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The Worst Drivers in America. A Dissertation.

Even though Rick Santorum and 98% of Texans claims that it’s un-American to do so, in my opinion, when a man is wrong, he should apologize.

With that in mind, I would like to take this opportunity to formally and publicly apologize to the people of Las Vegas.

You see, once upon a time, I bestowed the title of “Worst Drivers in America” upon the people of that city, and I’m here to tell you that I was wrrrrrrrrrr. I was wrrrrrrrrrr. I … express regret that my words may have been less than accurate.

Over the past few months, I’ve been involved in an intensive, immersive, up-close relationship with Seattle traffic, and I have come to the conclusion that Seattle drivers are the most confused, most unskilled, most inattentive drivers in the United States of America. In my mind, it’s no longer even debatable. At this point in time, calling Seattle drivers the worst drivers in the country is as controversial as stating that three is the square root of nine.

Typical Driver in Downtown Seattle

“Oh sure Rex, you think the drivers in your city are worse than everywhere else, but who doesn’t? Everyone says that!”

Fair enough, and there is no doubt that there is some truth to that statement. However, I’ve lived in a few places over the course of my lifetime, and I never leveled this charge against the drivers of NYC, DC, or Los Angeles. To the contrary, while traffic in those towns was bad, most of the drivers possessed a basal level of urban driving skill that no Seattle driver can claim.

If you think about it, this actually makes some sense.

On the East Coast, people know how to drive in the city. Even the suburbanites and ruralites. They have to. You can’t spit on the east coast without hitting a city. Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Newark, New York, Hartford, Boston … city driving is part of life over there. The same is true of California to a large extent. Los Angeles County is one huge grid of city. In fact, the LA Metro area is actually more densely populated than is the NYC Metro area.

The Seattle area, with a density of only 500 people-per-square-mile, however, is quite rural. Outside of the 2 square miles that make up Seattle’s urban core, there are no areas in the Pacific Northwest where a driver would encounter inner-city, quasi-Manhattan-esqe driving conditions. As such, our suburban neighbors are simply unfamiliar with the urban driving paradigm.

Also, since inner-Seattle is so geographically small, and residents of the core walk and bike everywhere, close to 100% of inner-Seattle traffic is comprised of tourists; people who do not live here.

It shows.

Seattle rush hours are comprised of 300,000 suburban drivers attempting to make their way into and out of a maze of one-way streets, traffic lights, and parallel parking spaces … and most of them have no idea what they are supposed to do. As far as they are concerned, driving in Kirkland and driving in Downtown Seattle is the exact same thing. They are, to put it nicely, rubes.

This, combined with a pathological self-centricity born of generally pampered lives, is why drivers in Seattle, and especially Downtown Seattle, are so comically awful.

When I say “awful”, though, what do I mean?  After all, isn’t such a word subjective? In order for one group of drivers to be worse than another, wouldn’t their behavior need to be, in some manner, different?

The answer is that Seattle drivers do, indeed, have peculiarities that I have never experienced in any other city, state, or nation, at least not to the same extent … and these peculiarities are the overwhelming cause of Seattle’s traffic problems.

So, what are they? What are these terrible driving habits of which I speak?

Well, since you asked so nicely, I’ll tell you …

The first is what I have come to call the “Seattle Surrender”, and it’s by far the most prevalent driving trait you will encounter in Seattle’s urban core.

“What is the Seattle Surrender?”, you ask.

The Seattle Surrender is when, for no apparent reason, the driver in front of you simply abandons the task of driving. He or she literally gives up, both physically and mentally. They surrender. It is arguably the most bizarre driving habit I’ve seen anywhere.

Picture this: You are driving down 1st Avenue at 25Mph with a line of cars behind you, when all of a sudden the driver in front of you hits her brakes, and simply stops in your lane of travel. She doesn’t pull over, she simply stops for no apparent reason at all. She stays there indefinitely, refusing to move even when you lay on your horn.

On Downtown Seattle streets, the Seattle Surrender is ubiquitous. In the course of an average day, I encounter the Surrender no fewer than 20 times. I’ll be driving along when the person in front of me either slows to a crawl or just stops, without notice, or any visible reason.  They simply lose interest in the task of driving, and give up doing so.

Sometimes, they come to a stop at a green light.  Sometimes, they come to a stop mid-block.  In all cases, they completely and utterly surrender, and cease driving altogether.

And do you know what?  They think nothing of it.  Absolutely nothing.  They do this as if it’s the most normal thing in the world, all day, every day.  It is nothing short of incredible.

There is often a twist on the Seattle Surrender.  One in which the driver surrenders just long enough to screw you, before continuing on their way.

Imagine, if you will, that you’re  driving down 4th Avenue, and as you’re coming up to Pike Street, you notice that the traffic light is green.

