Since moving to Nashville in 2014, I have had the experience of being “trained” by my fellow drivers in the Music City. A national magazine recently awarded Nashville as the friendliest city in America. When I heard about this I said, “They obviously didn’t drive here.” I’m not saying the traffic or drivers in Nashville are worse here than in other city, it’s just frustrating and not that good old country friendly feeling you would think. Over the past four years, here are the rules I have learned for driving here:
- If you are already on the Interstate, you should stop and let merging traffic on. Yes, believe it or not there are a lot of these drivers out there. They will get mad and flip you off if they are entering from the ramp and you don’t stop to let them over. They don’t seem to be able to comprehend the idea of merging. Traffic already on the Interstate are not required to stop. Drivers entering the Interstate need to adjust their speed and safely enter. Shocking concept I know!
- What is a yield sign? The city/county seriously wasted their money making yield signs. I have seen – and reacted – to other drivers blowing through a yield sign.
- If a turn signal is being used, you’d better let me over. First, you are lucky if someone actually uses a turn signal but when they do they are getting over. It isn’t an “indicator” that they plan to get over, they are doing it.
- I’m too busy texting to use a turn signal. I think this mentality goes with driving in general but seems to happen more when drivers are turning and simply don’t have a free hand to use their turn signal because their hands are too busy with their smartphones.
- I am late for work and MUST get in front of you. Thousands of people converge into downtown Nashville daily and there are some who think THEY are the only ones trying to get to work. They will zip in and out of lanes trying to get into the fastest one.
- A roundabout is the automobile version of Russian roulette. I don’t know whose idea it was to put roundabouts in a major Southern U.S. city but drivers have no clue how to use it. If you get in one of these traffic wheels of fortune you’d better prepare to get out soon.
- At a four-way stop *I* go first! No one knows how four-way stops work. You will soon find out who the arrogant/impatient people are when you approach one of these. Forget about the rules of taking turns.
- I have no time to brake so you can make your turn. Be are extremely impatient. No Southern hospitality at all. If you need to turn and use your turn signal, be prepared for nearly being pushed out of the way by the driver behind you.
- I don’t have to yield to pedestrians…EVER. I will say that many times pedestrians walk when they aren’t supposed to but when they do, drivers don’t want to yield (yes, there’s that word again) and Nashville has increased in pedestrians being struck every year.
- I can do whatever I want to do….especially if the driver is driving a Lexus. Basically people will do whatever they can get away with. I have seen so many violations and just some really dumb and unsafe maneuvers that not much surprises me now. And if the driver is driving a Lexus, you might want to be prepared for anything.
With the city of Nashville growing, the traffic situation grows worse. It doesn’t seem like anyone has a plan to do anything about it. One thing about Nashville and the Interstate highway system is that truckers are forced to come through downtown because there isn’t a true bypass around the city. We have no transit system. Yes, there is a train but the route is only on the eastside of town so most folks around here have to use their Lexus (and other cars) to navigate the traffic everyday. Nashville drivers are a different breed. If you come here, you’d better be ready with some patience and sing to your favorite country tunes.
The common theme in almost every Driving 101 posts I have made is the impatience of drivers that roll along our highways. You know the person – the one who pulls out in front of you forcing you to brake when there is absolutely no traffic behind you. Then there is the person who flings their hands up in frustration because you didn’t run that red light. Of course, who can ignore that driver who is tailgating you and would want to push you out of their way.
Impatience in driving is a huge problem.
Okay, I get it. Driving is boring. We hate it. We are all trying to get from one place to another. Unfortunately there are other people on the road doing the same thing. Shocking I know. It always amazes me in the morning commute when someone is driving at warp speed weaving in and out of traffic toward downtown. I will usually say to that driver: “We are all trying to get to work too. You’re not the only one.”
The impatience thing is an epidemic. Impatience often escalates into road rage. So how can we deal with impatient drivers?
- Let it go. Get out of their way when possible. It’s not worth flipping someone off or getting shot by someone who gets mad about it. Driving isn’t a competition. You aren’t losing a race. Ignore them.
- Stay calm. Don’t get mad or try to make them more angry by slowing down even more or continuing to get in their way. The important thing to do in these situations is to operate YOUR vehicle safely. Even if the other driver wants to push you out into the road, you proceed when you feel it is safe because if you get hit because you feel stressed by the other driver, you will be the one hurt by it. More than likely, the other driver will just swerve around you and leave you dealing with the accident.
- Don’t be one. Don’t be the impatient driver. Leave on time to get to your destination. Watch the traffic report for any problems to decide if you need to take another route. Don’t be so quick to hit the horn. Don’t put others in danger. Don’t deliberately prevent someone from merging or changing lanes.
As frustrating as it is, you can’t control what other people do, you can only control what you do. Impatient drivers are a reality in our selfie generation. Impatient drivers think the road is theirs and no one else matters. Impatient drivers cause five million deadly accidents each year. Some of the top impatient causes of these fatal accidents are speeding, failing to yield the right-of-way (I’m not sure anyone really knows who has the right-of-way these days), reckless driving and failure to obey traffic signs and signals.
One of the things I often see is when drivers are turning and they cut the turn too short into the other turn lane. I can see the colors of other drivers’ eyes when they do this. Last week I counted six people talking on their phones while making the turn.
