I have been converted to ranting about driving

For so many years, I routinely skipped the driving threads in the Pit. “Why would I want to spend all that time visualizing how the cars are moving from sketchy descriptions? And then read about how someone is so angry despite the offense being fairly minor?”

But about a month ago I got my driver’s licence.

And now I understand.

I’m routinely baffled by how driving makes humans act in a completely inappropriate manner. I never noticed so many assholes until I started driving! Now they’re everywhere - bikers, drivers, even pedestrians. What is it about the roads that turns what I assume must be nice people (as I don’t notice that many assholes, you know, on the bus or in restaurants or whatever) into raging, malevolant, inconsiderate, self-centred pricks?

I will use my drive to and from a cafe tonight as an example. The drive is not more than 10 minutes each way. On the way there, I was driving up a street, trying to turn, when the light turned. I was already in a no-stopping zone (placed there because buses need to turn), and because I HATE people who stop there and impede buses, I looked behind me, saw that no cars were coming, and reversed for about two metres. Lo and behold, a pedestrian pops out on the other side of the car and yells at me while making rude motions. Yes, he was crossing BEHIND me, and must have begun at some point after I began reversing (as I checked my mirror first) and still, I was the bad guy for threatening him by going roughly 3 inches per second.

On my way back, I was driving along a road whose speed limit is 50 km/h, which has three lanes - a parking lane, a driving lane, and a bike lane, which is demarkated by upright poles at, say, 5 metre intervals. It’s pretty narrow between the cars and the poles, there are bikers and pedestrians around on a fairly regular basis, and it was pretty dark, so I wasn’t going much above 40 km/h. And I’m also anal about actually stopping at stop signs (see above re: getting my licence recently). The guy behind me clearly thought I was impeding his very important movement, but I figured I was going as fast as was safe. His solution? At a stop sign where there were no poles dividing the bike lane from the driving lane, he passed me! In a fucking bike lane at an intersection! And then roared off into the night. A second guy tried the same trick immediately after him, and upon being unsuccessful due to the fact that I was not parked, but stopping at a stop sign, proceeded to make exasperated hand motions.

Someone must explain this to me, for the world of driving is new and scary. It seems to be some kind of Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde phenomenon with the concrete emitting asshole rays. I make mistakes, everybody does. But why does everyone need to be so angry about it?

You’re driving in Montreal, man.

Get your motor runnin’
Head out on the highway
Lookin’ for adventure
And whatever comes our way
Yeah Darlin’ go make it happen
Take the world in a love embrace
Fire all of your guns at once
And explode into space


Explantion for #1: I don’t know, but it sounds like you were backing up in a place you weren’t supposed to be and almost hit a pedestrian who is used to drivers acting normal.

Explanation for #2: You were doing 10km UNDER the speed limit because it was what you deemed safe. That’s pretty annoying. If you think that conditions are unsafe just because it’s night, maybe you shouldn’t really be driving.

Got it in one.

You need to check not only directly behind you, but to the sides as well, to ensure that there is nobody/nothing in motion that will wind up behind you. Turn your head if you need to; mirrors won’t show everything. As you gain experience, you’ll learn how to be aware of everything that is in a 360 around your car.

We ARE talking about someone who got their license one month ago. If he (?) is still driving this way in 6 months, there’s a real problem.

Regarding going in reverse, don’t do it. Unless you’re backing up to a parking space, you should pretty much go forward all the time. It’s a 100 times safer to just sit there, who gives a shit if you’re blocking some bus lane for 1 minute? Going in reverse, it’s a lot harder to see, way more blind spots in bad locations, it’s just a bad idea on the street. People expect cars to go forward, not backward. There’s a red light, and a car is stopped, you expect to be able to cross the street safely, in front or in back of the car. Start backing up at red lights and you actually endanger people crossing the street, don’t do it! Miss your turn, go around the block, miss your exit, get off at the next one, don’t be one of those dopes backing up on the shoulder of the highway just begging for a fatal accident.

Regarding your speed. If you’re going under the speed limit, and people are piling up behind you, it’s courteous to pull over and let them by. Don’t be a dick about it and demand they go the same pokey pace that you want to go. If you’re uncomfortable going the speed limit, chances are it’s YOU with the problem, don’t punish everyone else for your (perfectly understandable) lack of driving skill. Unless there is an unusual situation with the road (sun glare, snow, heavy rain, fog) the posted speed limit is pretty much always a perfectly safe speed to drive.

I’ll let you in on our little secret. People who try to be extra super duper safe are usually not and… well… c’mon… it’s fun to screw with them. They get all indignant over disrespecting paragraph 47.b, section f of the road code, concerning the proper angle for peripheral vision head turning. That’s better than TV most of the time.

Also a cyanide pill goes off in our brain if we don’t always drive somewhere like we are being hunted down. You’ll receive yours soon enough too.

Your first lesson is: Stop means slow down to a safe speed unless you see a cop around.

As to episode #1 - I did check. I saw no one. If pedestrians are going to cross in the middle of a street that has actual traffic (and car pulled unsafely into the intersection, which I was) it’s incumbent upon them to look.

Episode #2 - Where do you guys live that the speed limit is always safe to go at? This was a narrow, residential street full of potholes and people on bikes. And no, I will not be slowing down at stop signs instead of stopping - that street is also somewhat notorious for the police giving stop sign tickets. And even if they weren’t, I follow the law.

I mean, I know Montreal drivers are crazy, but… is it really not like this in other places?