“Sweet”, you think to yourself, “I’m going to make better time than I thought.”

Suddenly, as if on queue, the driver in front of you hits her brakes and slows down, before coming to a rest in front of the crosswalk.

Remember, the light is still green.

As you sit there, wondering what is going on, you watch as the stoplight turns yellow.

“I should have known”, you think to yourself, “driving in Seattle is never that easy.”

As the light turns from yellow to red, the woman in the car in front of you punches the accelerator, shooting through a red light, nearly running over three pedestrians in the process.

As you sit there, watching the next 3 minutes of your life tick away, you wonder what the whole point was.  Why did the driver ahead of you stop?  Why did she run a red light afterward?  None of it made any sense.

But it does.  It does make sense.

See, the Seattle Surrender is a move born of complete and utter self-centricity.  It might help you understand if you picture the driver ahead of you thinking “meeeeeeeeeeee!” the entire time they’re driving. Because that’s exactly what they’re doing.

Remember, friends, when you’re driving in Seattle, you are surrounded by people who have never once considered the notion that other people have needs.  It simply never occurs to them.  Heck, they don’t even know that you exist.

When you’re born into a relatively affluent suburban household, with over-attentive parents and an inflated sense of self-esteem, empathy is not a trait that you will naturally develop.  Instead, you learn that you’re special.  You’re unique.  You, you, you.

And if at any point, you don’t feel like driving anymore?

Then you don’t.  You simply … stop.

And when you’re ready to resume?

Well, Patrick Swayze said it best:

“Nobody puts Baby in a corner!”

Anyway …

The next most common traffic-stopper in Downtown Seattle is the reverse roadblock.

Picture this: You are driving down First Avenue when all of a sudden traffic stops. Just completely grinds to a halt. You look at the clock, and it’s 11:15am.

“Gee”, you say, “it’s awfully early for rush hour, why has traffic stopped?”

Confused, you sit there. And you sit there. Finally, you roll down your window, stick your head out, and you see the problem.

Up ahead, a driver has her reverse lights on. You see, she spotted an empty parking space, and just like her Driver’s Ed teacher at Bumbletwat High School taught her, she is trying to back into it.

The problem is, there is only one lane of travel, there are 7 cars behind her, and the only way she can possibly get into the space is if all 7 of us also throw our cars into reverse.

So, why is she still sitting there?

Because, believe it or not, this is exactly what she expects us to do. Instead of going around the block, or nosing into the space, she expects us all to back up and make room for her parallel parking attempt. A Mexican standoff ensues until one driver after another gets frustrated and crosses the yellow line, risking a head-on collision, to go around her.

This happens somewhere between 10-15 times per day, and no, I am not exaggerating.

While drivers in other major cities know to nose-in, wait for a clearing, and then straighten up … such behavior is unheard of in Seattle. Everyone parks suburban-style, and if that means causing multi-block backups or accidents, so be it.

Then, there is the Stoplight Spaceout.

Picture this: You’v got ten minutes to get from Pioneer Square to LQA, so you point your car north on 1st Avenue and hit the gas. When you get to Spring Street, the light is red, so you queue up behind the five other cars in front of you.

Finally, the light turns green, at which point … nothing happens. The five cars in front of you just sit there, immobile. The seconds tick by, six, seven, eight, and finally you tap the horn.

Still nothing … twelve, thirteen, fourteen.

Finally, you lay on the horn, beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep and FINALLY the first car begins inching forward. Then, the second car begins moving, then the third. Oh thank god, it’s finally your turn to go, and you begin to move forward just as the light is turning yellow.

You won’t make it without risking a ticket. Another three minutes of your life down the drain.

Why?

I don’t know. Nobody knows. You’d better get used to it, though.

Much like the Seattle Surrender, this is another case where Seattle drivers simply cease driving at random times. They may be texting, they may be reading, they may be … who knows what they’re doing … all I know is that the task of driving no longer interests them, so they simply stop doing it.

Next, there is the Box Block.

Picture this: You are driving north on 6th Avenue, approaching Pike Street, when you notice that traffic on the other side of the intersection is stopped. Knowing that you will not make it all the way through the intersection, you stop at the green light.

A woman in the BMW to your immediate left is confused by your behavior. She doesn’t understand why you have not pulled behind the car in front of you. “Are you Seattle Surrendering?”, she wonders.

Annoyed by your obvious stupidity, she drives past you, illegally changes lanes in the intersection, and pulls up to the rear bumper of the car in front of you. Not content to sit behind a non-driving jackass like you, the Escalade behind you angrily pulls around, and stops behind Princess in the BMW just as the light is turning red.

For the next 4 minutes, nobody moves. Traffic in all directions, for 5 blocks at least, is completely immobile.

