Sometimes, when I’m stuck behind an old white woman doing 45 mph on the 405 Freeway, I remember Germany’s Autobahn.
I drove on the Autobahn once, years ago. Heaven. Not just because it’s well-paved and you can go really, really fast. It’s heaven because a) Germans are rule-followers, and b) Everyone follows the same rules. If you’re passing, you’re in the left lane. If you’re slow, you’re in the right lane. If you wind up slow in the fast lane, a righteous German will fly up behind you and flash his lights until you move.
Los Angeles is the opposite of Germany. Our population comes from every continent and our public transportation sucks. Too many of us drive. We’re following multiple cultural rules, with different levels of driving experience.
When Andy and I used to hit the road for dance events, we amused ourselves by guessing the identity of crappy drivers ahead of us. Then, as we passed them, (which we always did when my speed-demon husband drove his muscle car) we’d see if we’d guessed the person’s sex, age, and race correctly. This developed into a less-than-politically correct game where the loser accumulated the most points if their “people” drove slowly or stupidly. I won if my fellow white people weren’t idiots. Andy had the Asian drivers.
When we took the 405 down to Orange County or San Diego, I lost due to rich, white, male assholes in BMWs who changed lanes with inches to spare and no turn signals. According to their dickish mindset, using your turn signal gives information to the enemy. Everyone is the enemy.
When we took the 10 Freeway east, we ran into older Chinese-American drivers in Monterrey Park heading to Vegas. Many of those drivers couldn’t keep a consistent speed, or drove slowly, or straddled lanes. I’d yell, “Yours! That’s 100 points!” and laugh as Andy swore mightily and lost badly. (I’m not a good winner.)
We stay closer to home now, but Andy and I still comment on any shitty driving in our neighborhood.
If you’re coming to the LA area, here are some of our least favorite – but most common – lousy drivers:
- Old white people. They grew up before modern traffic laws and see nothing wrong with making the right turn from the left lane. Their eternal turn signals might mean something – in Morse code. They can’t see or don’t acknowledge pedestrians in crosswalks. As they pass inches from my foot, I long for a handy sticker to slap on their car that reads: “Tell your kids to take away your license!”
Construction Contractors. These guys park their jacked-up, diesel dually truck on the wrong side of the street. Or in the middle of the street. No fire hydrant is safe, and no driveway, either.
- Japanese Mom in a Minivan. She never had to drive until she moved to Los Angeles and it shows. She grew up in the land of fast trains. But now she’s excruciatingly slow, taking every turn at 2 miles an hour. On the plus side, she’s never, ever going to illegally park in my driveway when she collects her kid from school.
- Very Important People. They have movies to make and deals to close. They will cut you off without a second thought or sit at a green light for 30 seconds while they send a text. Honking is futile. They rarely hear peons. If they do, they will merely flip you off because how dare you honk at them they are engaged in a Very Important Thing.
- Confused Tourists. They really want to find the beach, or the Hollywood sign, or maybe just a McDonald’s. And if they have to in across 3 lanes of traffic in 30 feet to get their Big Mac, they will.
- Young males of all races. They have the impulse control of toddlers. They street race. They do donuts in high school parking lot every Saturday night. They go into opposing traffic to get around you if you make a complete stop at a stop sign (which you will probably do to piss them off because they tailgate and honk at you for doing 25 mph in a residential neighborhood with kids). They’ll probably remove themselves from the gene pool soon, but unfortunately they’ll take some law-abiding motorist with them.
- Multitasking Moms in Hybrid SUVs. They’re passing out organic fruit to multiple kids while texting, emailing, and talking on their phones. When her kids heave their probiotic yogurt at each other, this mother is gonna veer into your lane while threatening the backseat with severe timeouts.
You probably recognize some of these drivers, whether you live in LA or not. There are dangerous drivers are everywhere — even in places with minimal traffic. When I first drove Andy around Nowhere, New Hampshire, he laughed as I cursed at someone slamming on the brakes and making an abrupt U-turn in the middle of a two-lane road.