Just to clarify - I do realize that for #1 I was somewhat in the wrong. As I said, I do make mistakes. I’m sure I’m a pretty bad driver, actually, but I hope I will improve. At least my errors aren’t deliberate and arrogant.

I just want to say congratulations on getting your license and also WELCOME TO HELL. Bwah-ha-ha-ha!

Yeah, don’t back up in traffic. Period. End of story.

And always remember what George Carlin says, “Anyone driving slower than you is an asshole and anyone going faster than you is a MANIAC!!” What that means is that you, nor anyone else on the road is going to be happy.

I live in New Jersey. I’ve lived in Manhattan, and the close suburbs around NYC. I’ve driven more or less every single day for the last 19 years. It’s a very rare case that a road cannot be driven safely at the speed limit under normal driving conditions. I assume you’re pretty young, and still learning how to drive. Once you’re truly comfortable behind the wheel, that road will stop seeming so narrow and dangerous.

Around pedestrians, don’t do anything surprising. Finding a car moving where you didn’t expect one is going to make anyone’s heart jump up into their throat.

Still learning, yes. Probably not as young as you think (and female, by the way).

There are streets here which are not safe to drive the speed limit on. My street, for example, has kids playing in it quite often, people moseying through the middle, the most unbelievable potholes, and a sharp curve. I don’t drive more than 20 km/h on it. The speed limit is 50.

Helen, I learned to drive in Montreal too. And you’re a bad driver.

First – did you actually turn your head and upper body as you recklessly went backwards at an intersection? Or were you just checking your mirrors? Either way, that’s a stupid move. Next thing you know, you’ll be backing down the Decarie because you missed your exit. Never do it again. Seriously.

Second – Pretty much everywhere you go this summer in Montreal, do the speed limit. Even on Lakeshore or wherever the heck this road is. If you’re not comfortable going that fast, you need to improve your skills pronto. Find the spot on your hood that marks where your wheels will hit the curb and burn it into your brain so you know how much clearance you have. If you just can’t go the speed limit and someone comes up behind you, pull over immediately.

Drivers in Montreal are no better or worse than anywhere else. They’re aggressive, they’re used to driving in a concrete jungle, and they’re lax about turn signals, but the number of drivers who do truly random and dangerous shit like backing up or pulling U-turns* at intersections is very low.

Have fun in winter!

Backing up at an intersection is a newbie mistake. Seriously, don’t do it. Going too slow is also a newbie mistake. Your idea of what seems like a comfortable speed is going to change as you become more experienced. Going significantly under the speed limit is always going to frustrate those behind you (or even not going fast enough OVER the limit in some situations). In about a year, you’ll find that you are the one going around student drivers and old ladies in the bike lane.

A lot of safe driving habits aren’t really by the book but sort of rise organically out of the patterns and rhythms of how traffic actually works. People operate on certain assumptions and expectations about what other drivers will do and if you do something out of the ordinary or unexpected (like backing up at an intersection) you can cause problems even if you think you’re being extra safe or avoiding breaking some rule.

It sounds to me like you’re still somewhat at that point where you’re always THINKING too much about what you’re doing. That will stop eventually. You’ll start driving on auto-pilot and you’ll become incorporated into the automotive hive-mind. Once you’re in the hive-mind, you’ll see that all the dangers come from those who do things outside the expectations of the hive-mind. That includes the admittedly huge number of self-absorbed assholes who think their time is more valuable than yours and so they shouldn’t have to assimilate but it also includes inexperienced drivers. The latter category is viewed with a little more tolerance because we all started out that way, but they’re also a minor nuisance. They go too slow, they don’t know what to do in complex intersections, they stop at the bottoms of freeway on-ramps, etc. Usually you just try to get around them. You’ll start doing it too. I bet if you read this thread again in a year, you’ll get a little chuckle out of it.

Yes, I actually turned. I saw no cars and no people. Maybe reversing wasn’t the smartest thing to do, but it wasnt the dumbest either - when there’s no one behind you, making sure the intersection is clear is important, no?

The second road was DeMaisonneuve between Girouard and West Broadway. I won’t do the speed limit on there, no matter what someone on a message board tells me (even you, Barbarian, as nice as you are). I won’t do what I feel is unsafe. I suppose I could have pulled over, but I really didn’t think it was unreasonable - after those two cars turned off, all the other cars seemed perfectly happy to go at the same speed I was, keeping a safe distance from me. I don’t even actually think it was my speed that was bugging them so much - it was that I was actually stopping at stop signs (bad form in Montreal, I’m sure). It was when I stopped at a stop sign that the guy behind me didn’t stop at all and sped past.

20 km/h is your upper limit? That’s like, ten miles per hour! My car will practically do that at idle in first gear. That is way, way too slow, no matter what street you’re on.

Hell, if you did that in front of me, I’d stop my car, get out, run up to yours, and push.

On my block, yep, I don’t go much faster than that. Lucky for crazy people who want to ruin their cars and hit children, it’s a two-lane street.

You’ll learn. Just wait.

This is fantastic, and reminded me of a time I had a guy in the car ahead of mine stop his car, get out, and yell at me, apparently because I was following him too closely. This was in the Sears parking lot, and I was, I swear to god, idling forward. No throttle applied at all. I was going about 8 miles an hour, and gaining on him, and apparently he just snapped.

Clearly you didn’t look well enough. Unless that guy army crawled behind you and then popped up all of a sudden.