Why?

Because the intersection is blocked, of course. You tried to do the right thing, but you just couldn’t save the other Seattle drivers from themselves. You never can.

Now look, I know that the last one happens everywhere. It’s the very definition of “gridlock”. What is astounding, however, is the complete ubiquity of this behavior in Downtown Seattle day after day after day after day.

Seattle is the only city on the planet that can have a traffic jam with only 10 cars in the same zip code. Just like life in Jurassic Park, abhorrent driving finds a way.

Last, but certainly not least, is Wrong Way Peachfuzz.

Five to ten times per day, I encounter drivers who are driving the wrong way on a one-way street. It happens so often that, from a safety perspective, I treat all streets as two-way, regardless of what the signs say. I always look both ways when crossing, and I try to always drive in the right lane of a one-way street.

Once upon a time, When I encountered a wrong-way driver, I used to honk, flash my lights, and point in the correct direction of travel, but now … I just pull to the right and let them pass. Nothing can be done. Expecting a Seattle driver to read a traffic sign is like expecting your dog to master Calculus. It’s not going to happen, and any efforts to alter that reality are futile.

These five points, while most common, are really only the tip of the iceberg. I could go on. I swear. For instance, ‘rubbernecking’ in Seattle is like nothing, NOTHING you’ve ever seen anywhere else. If someone dares change a tire on the side of the road here, traffic will stack up for 10 miles in all directions as every passing commuter slows down to bask in the disabled motorist’s misfortune. Talk about an easily amused populace.

And who can forget the absolutely ubiquitous left turn from the right lane, and right turn from the left lane?

Folks, when coming to an intersection, heed my advice … look both ways and do it often because the car in the lane to your left is just as likely to swerve in front of you to make a right turn as they are to make a left turn or continue going straight.  In Downtown Seattle, lane placement means NOTHING with regard to a vehicles intent, and turn signals? Well, on the rare occasion you see one, you’re better off ignoring it altogether.  Trust me on this one.

This, my fellow Seattleites, is why the town is doomed to gridlock. Forever. It’s a large reason why, with some disappointment, I turned in the cab and called it a career. Driving here is futile, and the problem is out of our hands. It’s patently unfixable.

You see, we don’t have a shortage of roads, and a deep-bore tunnel under Downtown is not going to solve our transit problems. A new 520 bridge isn’t going to decrease commute times either, hell, 20 bridges across Lake Washington wouldn’t solve our issues.

99% of Seattle’s traffic woes are caused by poorly-skilled, self-centered, immature, special snowflake, inattentive drivers from outside of Seattle. People with little to no city driving experience, and people whom, when faced with yet another traffic jam … will routinely blame someone else (such as bicyclists or Mike McGinn). There is no amount of money we can throw at this problem to fix it, because you simply can’t fix stupid.

The other day, I was driving home from the Eastside when I encountered the following sign on Bellevue Way:

No Train Sign in Bellevue

An hour later, I found myself sitting here:

Gridlock on Bridge

These two pictures really say it all.

I hang my keyboard.

225 comments to The Worst Drivers in America. A Dissertation.

  • Not a Hater

    Do drivers in Seattle use their horns (either appropriately or inappropriately)?

    • Seattle Rex Seattle Rex

      Stereotypes hold that they don’t, but most of those stereotypes were formed pre-1990. Remember, 50% of Seattle’s population growth in the past 30 years has come from California, and Californian’s are not known to be “polite” drivers.

      There is some periodic honking in Downtown Seattle and on the I5, although I will grant nowhere near as much as New York, Chicago, and other large cities.

      Non-downtown-adjacent areas of Seattle … such Ballard, Fremont, Crown Hill, Greenwood, etc … still experience remnants of polite driving. It’s actually quite a pleasure to drive north of the cut. Assuming you aren’t in a hurry.

      In my experience, the more expensive the car in Seattle, the more likely to honk and drive aggressively. BMW’s, Escalades, etc … almost never practice the polite, passive-aggressive habits that Seattle is famous for. They pretty much drive like LA drivers. Generally more technically skilled, but too fast, run lights, often quite rude, more likely to ignore pedestrian rights-of-way, flip you the bird, etc.

      Seattle is a real hodgepodge of terrible driving at both extremes shoved into a small isthmus. It really is unique in its badness.

      • Number Six

        Seattle drivers are pretty damn bad – but they are definitely 3rd place behind Utah and Florida – when you have people in their 90s (still) driving huge-ass 70s Oldsmobiles or dumb-F oversized Caddys – there’s going to be trouble. Both states have far more than their fair share of both. And at least Seattle/area has multiple bus options compared to those places too….

