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Old 04-17-2008, 09:35 AM
 
54 posts, read 58,763 times
Reputation: 19

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Last year, my girlfriend, my best friend and I spent 3 weeks in California for vacation, touring the state. We're coming from France and are, respectively, 35, 33 and 34. We drove from San Francisco to Lassen Volcanic Park in the north part of California, then to Lake Tahoe, Monolake, Yosemite, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and then back to San Fransisco.

During our trip, we drove in absolutly all kinds of roads : 10-lane congested urban freeways in LA and SF metro areas, desert rural roads, meandering forest roads, urban one way streets, avenues and boulevards, 2-lane highways, 3-lane (one is the passing one) roads, 2x2 roads with or without dividers, during the day, the night, etc.

Viewed from Europe and especially from France, there is the persistent myth that american, and especially californian, drivers are cool, relax, corteous, doing the speed limits : well they are actually good drivers compared with the French drivers who I've used to consider so far as perfect dangerous jerks compared with the american ones. There's also another myth : cops and highway patrol cars are everywhere checking for your speed, your behaviour. Third myth : road casualties are much lower in the US than in Europe regarding the same comparison basis. I guess those myths date back to the "CHips" series time!!! Well the conclusion of my 3-week California tour is : this time is over!

I would like to give my opinion on the topic, based on my californian driving experience : well to sum it up i'd say that all those myths are totally FALSE, it's complete RIP-OFF!!! Reality is far from the myths and not in a good way, we noticed.

Here are the widespread road behaviors we noticed on the California roads :

1-speeding : it's a sports practiced by 100% of californian drivers ; the speed limits? pff forget about them!! speed limits are mere indications NOBODY respects and neither enforced at all. Oh yes, we tried to respect them the first week but, let's be realistic : nobody does them, everybody tries to drive as fast as possible, even if the road or weather conditions are bad and If one dares doing the speed limits heis automatically endangered by the other drivers, threatened even by the others who honk, tailgate and show you their finger. At a time my girlfriend told me "speed up or one of them is going to take his rifle and shoot us" (yes, you're true, another myth : each citizen in the US carries a rifle with him).
The worst experiences :
*Pasadena freeway in LA, an urban freeway with dangerous sharp bends and stop signs on the on-ramps : you enter the freeway at a low speed and everybody on the freeway is speeding at 75 instead of 55, waving, cutting off, etc. Well honestly, due to the sharp bends and the lack of acceleration lanes, we didn't find that the 55 speed limit was too low!!
*I15 between los angeles and las vegas : it seemed that people where crazy on their way to Las Vegas : speeding, tailgating, honking, cutting off, using the shoulder as a lane on traffic jams, this was a festival of nonsense driving

2. Red light running : in San Fransisco and LA, it seems to be a widespread habit to run red lights even 5 seconds after the light has turned from yellow to red. If you're a pedestrian you got to be very carefull if don't want to die.

3. tailgaiting : well if you do the speed limit like us, it is unavoidable to have cars only a few feet of your bumper. Furthermore, everyboy will show you how wrong you are to respect the law by honking, threatening you, making road rage gestures.

4. cutting in front of your car : widespread behaviour on the freeways, despite the rear mirrors, a great number of california drivers behave as if they were alone on the freeway. We were forced to hit the brakes several times not to be hit by these guies.

5. turn signal and changing of lanes : the turn signal??? What for??? I'd say that less than 10% of the drivers use it when changing lanes. Well it was no rare to see drivers changing 4 lanes in one time to exit a freeway, almost causing crashes.

6. keeping a safe distance between cars : again, what for? The philosophy in california roads seems to be the following : the least space you let between your car and the car in front of you, the better it is for everybody. Even worse, when you're trying to let a reasonable distance between you and the car in front of you (you know, in the very very very unlikely case there is a sudden brake in front and so that you will not end in a giant pile-up), there will always be someone cutting in front of you, passing you to feed this seucrit distance!

