A blog that needs work

Living in America - Driving

Living in America has been different to say the least. Only slightly different, of course, but that's a matter for a different post.

What I've found the most peculiar is how different driving is. The laws aren't different, not significantly, but it's the way that driving feels.

There is the matter of measurement, specifically, the difference between miles and kilometres per hour, but even then the difference is only slight. In Ontario, the speed limit may be as high as 100km/h (and thusly be ignored) or here in the US, as far as I've seen, it may be as high as 65mph which works out to about 105km/h (and is also ignored). In both cases, people drive well above the limit, so that reveals no clues.

There is also the matter of congestion. On our route between San Jose and Sunnyvale, California, a drive of about 20 minutes, the road would be congested whether due to rush hour or an accident (which occurs frequently enough). Despite the congestion on the road, our trip was never significantly hindered: cars were always moving at some speed, and it was never too difficult to merge from the carpool lane to the exit lane. In part, it could have been the carpool lane, which I have seen few of in Ontario, or the abundance of public transportation, like the Caltrain connecting the many small cities, or even the lack of large transport trucks or the many-laned multiple highways that snake across the valley. Whatever the case may be, it stands in stark contrast to the experience I've seen trying to get into Toronto on an early morning where traffic scarce flows at all, and is highly congested by trucks trying to transport goods across Ontario.

The differences extend well beyond the highway. U-turns are far more regular, and are advertised on signage prominently. This could be because, as I've noticed, the stop lights are also less regular: I typically expect parallel sides of an intersection to have the 'go' signal followed by the remaining two sides, perhaps broken by an 'advanced' signal, but it looks as though each side of the intersection is given a turn. There appear to be more major roads, that is, roads with more than two or four lanes, and more complicated, signalled intersections. It's difficult to be confused though, as there are also more lights and more signs, with each lighted intersection having something like three lights or four sets of lights for one direction of traffic with accompanying signs detailing exact instructions and directions. The amount of clarity in such a compact space is startling, considering signs I recall from Toronto, such as "No left turns between Xpm and Ypm, no stopping, etc". It is an interesting contrast, to say the least.

Even parking is quite different. For the better, I would argue, angle parking is more prevalent, with each parking 'street' being a one-way. This makes it quite a bit easier to see available parking spots, and to see when people are backing out. There are less 'pull-throughs', but it is still nice.

Lastly, the only substantial difference I've seen aside from those mentioned is signalling, or the lack thereof. It's difficult to say if this is an American matter, or Californian, or even just a matter of how the folks in the valley live, but regardless, people do not signal very often. Not for a lane change. Not to exit. Not to turn left at a signalled intersection, or a stop sign, or anything at all. People simply refuse to signal, for the most part. It isn't as though people drive erratically as a result, it's just irritating.

That's what I've observed, so far. It has been difficult to post, but perhaps I'll get to that matter shortly...

Nicholas Terwoord

A self-titled software developer, "code archaeologist" (whatever that means), and professional geek. Spends too much of his time coming up with new projects, and not enough time working on them. Likes video games, board games, anime, manga, and Pathfinder / Dungeons and Dragons (GOTO: Line #1 - Geek).