The Roads Out Here Are Driving Me Crazy
By DARRYL MANZER.
Published in The Signal, 5-29-2005.
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HAMPTON ROADS, Va. As usual, during my last two visits to the Santa Clarita Valley and California in general, I was amazed at the cars and traffic. I was, and am, also amazed at how well Californians drive. I've been all over the world, and I can only experience such good driving when in California.
I hear all kinds of complaints about "California drivers" from those who just don't know or understand. I hear it from folks who have never left the state where they were born (except California).
Freeways are their worst nightmare. Freeways with more than two lanes in each direction scare them even more. I hope, for your sake and theirs, they never drive in California. Sixty miles per hour in the far-left lane of the 405 could get you run over. (Or, should I say, "will.")
I learned to drive in the SCV's pioneer oil town of Mentryville in Pico Canyon. First I drove a 1960 Chevy pickup with a three-speed shifter on the steering column. I later graduated to a 1953 Packard. What a car.
It was in Pico Canyon that I learned the mechanics of driving, if not the rules. I was about 11 when I started to learn how to drive. I'm still learning. (I'm also still getting lost in Valencia, not to mention Stevenson Ranch.)
California drivers are courteous and skillful behind the wheel as long as they follow some basic "California driving rules." The rules are simple and effective. The list:
Learn to merge into traffic without slowing anyone down. This means learning to use the accelerator and not the brake when getting on the freeway. The person who can't merge into traffic had best stay on surface streets ... or at home. California drivers will let you merge if you are at the right speed.
Don't impede traffic even if it is moving at 75 mph and the posted speed limit is 65 mph. People get tickets in California for impeding traffic, even if it is moving above the speed limit.
Stop on the red lights and go on the green. This rule isn't often followed in Virginia or most of the East Coast states.
Be courteous and give the other drivers an even break. It isn't so important to get "one car ahead" of the other guy coming on the freeway.
Of course, California has built the roads to support the good drivers. Sure, you need more of them and they all need repairs, but if you haven't been to New York City, Boston, Philadelphia or Providence, you haven't seen poor road design and maintenance. On-ramps with stop signs and no acceleration lane. Poor signage. Potholes that can swallow trucks. And the worst drivers in North America including Mexico.
I know you're thinking I don't know what it is like every day on the freeways of Southern California. Try a day in Washington, D.C.
Now, that will drive you crazy. Or a day here in Hampton Roads.
This native Southern Californian living in Virginia can't stand to drive in Virginia. We have freeways that don't have enough lanes. Slow drivers in the fast lane. Red lights that people take as suggestions and not requirements. On-ramps that get you onto the freeway just as folks are merging into an off-ramp to get off.
You folks of the SCV have it good compared to Hampton Roads, Va., and most of the East Coast.
The next time you're stuck in traffic on Highway 14 waiting to get off at San Fernando Road, think of us back here doing the same type of thing in snow or heavy rains or 95-degree heat with equal humidity and the air conditioning is broke. Think of us being stuck in one of our many tunnels under rivers and Chesapeake Bay because some guy couldn't read a sign that limits tall trucks.
I've got to get out and drive on those Virginia freeways today. Y'all don't know how good you've got it until you see the mess back here.
Way back when, we thought the freeways were bad. Imagine those same freeways of 1968 and you'll know the freeways here with three times the population y'all have now.
That's why I've got to come visit every so often. The roads here are driving me crazy.
Darryl Manzer lived in the Santa Clarita Valley oil town of Mentryville in the 1960s as a teenager. He now lives in Virginia.