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Utah drivers...

Discussion in 'BoM Blogs' started by Kitrax, May 12, 2009.

  1. Kitrax

    Kitrax Pantaloons are supposed to go where!?!?

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    I found this to be quite true...it's an assessment of Utah drivers from a Brit's point of view.

    We moved from England to America, to Utah, in 2001. Whilst the driving in England is some of the worst on the planet, it is at least predictable. English drivers are vindictive. If they cut you off at an intersection, it's not because they weren't paying attention, it's because they specifically had a need to prevent you from getting out into the road in front of them. With that knowledge, driving in England is reasonable because at least you can predict what is going to happen. In Utah, however, things are very very different. Here, the driving is so random, so happenstance, so full of chance and vagary that it's almost like the drivers don't even realize they're in a car. In fact, to describe the gentle, vague drift down the centre of the road that happens here is almost a misuse of the word "driving". Here then, is a guide for tourists to use should you come to Utah and need to drive. These are things you need to know before getting here.

    The driving test
    Technically the DMV test in Utah isn't so much of a test of your driving skill as it is a test of whether you know what a road and a car are. The written test is multiple choice and they give you the drivers handbook with all the answers in it. The road test involves a 7 or 8 minute drive around abandoned streets with one set of traffic lights, and a U-turn in a 7-lane wide road. Despite the fact that a blind 5-year-old could pass this test, some Utah drivers still actually manage to fail it. Once you understand this premise, the rest of what follows will just fall into place.

    No sense of direction
    Utah drivers, as a general rule, are blessed with no sense of direction. I don't mean "a little sense", I mean no sense. They literally have no idea where they are, where they're going, or how to get there. This results in a number of driving features which help define the Utah road user. Typically, they will get to an intersection, and when the light goes green, they'll decide that instead of turning left, from the left turn lane where they are, they actually need to turn right. The resulting maneuver will block all the traffic (often causing an accident) as they turn right across the front of 4 lanes of traffic. What makes this behaviour truly bizarre, is that in a lot of cases, there's no possible way that turning right could ever get them to the same place as turning left.

    A derivative of this behaviour is when it happens to them at high speed. You can be driving down the freeway, and for 2 miles ahead of time (in Utah at least), the highway signs tell you of the upcoming exit, and the following two exits. Despite this, the Utah driver can get to a couple of hundred yards from the exit before realizing that it’s where they need to turn off. With no regard for their mirrors or indicators (see later), they will simply turn right from whichever lane they're in, to ensure they exit. Typically they exit across the gore (the white striped area) and miss the crash barrels by a couple of meters.

    No sense of urgency
    Perhaps as a result of being in a daze all the time, Utah drivers have no sense of urgency. If you or I were to pick a spot to pull out into traffic, my guess is that you'd likely pull out and accelerate, so as to cause as little interference with the traffic flow as possible. Not here. In Utah, you can be driving along in a line of traffic with nobody behind you. With little warning, the car on the side street to your right will amble into the lane in front of you (because they didn't look far enough to see there was no traffic behind you), and then they'll cruise along with the lightest touch on the accelerator. It can take them a good 15 or 20 seconds to get from a standing start up to 35mp/h.

    No sense of colour
    (Or color if you're American). A tip for those new to Utah - traffic lights aren't so much to control traffic as they are a suggestion of what might be an appropriate action for the driver. Green means go, but not too fast. A nice slow ambling start is what is called for here. Yellow means ‘keep going’ or ‘speed up’ and red means ‘you might want to stop.’ Note that it is definitely an option though. Also note that most Utahans (in fact this could be most Americans, I'm not sure) will look at a very obviously orange traffic light and tell you it’s yellow. Similarly, they'll tell you the green "cross now" pedestrian sign is blue.......go figure.

    Speaking of which, there aren't many pedestrians in America - because of the car culture. But here in Utah, there's a concerted effort going on to kill off those people foolish enough to try to use their legs. As you sit at the traffic lights waiting to turn right, you might notice pedestrians waiting to cross the road you want to turn into. At the instant that your light goes green, the pedestrian light goes green too and they all step into the road without looking. Having the pedestrian and the vehicle light both green at the same time does seem to be a conflict of interest to me.