        #6

        • Luchog

          The problem with Seattle busses is that they go everywhere *except* where you need to go; and they change the routes every other year, so they don’t become too familiar or convenient.

    • c-doom

      The State Patrol here recently issued an order that said in effect if you honked your horn you were breaking the law, it was interpreted as a form of “road rage,” which is a ticketable offense. So, no, you don’t tend to honk much on I-5 or I-90 at least.

      As a 20 year resident who travels to other cities and drives on their freeways (16 cities in 2011) I can attest this piece is spot-on and accurate. Seattle drivers are really bad. Center lane asian grandma 20 mph under the limit. Left lane campers. People slowing down at the sight of a single raindrop. All manner of distracted driving from cell phones to rubbernecking. Random downtown land of the lost mistakes by out of town clueless commuters and tourists. CA knows how to drive, the east coast and chicago know how to drive. I can even go over to Spokane and Coeur d’Alene and find better interstate etiquette than I find here. It is a remarkable combination of incompetent and self-entitled here that just has to be experienced to be believed, and by experienced I mean you have to go someplace else, be familiar with how it is there, then come back. Just growing up here won’t cut it, you think you are fine but you’re not.

      • Missie

        I agree 100%. I have driven in Buffalo,Dallas, D.C. and now Seattle. If i had to rate them best to worst it would be in that order. Seattle has the most selfish, head up the bum, jerks from heck, when it comes to driving. I hate driving here. I usually take the bus or have hubby drive cause he has more patience.

      • Pil Bee

        Well said C-doom, I so happy to know that other people feel the way I do. I have preached these poor driving observations for the eleven years that I’ve lived here. I am sick of that grey-bearded, pony-tail-sporting, self-entitled moron driving 20 miles under in the fast lane. Seattle people also talk loudly and incessantly to strangers on planes, even at 6am in the morning. Wake up Seattle, there are other people trying behind you that have real work to do.

      • LAX-SEA

        The “Asian” comment is inappropriate…grandmother alone may suffice. Regardless of ethnicity, there is more than enough poorly skilled drivers of any skin color

        • Nic

          It may be offensive but it’s true none the less. Stereotypes don’t just appear out of thin air.

          • James

            Umm…NO, a stereotype does NOT make something true. I suggest you avail yourself of the many free online dictionaries.

            You are correct on stereotypes not appearing out of thin air. Stereotypes occur because of ignorant posts and unverified thought patterns by ignorant people who perpetuate them.

            • Jason

              Stereotypes develop because they are often true. And not all stereotypes are bad (Asians are good at math) or racial (teenagers are stupid and impulsive)

            • Luchog

              Older Asian and north African immigrant drivers are a big problem in the greater Seattle are. Not because of stereotypes; but because they come from driving cultures that are *hugely* different from American driving in general, let alone our special Seattle driving culture. They don’t always adapt well.

        • jackson

          Nobody said Asians are bad people of inferior in any way. They just can’t, and should not, drive automobiles on public roads. There should be a new penal code right up there with DWI. We’ll call it DWA – Driving While Asian.

    • Jeff Campbell

      I agree that driving in downtown Seattle is the worst place I’ve ever driven with the exception of Florence and Milan. I was born and raised in Seattle and can tell you that if you ask 100 people where they’re from, you may get 25 natives. My point is that 75% of these Seattle drivers have arrived from the places that you mention have good urban drivers. This leads me to believe that it is climate, coffee intake or poor urban street planning that makes Seattle such an aweful place to drive. I rarely go into town anymore…driving hell is one of the reasons!

      • dojj

        Oh no, Seattle is much worse than Florence or Milan. Italian drivers have an excellent sense of using space to their advantage and will take opportunities away from unsuspecting visitors. The only place (internationally) worse than Seattle is Beirut, and the only candidate for last place in the US is Florida as per another post in the blog. This blog nails it on the head as to all the reasons–but the Bozos don’t read this.

      • Luchog

        Another native Seattleite, who remembers the days of Emmet Watson’s Lesser Seattle campaign. I can recall when Seattle drivers were some of the most polite around, to the point of being a regular joke, and were voted among the best in the nation. Amazing the difference a few decades have made. And it’s really the influx of people who have done it; combined with an major upsurge in the entitlement attitude. People from many different parts of the US, used to different driving cultures, stuck into a big mishmash. And I’d fully agree with another commenter that it’s mainly the east-siders who are the biggest problems; what I call the East Side Entitlement Attitude. I work in Kirkland and live in Seattle; and most of the problems I see downtown I can directly link to the behaviour of drivers in the Bel-Red corridor. East-side rules seem to be that if you drive the biggest, most expensive car, then you have right of way regardless of the regulations or posted signs; that if your car is expensive enough the rules don’t apply to you; and you’re always more important than anyone else on the road, including pedestrians. They are simply incapable of merging or changing lanes normally; as if someone merging in front of them is a grave personal insult, regardless of precedence and traffic rules. After all, you’re more important than they are, who do they think they are. Of course, the appropriate response is to ride their bumper incessantly and rapidly swerve around them as soon as possible, then stomping on your brakes once you’re in front. There’s a reason that I405/I90 rarely goes a week without some sort of accident.