I am often driving through the intersection of Old Hickory Boulevard and Highway 70S in Bellevue and I dread it. There are way too many things going on there with drivers coming from every direction. I have seen drivers take too many chances simply because they are impatient and refuse to wait for traffic to clear before entering the highway.
Be patience grasshopper. Pay attention to the drivers around you. Stay calm.
Driving under normal conditions is stressful enough but when you throw in the occasional snow and ice we get here in Nashville for the few days in the winter, it won’t surprise you why our Northern neighbors poke fun at us. We simply don’t know how to drive in the wintry conditions like they do. I spent a year in Greenland driving a huge mail truck every day but that was over 100 years ago (actually 40) and I don’t consider myself an expert on how to drive in the snow/ice when it occurs. I don’t really think anyone is an “expert” because that would require someone behind the wheel with at least a dash of common sense. When you live in Nashville (or most any Southern cities) you see the knuckleheads on ice – and I’m not talking about an ice skating show at Bridgestone Arena.
The main thing I see is that drivers refuse to be cautious. If their wheels are turning, they think it’s good to proceed as normal – which is scary to begin with. ice on the roads is no one’s friend and is very unforgiving regardless of what kind of vehicle you are driving.
I dare say that there are guys driving four-wheel drive trucks who incorrectly assume they can drive on anything since but what they underestimate is that when they hit icy patches that all four wheels can slide just as easily.
So what are the proper tips for driving in snow/ice conditions?
- Before you get on the road, make sure you clear off any snow or ice on your vehicle. Don’t just jump in your vehicle and take off. Accumulation of snow and ice can not only obstruct your views but could also be a hazard for other drivers when it falls off of your vehicle. It’s annoying when you get an unwelcomed snow shower from another vehicle.
- As you approach a hill, allow your car’s momentum to take you up instead of pressing on your gas. Then when you reach the top of the hill, reduce your speed and descend slowly. The main thing is not to panic.
- When you start to skid do NOT steer into the direction of the skid but gently steer into the direction you want to go without slamming on the brakes. I think we have been told (or confused) for years that we are suppose to steer the wrong way. If you steer INTO the direction of skid then you will most certainly end up in the ditch.
- Allow extra space between you and other vehicles. This is NOT the time for tailgating (as if there is any time for it).
- Gently apply your brakes before you have to come to a stop. Don’t be the person who immediately applies the brakes at the stop line. It won’t hurt to start braking early.
The key ingredient to driving in winter conditions on the roadways is CAUTION. Keep in mind that these are not the normal driving conditions in the South. It doesn’t hurt to use more caution than normal when driving in snow and/or ice. In watching the reports on local news, law enforcement repeatedly say that the main reason for accidents during snow/ice is speed. Drivers are driving too fast for the conditions. There is no shame for driving slow. If people are impatient they can go around you.
I hate to say this but drivers around here tend to have that NASCAR mentality on the roads but it isn’t a race and no one is going to win a points competition. Have you seen NASCAR race on ice? No, I can’t say that you have. The highways are roads that lead to our jobs, our homes and our families. It’s not illegal to be cautious. Besides, it’s only 2-3 days of the year. Can’t we just make allowances for this and make it safe for everyone? Let’s be cautious and not knuckleheads on ice.
Recently, there was an incident where a driver hit a cyclist on the Natchez Trace Parkway and kept driving. Fortunately, the cyclist was not seriously injured and the driver was arrested thanks to video of the incident which went viral. This incident raised issues about drivers sharing the road with cyclists.
The rules are different depending on the area and various jurisdictions which govern cyclists using the roads. In this incident, the Natchez Trace Parkway allows cyclists to use the full lane. In other areas, there are designated bike lanes.
One of the things that irritated me this morning watching the news, they repeated the fact that cyclists should be treated just like another vehicle on the road. I’m okay with that but the problem is that I have personally witnessed cyclists not acting like another vehicle on the road. About 50 percent of the cyclists I have witnessed downtown do not obey the traffic laws. I have seen them run red lights, make illegal lane changes or just totally drive reckless. If they want to be treated like “any other vehicle on the road” then they need to obey the laws too. So, don’t just come down on drivers as the culprit. It works both ways on the road.
So what are the general rules about dealing with cyclists?
- Drivers must not pass too closely. Keep the appropriate distance.
- Drives should look carefully and be alert for cyclists when turning or merging. Do not pass a cyclist just before making a right turn. Merge first, then turn.
- Before passing a cyclist, wait until traffic is clear in the opposite lane. Give yourself more space to pass than you would another vehicle. The minimum distance is at least three feet from the widest point of both the car and bicycle.
- Tone down the rage. Your vehicle is not match for a bicycle.
What cyclists should know:
- Obey the traffic laws. Red lights are for you too.
- Stay in your bike lane unless you have to exit.
- Map out a good, safe route. Don’t just assume people will look out for you because they are supposed to.
- Always be alert of the traffic flow, especially during rush hour traffic.
- Always wear protective equipment and reflective clothing if riding at night.
When incidents like this happen, people always come down on the drivers. Certainly, in this case, the driver was definitely the villain. Just with another other traffic issues here in the Music City, it was yet another case of impatience. You’re not going to find a lot of sympathy from drivers who get stuck behind a cyclist going 5 MPH.
The most important thing for both drivers and cyclists is to share the road. We all want to get where we are going safely. Stop being so damn impatient. Just do what you are supposed to do and it will all work out. Nobody wants to be involved in an accident regardless who’s at fault. This isn’t a competition.