Not only have I lived in several parts of the country, I've driven just about everywhere -- maybe not in Alaska or New Hampshire, but just about every other state. I've found that even though there are good drivers and poor drivers everywhere, typical driver habits vary from state to state. Here are a few observations:
California- I grew up in the Los Angeles area and learned to drive there in the 70's, when many of the freeways were new (I actually drove on the Foothill Freeway on its opening day). One thing that stands out in my memory of those days is that people actually knew how to merge back then. I don't know if that's a sign of the times or a comment on the region's drivers... Since I moved away in 1980, I have returned many times. With each visit, it seems, more and more and more cars are on the roads. Getting on the freeway now is like driving the traffic circle at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. The other difficulty might surprise some people -- fog.
Through the years thick fog has created fatal chain-reaction crash scenes as large as anywhere in the country. I remember one such event on the Pomona Freeway east of L.A. where over 125 cars were involved.
As far as driving habits, the one that sticks out to me is the SoCal jumping of green lights. You better not be thinking about running a red light because someone jumping the green is sure to have a shot at you.
Seattle, WA- I lived in the eastern half of Washington State for 20 years and drove to Seattle a hundred times. The main issue there has always been, and continues to be, year-round construction. Long waits are the norm in whatever part of the county is being worked on that moment. It's no surprise that Washington also has a serious fog problem, but even more dangerous is black ice, which is no fun at all.
Buffalo, NY- Before I first moved to Buffalo, I had been fairly proud of my ability to learn the streets and neighborhoods in a new city very quickly. Buffalo and Erie County shot that down immediately. I don't think I could navigate the area solo for six months. Driving in Buffalo stands out in my mind for two reasons. First, there is a mentality there of honk first, avoid accidents second. I never could understand that. Road rage was prevalent but at least drivers kept it to blaring their horns, sometimes for half a minute if they really didn't like what someone was doing. Second, and far worse, was their penchant for running red lights. It almost became a game where my wife and I would count how many cars ran their red light when ours turned green. California drivers in New York? That's a recipe for disaster!
Boston, MA- I drove to Boston from Buffalo on a few occasions and found it to be "New-York-Lite." They had their share of rude drivers and horns honking, but nothing that would compete with New York. Boston's narrow streets and the proximity of their trains to city traffic can make driving through the city a harrowing experience. Oh, and watch where you park if you have out-of-state plates...
Atlanta, GA- Gridlock is a way of life in Atlanta. I have seen worse traffic jams nowhere else in America. Forget rush hour. Here there is no reason to rush and traffic seems to be jammed all day, morning to night.
Las Vegas, NV- I'm not going to talk about the Strip, since most people know to avoid it if you want to get anywhere. The problem here is the combination of A) exotic sports and racing cars on city streets, all going 20 mph over the speed limit, B) rural residents in rusted beaters, all traveling 15 mph under the speed limit, and C) non-resident drivers from every corner of the world, all driving rental cars they know nothing about. I lived in Vegas for 5 years and never plan on living there again.
Denver, CO- Colorado has a minor population boom happening and the freeways and main arterials are far behind the growth in traffic. However, compared to Seattle, Atlanta, or Lost Angeles, residents don't really have room to complain. The most aggravating part of driving here is with drivers cutting you off. They don't seem to care that there isn't room for their car between you and the car in front of you, or that there may be 8 car lengths open behind you. They want your spot and are willing to take it. Not one day, not one, has gone by in the last year without being cut off. In fact, the same car cut me off three times on the same drive home yesterday.
Kansas (the whole state)- I'm not really stretching here to say that the worst driving in the country takes place in Kansas. Even in the city, streets are filled with farmers, ranchers, tractors, college kids and hockey moms, all competing for the title of the "World's Slowest Driver." Drive anywhere between towns and you'll want to make sure you've got your caffeine fix as to not be mesmerized by miles and miles of wheat. Not to help the situation, the state and city governments have a terrible signage program. In fact, I never saw so many fatal accidents in the news from drivers going the wrong way on a freeway.
I could probably go on about other parts of the country, like Florida (toll roads!), Oklahoma and Texas (severe weather and severely flat), and others, but I will leave those for other blog posts.
Jack Huber is a novelist with 6 mysteries published, along with several books of poetry and photography. Now retired, he and his wife, Nadyne, are free to travel the country in their 32' 5th wheel and 1-ton Ford pickup.