    • Eric Jones

      I agree with much of what you are saying, and as a biker I run into completely silly situations. For example, sometimes when crossing arterials cars headed one direction stop (halting the flow completely) to let me cross, but the traffic traveling the other direction have not stopped. What do I do, cross right into traffic, and yet the driver starts to get impatient because I have not taken advantage of their courtesy. Also, cars that have the right of way at uncontroled intersections confuse me because they stop dead. Even if they are to my right or have arrived earlier they wait for me. Just go! You were there first!

      But, I must agree with the other comment, the use of the “she” pronoun makes the article offensive. It is a generalization that people do not even think about sometimes. We equate bad drivers with women. It is a misogynistic mindset.

      Yesterday, I saw a person who had run over a stop sign on Ravenna where they are doing construction, I don’t know how they hit it… It was worth a picture.

      • Seattle Rex Seattle Rex

        But, I must agree with the other comment, the use of the “she” pronoun makes the article offensive.

        Actually, I hold quite the opposite opinion.

        I’ve been blogging for nearly 8 years, and until very recently, I always used the “he” pronoun when stating hypotheticals. Exclusively. When doing so, nobody, no one, not once, ever, objected to my doing so. And believe me when I tell you, a great many of those articles were quite negative.

        I believe this may have been the first article in which I used all female pronouns, and so far several people have taken offense. This is, in my opinion, offensive in and of itself.

        Coincidentally, I have an article upcoming about the rampant, blatant misandry in Washington State. Comments like this are actually timely, because I really think that they will serve to better make my points.

        Do you realize that men are routinely charged more by auto insurance companies solely because of their gender? Does this blatant stereotyping offend you?

        While picturing these traffic incidents in my mind, and believe me … they were based on actual incidents … the gender of the driver, when known, was female. As such, the correct pronouns were used in the article, and changing the pronouns would have been the sexist action to take.

        I respect your right to be offended, and I appreciate that you conveyed that to me, but I personally reject the notion that I should have used male pronouns simply because they are, for sexist reasons in and of themselves, less controversial.

        • Expatriot Mercer Islander

          I think you have understated the “Seattle Surrender” problem. In the years you’ve lived in seattle, have you never encountered a major windstorm or snowstorm where hoards of people abandoned their vehicles where they stopped on the roads?

          In growing up on Mercer Island, it was rare that I didn’t hear about numerous abandoned vehicles on the floating bridge(s) after severe weather. The news would often include comments like “Two days after the march 1st storm, the last of the abandoned vehicles has been cleared from I-90.”

    • Tim

      Rarely, as it’s illegal under state law to use your horn unless it’s an emergency.

  • Steve

    Horny drivers in Seattle? Maybe that explains it.

  • karentn

    I noticed you refer to all of the bad drivers as ‘she’. Did you actually observe a female in the driver’s seat in all of these examples, or are you just making assumptions?

    btw, that last picture really does make the Seattle area look beautiful, even with the traffic.

    • Chuckreis

      They were probably all Asian women

    • Seattle Rex Seattle Rex

      I noticed you refer to all of the bad drivers as ‘she’.

      They were fresh in my mind.

      The day I began writing this, I was driving down Seneca Street, when a woman in front of me simply stopped at a green light at Seneca/Second Avenue. I was in a hurry, and in no mood for that shit on this particular day, so I immediately laid on my horn.

      The woman didn’t budge.

      Finally, the car behind me joined in, and began honking. Then a Metro bus behind both of us hit his horn. It got quite noisy, but the woman just at there. Frozen in fear, panic, apathy, I don’t know.

      Eventually, she pulled into the left crosswalk, nearly hitting a pedestrian. At least when she parked in the crosswalk, the rest of us could go. I’ve no idea what happened to her after that.

      About one hour later, I was sitting at the light at Blanchard and Westlake, second in line behind a woman in a compact car. When the light turned green, she didn’t budge.

      I gave my horn a quick “beep”.

      Nothing.

      I gave it two in a row … “beep beep”.

      Nothing.

      Finally, I laid on my horn … “beeeeeeeeep”.

      I sat and watched in awe as the confused woman looked left, looked right, looked in her mirrors, then craned her neck to see behind her. She heard the beeping, and she desperately wanted to see where the commotion was coming from.