7. (no) enforcement : complete lax! what are the highway patrol officers doing? spending their work time sleeping on their cars ??? The relevant question is : is there really a highway patrol or have they fired all the cops since the "CHiPs" times?? During all the trip we only saw one time a patrol car ; it was in a 4 lanes highway, everybody was doing 80 in a 65 hwy (exept us) the cops picked one car at random and arrested it, the others went on as if nothing had happened!! Wow, such an efficient way to enforce the speed limit!!

- Our conclusion :driving in California is unsafe and you are put at risk whenever you take your car and hit the road. The road beahviors seemed to us selfish, mean, it was some kind of "i'm the king of the road, i do hatever i want to do no matter he consequences, get off the road" attitude.

Actually, the behaviors we noticed in the California roads were similar to those of French drivers until 2003 when the governement said "enough" and launched a strong set of measures to fight the anarchy on the roads. Measures were based on :
-much harsher penalties for speeding, DUI, cell phone use, etc : fines increased, jailtime systematized
-increased enforcement, greater visibility of the enforcement, hence increased probability to have your behaviour checked on he road
-widespread use of fixed speed cameras and mobile speed cameras in unmarked cars : this is the center measure that has cut the death toll by 40% since 2003. We have now 2000 speed cameras and until 2012 there will be 3000 new ones. This has turned the roads safer, behaviours've been pacified.

You might think i'm kind of rude in the way I express myself but we were really amazed by what I'd call complete anarchy in the california roads with really dangerous behaviours! We often felt jeopardized by the road behaviors of the californian drivers!! And, no, we're not paranoiac.

So I'd like to have the opinion of california drivers on the forum. Have you ever drive in european roads recently? What do you think of the european drivers? What do you think of the behaviors of your counterparts in California roads? of yours too?? Do you also frequently notice the kind of behaviors I report above in your daily commutes etc? How are california drivers compared with the other states? is CHP another myth or do these guy really exist ?
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Old 04-17-2008, 10:55 AM
 
26,589 posts, read 52,267,707 times
Reputation: 20410
I and just about everyone that I know with European Driving Experience have found European Drivers, as a group, to be superior in skill level and European Vehicles tend to be better maintained.

I can't say that I know anyone that finds average California Drivers superior to average European Drivers...
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Old 04-17-2008, 11:13 AM
 
11,715 posts, read 35,952,231 times
Reputation: 7512
I think you're 100% right about driving in California. There's so many self-centered a-holes who think they're more important than everyone else and their driving reflects that. In my experience, the worst offenders are people in SUVs (the bigger, the worse) and people in German cars.

The Pasadena freeway was designed in the 1920's and it shows. I avoid that thing when ever I'm up there. It should have been rebuilt decades ago but they probably can't do that because its historic. I guess its better to have people die on the road instead.

Speed in general is something you get used to. The speed limit may be 65 but 75-80 is perfectly safe on most roads as long as everyone's going that fast and people drive like sane human beings.
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Old 04-17-2008, 11:14 AM
 
Location: RSM
5,113 posts, read 17,456,648 times
Reputation: 1892
First off, California drivers are the worst. Aggressive, pissed off, etc. Most states hate it when they see the California license plate partially because of it.

I don't know who is propogating this myth that we are safe and courteous because we openly acknowledge that we are the exact opposite.

To respond to a few points:
-I15 from LA to Vegas: Very dangerous stretch of road because of the driving habits and how busy it is at all times of day. You'll tend to see white crosses dotted along the road(meaning someone died in a car accident there). Drive past Vegas on the I15 and noones on the road and there are no more white crosses. Just interesting how that is.
-Red light running: People are in a hurry around here, so it's common. But redlight cameras have helped some intersections become safer.
-Speeding: The speedlimit is more of a guide in CA. As long as you're not 20miles over the speed limit noone really cares. Cops usually don't pick a car out thats speeding unless they are going faster than the rest of traffic. If the speed limit is 65 and everyone is doing 70 usually they'll just cruise along or check the Carpool lane for violators.
-Turn signal: There should be a myth that cars in California don't come with them, and that they don't come with side and rear view mirrors either.