Then he reached over, patted my leg, smiled, and said,
“They’re all yours, honey.”
Who’s the worst driver you ever encountered?
14 thoughts on “The Finest Drivers in Los Angeles (#189)”
Fabulous, and so true. In our household it’s typically “DWA”…. Driving while Asian (sorry Andy), who are the culprits. However, upon reflection you are 100% accurate on: Old white people, Very important people, Young males, Multitasking and Asian moms. <>
Andy breaks the DWA stereotype, mostly — driving fast and aggressively. But he breaks down DWA further. According to him, the super expensive Mercedes driver is mostly Korean-American. I think they DWA is disappearing as more and more first generation kids grow up here, used to cars. And maybe that’s not always a good thing, because some of them have been involved in road rage chases and accidents in PV.
We have all of those around here except the movie makers but the old people are the worst. I was in back of a little old woman (I think — all I saw was a little bump above the neck rest) with a right hand turn signal on….for a mile. Finally we came to a light. She didn’t turn and didn’t turn. Finally I honked. On coming traffic cleared and she turned left or….the other right. They get impatient or else they are overly cautious and my husband fits in the latter (with me in the former). I have to struggle to keep my mouth shut when he drives. I’m starting to avoid interstates around here. We have a lot of warehousing around here and the trucks are ginormous and plentiful! They have swished a few people already.
Yeah, trying to get into the supermarket parking lot when the giant trucks are there is impossible. Here, though, the scariest are the smaller cyclists and the motorcyclists. They skip stop signs and weave in traffic. I should do whole post on the other worst drivers!
LA drivers sound much like Joburg drivers. There are many “types” that I hate. Minibus taxi drivers are the worst by about 100 times, followed by all BMW drivers, followed by unroadworthy pickup trucks piled with two stories of cabbages and a couple of farm workers clinging to the top of the mountain of cabbages, driving 30 miles an hour in the middle lane of the highway, followed by, well, pretty much everyone. Most people here buy their licenses rather than actually passing the test, so you can imagine what that leads to.
BMW drivers are everywhere! I expect to see them in the thawing Antarctic first, running over penguins. I think people buy their licenses here, or maybe they just buy them back through traffic school when they get too many points.
Here in China, basically everybody drives like your “rich, white, male assholes in BMWs”. Using turn signals? Haha! That’s for losers, stupid. And getting to the highway exit from the rightmost lane is totally fine. You are behind me, you should be the one attentive to my movements (and with predictive powers). Safety distance? What is that? Zebra crossing? What is that x2? Give way? HAHAHAHA! EVERYBODY SHOULD GIVE WAY TO ME!!
LOL, so true. There was even a study about which drivers were most likely to fail to yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk. BMW drivers, of course.
I have trouble remembering to switch my expectations depending on the part of town and the time of day. In my small city people are generally pretty good drivers. If I don’t look at my watch, though, the aggressive rush-hour drivers or the teenage boys just out of school take me by surprise.
My experience in Manila was the opposite of yours in Germany. There are no rules. At least while I was there, no one took a driver’s test. They just paid a bribe. On the city streets, there was no need for marking off the lanes. Isn’t it better to turn three lanes into four if there’s enough room? Why should a motorcycle be given as much space as a bus? I came to think of the vehicles as twigs floating down a stream, naturally but unconsciously making room for each other. After a while I got used to it. Back in the States, it took me years to get over my wild ways.
That is a very poetic image. I’m more of a regimented, German driver, I guess. Italy made me nuts.
Autumn, hilarious post.
I would say, though, you haven’t seen crazy driving until you’ve done it in China. China makes Los Angeles seem like cruising through my grandparents’ retirement community. Just imagine the most aggressive drivers you’ve ever met in LA…then imagine all the cars on the road as that driver…and you’ve got an idea of driving in China.
I guess the cautious, slow Asian driver stereotype is not long for this world, then! They sound like the drivers in Italy.