      Finally, she realized that it was me who was beeping. She looked into her rear-view mirror, put up both hands beside her head, and angrily mouthed the word “what is your problem?!”

      A few seconds later, she looked up and noticed that the light was yellow. A half-second after it turned red, she hit the gas, causing another car to slam on his brakes to avoid t-boning her.

      I got to sit and wait for another 3 minutes.

      While all of our drivers are very bad, in my experience, the most extreme incidents of surrender are typically perpetrated by women.

      Don’t shoot the messenger, for I didn’t make it so.

  • Be Fair

    I agree 100%, and in fact experienced that EXACT SAME event on 1st ave this week in the same stretch, to a fucking T…

    But I say be fair because that green car clearly has out of state plates, so not a seattle driver technically.

    • Seattle Rex Seattle Rex

      I disagree somewhat.

      The drivers in Downtown Seattle who live in the Seattle city limits are few. Perhaps 10% – 15%.

      Most “Seattle drivers” are from the Washington suburbs, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, and Alaska. You can’t just throw them out and say “well, driving Downtown isn’t so bad because most people are from out of town.” That is the main reason they are so bad.

      • RikRok

        Don’t blame Oregonians for this. Even a licensed driver needs to take a written test to get an Oregon license. They drive slowly but not poorly.

  • Ktown

    Drivers in Seattle are the worst! So many
    variables; poorly designed freeways, bad on and
    off ramps, poor commuter transit, politeness
    turned passive-aggressive, and bad
    peripheral vision are but a few….
    Thank God for the medical marijuana or the
    road rage would be rampant!

    • Molly

      Everyone driving stoned is probably part of the problem!

    • agaace

      I moved to Seattle from Europe. I’m used to driving the European way – dynamically, yet not aggressively. Fast decision making is the key of a good driver, that’s it. 99.99% Seattle drivers would have simply never passed their driver license test in Europe. In my country some people attempt the test 10-15 times, until they finally get the rules. In my country, if you go too slow or indecisive at your exam – you fail. If you stay in the left lane for 3 seconds too long, you fail. If you fail to join traffic in a reasonable amount of time, you fail. If you stop when you are supposed to go, you fail. Plus the exam is taken in one particular model of a car and it’s always manual transmission, so you have to know how to drive the stick. When I move to Seattle I needed to pass the test to get my licence. It was just ridiculuosly easy. My mother who hasn’t driven a car in 30 years would have passed this test. Make driving tests more challenging, require actual skills to drive. There will be fewer left lane campers, surrenders, which will lead to less road rage (the people like me who tailgate when a dude on left lane is doing 30mph on a 45mph limit). This will also lead to fewer accidents and less traffic. There is solution, it’s just not gonna happen.

  • Seattle Rex Seattle Rex

    I just came back from running a quick errand on my scooter. As I was coming back on Bellevue St., two women in a white car in front of me came to a full and complete stop at the light at Bellevue & Pine.

    The light was green.

    I hit my whimpy little Yamaha horn, but they didn’t move, so I ended up going around them and through the light.

    I really cannot overstate just how widespread the “Surrender” phenomenon truly is.

    • Luchog

      I don’t think “surrender” is quite the right term. I think most often it’s a case of “Where the hell am I?” Settle City government seems to have a morbid fear of street signs, and *if* they exist, they’re small and nearly unreadable. I know if I drive in an area of Seattle unfamiliar to me, I have a difficult time trying to figure out exactly where I’m at.

  • Kel

    Loved this post! Hubby and I moved up from AZ 7 1/2 years ago. First we were amazed at how people for the most part drove at or close to the speed limit on the freeways. Freeway drivers in PHX drive as fast as they can get away with. Then we just couldn’t understand how anyone could get around because the signage is terrible here. “OH, here’s where you want to exit!” None of the forewarning signs that we were used to.
    Now we live over in Redmond and unless we are bringing the whole fam, Hubs and I just come over on Sound Transit. It’s easier just to walk or bus around downtown then to be one of those who “surrender.” Navigating the hills and one-way streets are not easy. So if you end up behind a white, 15-passenger van with a bunch of kids, usually up around Seattle Center, stopped in front of you, give us a good honk. :-D

  • jocelyn

    I commute from Shoreline to Bellevue in sports car that never gets to drive fast enough. I generally do fine downtown except I have to remember pedestrians don’t like getting run over :p on the freeway I hate the “lane of destiney ” phenomenon. People have to change lanes as early as possible to avoid any mergering. Instead offers “zipper merging”, people crowd the lane, leaving a mile of empty road ahead. And if, God forbid, you decide to wait and merge later, as the highway engineers designed, you are considered “cutting”in line. And better sure as heck wave “thank you” to the incredibly generous, kind person who lets you over!(as Boeing taught us!)