    Mirrors and indicator
    The Utah driving test makes no mention of mirrors and little mention of indicators. As a result, most Utah drivers don't know what these items are for. The women have figured out that the rear view mirror is for putting makeup on whilst driving. The men haven't come up with a use for it. So as a general rule of thumb, you need to assume that if you're behind a Utah driver, they have no idea you're even there.
    Indicators on the other hand, they do at least know about. The problem is that they don't know when to use them. It stems from the word. In English, the word is "indicator" thus meaning something you would use to indicate your intentions. In American the word is "blinker" thus meaning something which blinks on and off and serves no other purpose.
    Typically, the indicators will come on as the driver turns the wheel and accidentally knocks the indicator stalk with their hand. The result, to you, the driver behind, is that the Utah driver indicates their intentions after they've slowed almost to a complete stop, and just as they begin to turn.
    Sometimes, you'll come across a vehicle in the centre lane of the road, indicating left. Now I know you might think this is a forward thinking Utahan who is actually letting you know their intentions, but I'm sorry to tell you you're wrong. In fact, this is someone preparing to re-join the lane you're in. What's happened is that they've suddenly realized they need to turn left, and knocked the indicator stalk as they moved into the centre lane. In keeping with the "I'm totally lost" mentality, they then realize that in fact they didn't need to turn here after all. So now they're in centre lane of the road with their left indicator going, but needing to re-join traffic. Simple, see? And when they do re-join, it will be in a spectacular demonstration of the above paragraph of not knowing what mirrors are for, followed by a 10 mile drive with the left indicator still on.
    All this indicator tomfoolery is compounded by another peculiarity of Utah driver.....

    Left-foot braking, or trail-braking
    A Huge number of Utah drivers, (in automatic vehicles at least), drive with their left foot resting on the brake pedal. This means that their brake lights are permanently on. In turn, this means you have no idea when they're actually slowing down, and as a result, you stop believing brake light information. As I said above, this compounds the accidental use of indicators, because now you're presented with a vehicle that has been driving along with the brake lights on for a couple of miles actually slowing down. You've no idea why until the last possible moment, when the indicator comes on as they start to turn. If you're in heavy traffic, this can be a while. You'll typically find yourself waiting behind a vehicle that, for all intents and purposes, has just parked in the middle of the road.
    It's bloody frustrating. It totally blows the concept of "keep the traffic moving" because you have no idea if you can risk going around them on one side or the other because they don't indicate what's going to happen.

    Cell phones
    Utah drivers, as a whole, have a unique pavlovian reflex. When they get into a car and start the engine, they'll speed-dial someone on the cell phone and start talking. The conversation or conversations will last for the duration of the journey, and only when they drift into a parking space at the end, will they hang up. Adding cell phones to the equation adds a whole new dimension to the already random nature of Utah driving, as a result of which I get a huge amount of satisfaction out of one particular "road rage card" (available here) which simply reads "I hope that cell phone gives you cancer."

    Parking
    Applying the word "parking" to what most Utah drivers do in a parking lot is a pretty loose use of the English language. Generally speaking, the car will never be straight in the parking bay. This pervades parking so much that a lot of parking lots now have angled bays to accommodate the Utahan’s inability to make a 90° turn. Sadly this hasn't really cured the problem, as now they just park crooked in the angled bays instead. A lot of the time, they will drive straight through and into the bay on the other side because it seems that Utahans cannot reverse (more of that in a moment). This is another great source of accidents because someone will see a parking space and aim for it, then come face-to-face with the person who's busily driving through from the parking slot on the other side.
    Reverse-parking, or parallel parking is always a good laugh to watch. I've seen people actually drive around the block and come back because they can't get the car in backwards. I think that there's a little note stuck on a lot of Utah gearboxes next to the "R" which just says "evil" in small letters. Reversing certainly isn't taught at driving school and you're not tested on it in the driving test. Frankly the only time you'll ever see a Utahan going backwards is when they're trying to get out of the parking slot that they parked in so badly to start with.

