is one I see on my drive to work in Montgomery (Alabama for those of you that have not had the fortune of living in the south). Some drivers are in such a hurry that they weave in and out of the lanes like a seasoned racer. Sometimes as many as two lanes over and back again. The difference is that many drivers use their turn signals, some do not. This goes against the typical southern stereotype of taking things slow. Personally, I just set my cruise control on 65mph (5 mph below the limit) and enjoy the show.

Finally, I go back to my time driving in Brussels, Belgium. There are two examples from that experience that I will share. First, most of the problem lies in the fact that there are people from many different countries, each with their inherited driving rules and customs. While the EU has managed to get most countries on one currency, they have a long way to go to get them all driving the same way. The other thing that contributes to the NASCARiness (yes, I made up that word) of European driving is that cars are generally smaller outside the United States. You can fit more of them in a single lane than you normally can. I have seen as many as 3 or 4 “lanes” where there are typically 2. As long as everyone fits on the track, I mean road, no harm no foul.

So on that note I leave you with this final thought; commuting is just like NASCAR except there are turn signals...some times.