  • Cheesewheels

    I tend to agree, but I’ll say that Portland drivers exhibit the same behavior, only moreso. In addition, their roads are so much worse.

  • Doobie

    I’m originally from the south and my wife and i moved to Seattle 5 years ago. Literally from the 1st moment I hit I-5 after leaving SeaTac I could tell that drivers in this city were horrible. I shake my head every single day at the insane stupidity of people and can’t figure out how they are legally allowed to eat by themselves let alone drive a vehicle. I’ve driven across this wonderful country multiple times and have experienced driving in the majority of major cities and I can say that NONE come close to the insanity that is a Seattle driver.

  • Rev En Fuego

    You pretty much nailed it on the head, and my head hits the desk in frustration at the sheer memory of it. You *only* covered city driving too … didn’t mention the fact that people in this lovely state have no idea how to freeway drive. Do you want to get somewhere at a normal time? Don’t try to use the passing lane because inevitably there will be a jackknob who has decided that it’s their right and privilege to drive in the passing lane at 60 miles per hour. Oh, and you’re the one who is bothering THEM when you have to pass them on the inside lane.

    ARGGGH

    • M. Davis

      You have a problem with people obeying the laws that state one must drive the speed limit? Because you choose to drive illegally by exceeding the speed limit of 60 mi/hr is not the other persons fault nor their responsibility. It is their ‘right and privilege’ to drive safely, legally and responsibly and adhere to the driving rules implemented by the government. If society felt it was safe for the situation and conditions of the road the speed limit would be different and that driver would be driving at the appropriately posted speed limit. You don’t have the right or privilege to endanger others lives driving recklessly by exceeding the speed limit. That lane is not a you pick the speed that amuses you lane, you’re still obligated to obey traffic laws such as the determined speed limit. I’m a CA driver of sorts and I choose to drive whatever speed I can get away with as is the norm in CA but I don’t get road rage over the people who drive correctly and obey the laws because I know I’m the one who is electing to break the law. If I want to break the law that is my prerogative but I don’t take out my choice of stupidity on those with more sense than I, I simply go around and about my business and let them do their thing.

      • BayvilleBoy

        And thus M. Davis supplies the proof for the article.

      • Andrew

        Actually it is against Washington State law to sit in the left lane. It is by law for passing only. The drivers that either through sheer ignorance or self-righteousness speed-match the car to their right, thereby holding up traffic are performing an illegal action and will be ticketed. Keep right except to pass is the law, and it is very definitely enforced. Try driving past a Stater on eastern I-90 going 80 MPH, then do the same at 70 but while sitting in the left lane holding up traffic. You will get the ticket for blocking, not speeding.

  • Eskimama

    Rev En Fuego: I believe those jackknobs are referred to as Washington’s state vegetable.

    Rex, you missed the classic “Last-Minute Left” move, which occurs when the idiot stopped at the light in front of you in the left lane of a four-lane road decides to indicate left AFTER the light changes to green, trapping you behind them for an entire signal cycle, since Seattle drivers are deathly afraid of turning left and will only do so when there’s no visible oncoming traffic. Not to mention the inability of Seattle drivers to pull forward into the goddamn intersection for left turns, so as to permit more turning traffic to make the lights.

    I used to live in MA, and thought Massholes were bad (and they are), but these people badly need a serious smacking.

    • SPRUNT

      In the same sense, there is the Left Lane-Right Turn asshats. Those that stay in the left lane through 2-3 light cycles while in traffic, then turn on their right-turn signal (if you’re lucky) and try to turn onto the road that’s 20 feet in front of them.

      And god forbid you are in the right lane and you stop to allow these jackholes to turn for the sake of the traffic behind you. You instantly make 2 full lanes of enemies because they can’t stand that you allowed someone to get out of the herd. And now all those people behind you want to, nay, NEED TO get around you because you obviously have no idea how to drive.

  • Elaine

    Ha! I’m a born and bred Seattle native and I’ve seen all of these behaviors in the wild. I used to think the ‘surrender’ behavior was just tourists trying to read the street signs, blindly looking for the ‘place where they throw the fish’, but it happens too often to just be tourists.

    Then there’s the Eastside dudebro phenomenon where you’ll be toodling along the freeway with all lanes open and some dudebro in a hugeass SUV comes along and parks himself right in front of you, slowing down as he does it. If you pass him, he’ll just pass you and do it again! It’s like he can’t stand being behind anyone, but he needs someone to be right behind him. It’s weird. Then the dudebros all come over to downtown Seattle on Friday and Saturday nights and make everything extra fun.

