US Tour Summer 2009 – Driving Miss Mobile

NB. I’ve had some previously unpublished blogs from the US tour this summer that I’ve decided to release into the wild. They’ll be appearing here over the next couple of days. Hope you enjoy!

Driving in the US has been quite easy for us Irish drivers.  Huge wide roads.  Satellite Navigation systems that work because someone’s taken the time to actually map your country.  It’s no hassle to us, in comparison to the unsignposted windy boreens of Ireland.  A five hour drive in the US feels roughly equivalent to a two hour drive in Ireland.  Distances take on completely different meaning.

I warn you.  I’m going to be controversial here, and possibly cause an international incident by suggesting that American drivers are far from being our favourites.  Sure we gripe about drivers back home of course, but there’s an entirely different level of insane driving over here.

Driving across Place de l’Etoile (around the Arc de Triomphe) in Paris at rush hour is one of the nuttiest commuting experiences you could possibly experience.  Twelve avenues spill out onto the roundabout at incredible volumes during rush-hour.  They reckon there’s 10 lanes of traffic around the étoile (or “star”)… not that that is of any real consequence.  Cars hurtle across the roundabout making a bee-line for their particular chosen route.  It’s the closest thing to real-life bumper cars you can get.  Not for the faint of heart.  I’ve driven in Paris, Marseille, Nice, Milan, … all considered to be fairly crazy drivers – but nothing will prepare you for an American driver flying down the Interstate, mid-text conversation with a friend.

The amount of near misses we had was incredible.  Most of these potential accidents happened on huge wide open Interstates, where we did most of our driving.  We could predict it.  We’d lay bets on whether the car weaving strangely up ahead was due to a driver using their phone.  We could see while approaching a car, they’d be jittery… swerving or swaying across lanes.  If we did that in European countries we’d most likely be done for dangerous driving or at least reported for drink driving.  However, most of the drivers were not drunk, nor high… but instead texting on their phones.  I’m not quite sure what the law is in the US on phone use in your car.  It’s only permitted here if you have some sort of hands-free system.  Still people hold their phone while driving, and while I don’t approve of it, it’s not the worst thing I’ve seen people do.  But TEXTING while driving at over 60mph on any road is just insanity.  By all means, talk while you’re driving.  Catch up with friends.  You have such long journeys and such straight roads.  But please use hands-free kits, be they bluetooth earpieces or more expensive devices.  You need them.  Seriously.

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