    Utahans and SUVs
    Utahans have an almost pathological need to drive SUVs yet less than a tiny fraction of them ever go off-road. I don't know if it's to do with the prevailing religion and consequent size of families, or if it's something wired wrong in their brains. It seems they will forgo gas-mileage in favour of a vehicle so absurdly huge that nobody can sensibly drive one, and that they'll forgo safety in favour of a vehicle that is guaranteed to end up on its side or roof in the event of a crash. (And there are a lot of crashes in Utah.) So coupled with the perpetual daze, the cell phone, the left-foot braking and the inability to use their indicators, you now have to deal with all these combinations driving an SUV big enough to drive over a normal car.
    Perversely, when the bad weather comes, you'd think SUVs would be the perfect vehicle. Utah has the best snow on earth, and a lot of it regularly covers the roads in winter. Well under normal circumstances, a 4-wheel-drive would be the ideal vehicle. But here in Utah, short-term memory loss is coupled to the seasons and the weather. As far as I can tell, on the day the snow melts, the memory of driving in the snow melts away too. So if it snows the following day, all the SUV drivers are driving as if it was 40°C and sunny with dry roads. The memory of the previous day's skidding and skating has completely evaporated. As a result, the morning news shows in Utah are chock full of pictures of SUVs on their roofs, SUVs on their sides, SUVs in the central reservation, SUVs crushed beyond all recognition and SUVs wedged under articulated trucks. Typically the owner will be standing at the side of the road on their cell phone, and the left indicator will still be blinking in the wreckage.
     
  2. Silvery

    Silvery I won't pretend to be your friend coz I'm just not ★ SPS Account Holder Adored Veteran

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    That's hilarious!
     
  3. Blackthorne TA

    Blackthorne TA Master in his Own Mind Staff Member ★ SPS Account Holder Adored Veteran Pillars of Eternity SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!) New Server Contributor [2012] (for helping Sorcerer's Place lease a new, more powerful server!) Torment: Tides of Numenera SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!)

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    I can't stand people who don't use their turn signals!
     
  4. dmc

    dmc Speak softly and carry a big briefcase Staff Member Distinguished Member ★ SPS Account Holder Resourceful Adored Veteran New Server Contributor [2012] (for helping Sorcerer's Place lease a new, more powerful server!)

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    Then what are you doing living in So Cal? Using directionals is the exception, rather than the rule. It probably stems from the fact that any time you use your directional, the guy next to you speeds up to prevent you from entering his lane . . .
     
  5. Blackthorne TA

    Blackthorne TA Master in his Own Mind Staff Member ★ SPS Account Holder Adored Veteran Pillars of Eternity SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!) New Server Contributor [2012] (for helping Sorcerer's Place lease a new, more powerful server!) Torment: Tides of Numenera SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!)

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    Hehe. I don't mind so much on the freeway and lane changes; it's more the people who don't indicate they're turning one way or the other, especially right turns while I'm waiting on them to make a turn myself.
     
  6. Kitrax

    Kitrax Pantaloons are supposed to go where!?!?

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    They do that here 90% of the time I do use my turn signal. Worse yet, they'll speed up until they are parallel to your car and act like they don't see your light blinking...and if you gun the engine, so will they. :flaming:

    I've learned to speed up right before signaling, and on the second blink, I "swoop" in to the lane in question very quickly, before the redneck in the other lane has a chance to hit the gas. :D

    Since there are some SoCal residents here, I will say that the *worst* traffic jam here would be considered a "good" day on a SoCal freeway... :p
     
  7. T2Bruno

    T2Bruno The only source of knowledge is experience Distinguished Member ★ SPS Account Holder Adored Veteran New Server Contributor [2012] (for helping Sorcerer's Place lease a new, more powerful server!) Torment: Tides of Numenera SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!)

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    When I lived in Utah I always thought the drivers believed God was watching out of them.
     
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