  • Philip

    I have driven in some of the worlds most notorious cities (Paris, Rome, Madrid, Tel Aviv, Berlin, Munich, etc, etc). As a Seattle native, I am within my rights to say that I 100% agree with this article! The drivers in Seattle are the most oblivious, self absorbed, unskilled imbeciles I have ever seen. Thankfully, I am 1 of the 50 drivers in the PNW that understands what a turn signal is for, what the differences are between merge, yield and stop, what the left lane is actually for (yes – it is a passing lane), what to do when I am driving and someone is on my tail (move to the right), etc. It’s partly the Department of Licensing in our fair State – they give a license to anyone, apparently, and have forgotten that driving is an earned privilege, not a constitutional right. Idiots.

    • Luchog

      1 in 50 understand what a turn signal is for? I only wish it was that many. Very few drivers here have any clue what a turn signal means; and even fewer bother to use them.

      Part of the problem is that we don’t really do driver testing anymore. All of that is contracted out to private driving schools. If you have a certificate from one of them, you get a license. So there are a lot of drivers who would have never passed the standard tests I took when I first got my license.

  • Gatsbo

    Thanks to the commenters. Any discussion of Seattle driving has to include the 60 mph vigilantes in the left lanes of the freeway. They’re the ones with the ‘don’t tailgate’ bumper stickers.

    I think the Seattle Surrender is all those people approaching a green light who are apparently afraid it will turn yellow at the point they wont know if they should stop or go through. So, they go slower and slower to make sure the light will turn red and they can wait for it. That’s my only explanation for why these people slow down approaching a GREEN light.

  • Dan

    Not to forget the 30-second brake check that occurs on the freeways. If they haven’t hit their brakes in the last 30-seconds, they do so.

    As far as recent populations coming from CA, 80% of those are actually WA natives returning home.

    Regardless, it makes me ashamed to be from Seattle. I spent 23 years in Los Angeles before returning to WA in 1990. Horn use was the same in both areas during my times in them. But the general lack of awareness here is amazing.

    I do have an alternate theory about why, opposing or perhaps complimenting the Rural theory. Mental Problems. The Pac NW has more cases of Bi-Polar & Schizophrenia than any other part of the world. And one of the common symptoms of Bi-Polar is being a controller. So to me it’s no surprise that there are a lot of people who feel they are entitled to the passing lane regardless of their speed and/or the flow of traffic. As well as the parking attempt described in the article. They are just more important than us. If you don’t believe me, just ask THEM! :)

    • Ihateseattletoo

      Kudos for mentioning the brake check! On highway 18 or I-90, they go under the speed limit and do frequent brake taps 20 times a minute without it having any noticeable control on speed or anyone in front of them.

  • brad

    Nobody understands the left lane on 5 is the passing lane either. All lanes, cars going the same speed (ranging from 45 to 55). Long line of cars waiting for the left lane to get moving and 50 mph driver just spacing out. Or better yet intentionally sitting in the left lane driving very slowly because they believe everyone should drive the same speed as them. Then get angry if anybody makes an attempt to pass them creating dangerous driving for everyone cause you have the left lane slow poke and the person who is swerving 2-3 lanes to get around that slow poke.

  • Tracy

    No doubt that Seattle/WA is the worst place to drive. Ever since I moved here from NY state a few years, driving around drives me nuts! Though I don’t get as worked up as I used to. Take highway as an example, people slow down to merge onto highway! or they immediatly move to passing (left) lane, then drive 60miles per hour. And all those left lane campers on highway! People don’t use inner lane to pass the slow car in front of them, they just follow – passing one car needs a lot less room from the inner lane than trying to pass five cars in a row! So everyone is stuck. Or in the traffic jam or misty rain, you always see people leaving 10-20 cars distance in front of them, greatly reduce the throughput of the highway. No wonder we have traffic jam! This list can go on and on.

    I know that people say, oh, many people here are transplants, why don’t they drive better? Well, it doesn’t take much to disrupt the flow of traffic. A small percentage of bad driving has a big impact on the traffic flow and force other people to drive the way they normally wouldn’t.

  • wrath00

    This is a good article and I can’t disagree with it. Imagine being a pedestrian in a wheelchair trying to get around downtown with these inattentive jackholes. If I had $1 for every time somebody paying more attention to *anything* else aside from actually driving safely (food, makeup, phone, etc etc ad infinitum), I could buy myself a new nervous system and no longer need the chair.

    I have a driver’s license, but I’ve no desire to use it – not only for financial considerations (read: I ain’t payin’ $5/gallon for gas, folks), but mostly because I’m afraid I’d kill someone. And by that, I don’t mean with the car.

  • Whatever

    I have no problems driving in Seattle except for the dam bicyclists they are the main problem since they never follow any of the road rules (laws of which they feel they are except until my tire trend is on their back)and cause drivers to slam on the breaks to avoid hitting them as they run a red light or stop sign ect.

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