Now onto european roads.

I hated driving in England. Was congested 24/7, the roads are small, and the drivers don't care about their cars so you're about 2inches from bumping into someone at any time in traffic throughout the London area.

I was in France 8 years ago and I liked it. Well maintained, not much congestion, etc. I went throughout Bretagne and the Loire Valley into Paris on my trip and was very happy with the roads and the people on it most of the way.

As far as speed cameras and such, they don't really have much support from the populace and they are constantly being challenged in court due to privacy concerns and such. I don't believe in them either.

Anyways, glad you got out safely. We drive like maniacs, but it's controlled anarchy. You get used to it and it makes you a better driver because you're always paranoid about the people driving around you.
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Old 04-17-2008, 11:34 PM
 
Location: Southeast Idaho
4,659 posts, read 15,775,199 times
Reputation: 2515
gildossantos, you painted the picture of California driving spot on!

Yes, there are CHPs, however they too are afraid to get out on the roads

I'm sorry you had to feel like you were in danger while in the States. Major congrats to France for reducing their fatility rate by 40%, that is awesome!
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Old 04-17-2008, 11:41 PM
 
Location: southern california
55,647 posts, read 74,595,623 times
Reputation: 48140
question. just curious if i got on a french forum and posted my opinion of their driving while on a visit how would i be treated.
i speak french.
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Old 04-17-2008, 11:53 PM
 
246 posts, read 789,488 times
Reputation: 102
You've described the driving habits of people everywhere in America - not just California.
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Old 04-18-2008, 09:37 AM
 
19 posts, read 106,615 times
Reputation: 24
We just had a vacation in March in California and we drove all the way from San Diego to San Francisco. I have to say I didn't find the driving that bad at all except close to LA. We live in Canada close to Toronto and my husband I were actually commenting about the driving not being that bad. Close to LA of course was very busy and there was bad driving.
About the European driving, I grew up in Europe. I haven't been to France so I can't specificaly comment on driving there. My personal opinion is that driving in North America in general is less stressful for me. Europe in general has narrow roads, smaller cars and in my opinion more agressive driving.
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Old 04-18-2008, 10:19 AM
 
253 posts, read 1,221,158 times
Reputation: 137
This is a perfect summation of driving in California. The speed isn't so much a problem (lot of long desert roads that should have 100mph limits) as the aggression, poor lane change etiquette, and general lack of courtesy to other drivers. In fairness, maybe only one driver in a hundred is behaving this way, but that's enough to cause real problems.
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Old 04-18-2008, 10:50 AM
 
Location: Bay Area
3,927 posts, read 7,736,353 times
Reputation: 4485
You are absolutely correct Gildo in your observations. After living in Ireland, and spending several weeks in France and a few in Spain, California drivers ARE horrible! This was one of the biggest shockers after moving back to California and the easiest thing for me to miss about living in Europe. You actually get "thank you waves" and "go ahead, you first" signals in Ireland. Even the "boy racers" (teenagers with souped up cars) in Ireland aren't too keen on ramming you off the road like the jerks (adults) here. I don't know why everyone in California rushes around with this superiority complex as if their time is so much more important than yours- very competitive nature perhaps?. Everyone on cell phones, speeding as if they're saving loads of time in their "busy" lives, the whole attitude is the opposite of laid back. There are routes that I actually avoid because I know people won't let me in to merge! It's all rotten. But I'm so lucky I had the opportunity to have had a pleasurable driving experience in Europe. And man, what the heck happened to California roads/freeways? The potholes and disrepair are far worse than those twisty, crap roads meant for tractors that you get in the most rural parts of Ireland .
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