Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Traffic Atrocity

DC is the 27th largest city, population-wise, in the United States. It is behind some obvious ones, like New York and L.A. (#1 and #2), and some not-so-obvious ones like Milwaukee (#22), San Jose (#10), and Columbus (#15).

Traffic-wise, however, it is a little higher. Twenty spots, in fact. DC-MD-VA beats out San Francisco-Oakland, Houston, and Detroit (all three cities with a higher population than DC) for the number seven spot on 2009's worst traffic cities list.

There are a few reasons for this, including the fact that DC is an enormous commuter city and the metro is in dire need of a circuitous route (go go gadget purple line!) in order to not be a waste of time half the time. But I think the biggest reason is a little something I like to call Jackass Traffic.

Have you ever sat in 2 hours of crawling traffic, only to get to the front and see it's all due to rubbernecking? You've been Jackass Trafficked.

Have you ever sat in the middle of the city, car idling as two lanes' worth of rush hour merges into one because one guy double parked and threw on his emergency lights so he could get a pack of cigarettes? You've been Jackass Trafficked.

Have you ever sat on the highway, watching helplessly, as scores of cars speed past you in the emergency lane only to throw on their blinker and slip in 500 feet ahead of you? You've been Jackass Trafficked.

Jackass Traffic comes in many forms and on many occasions, but the core is always this: the one jackass in the front of the line ruining it for everyone and generally contributing to the downward spiraling of the world.

Jackasses come in all shapes and sizes; some of them are foreign (read: non-Maryland) and don't know how roundabouts work. Some of them are really young and think texting and driving is a good idea. Some of them are really old and can't see over the wheel. Some of them are lost, or are in a much bigger hurry than the rest of us and therefore cannot deign to follow regular traffic courtesy. All of them are selfish and think their time is much more important than anyone else's on the road, and make traffic one hundred percent worse from their actions.

I don't know why there are more jackasses in this area than other places, but there are. So this is a plea for decency, a call for help and compassion. Please drive as if the other cars are humans with needs and worries just like your own. I bet you a hundred dollars at any point in time 65% of the people you see on the road are also late, or mad, or upset. And if they weren't before, they are now because they're sitting in traffic.

The following are some easy guidelines to follow in order to avoid becoming That Guy in Jackass Traffic:
- In merging: Let one go, then you go. If every single person on the road followed this at all times, traffic would go by so much quicker and more orderly my brain threatens to explode every time I think about it.
- Only use the emergency lane in these two situations: 1) You are having an emergency. 2) You can literally see the beginning of the off ramp you need.
- NEVER DOUBLE PARK IN RUSH HOUR. Rush hour lasts from 12pm to 8pm. Do not do it. If you hate searching for parking spots that much, take the metro. It'll take you anywhere you need to go.
- When in a roundabout, you never stop. The people who are entering the roundabout are the ones who stop.
- Go back and re-read your driving manual about Right of Way. More Jackass Traffic occurs when people don't understand the proper rules of Right of Way than I care to think about.
- When turning or on a curve, slow down for the first part and then speed back up when you are about 75% of the way through it. Do not, I repeat, do not come to a full stop with the back end of your car sticking out into the road, as if you're going to change your mind at this point. It's too late; just go.
- If you are lost, pull over. It will save yourself and everyone else a headache and a half.
- USE YOUR BLINKER. And if someone a full car's length ahead of you puts their blinker on to get in your lane, for the love of all things holy please don't speed up.
- Leave enough space between yourself and the car in front of you that, given the situation in which you have to slam on your brakes, you will not hit them.

It is ludicrous that every single day on the beltway there is at least one accident, making traffic twenty times worse than it would have been to begin with. That said, be ever vigilant of people weaving in and out of lanes, merging too close to you and tailgating. If you are in DC, dial 311. If you are in Maryland or Virginia, dial #77 and be ready to report a description of the driver, vehicle, and event. If the violator is a truck or a bus, call the Safety Violation Hotline at 1-888-DOT-SAFT.

And with that, good luck metro drivers, and God speed.


Dennis said...

I hear you!

Every once and awhile though, I will swerve without using my blinker. It's not malicious, I just forget. I will also cut across traffic (if it's not dangerous) to hit an exit. These things don't happen often, but every once and awhile they do.

I try to keep that in mind when I see something like that. Maybe these people aren't just selfish assholes, maybe this was just their one mistake.

Now people who drive in the emergency lane drive me bat shit crazy. My dad used to just pull into the emergency lane and ride along side a normal car. My mom would be mortified by all of the honking and screaming.

I would do that as well, but I don't want to tempt fate. The first time I do it I will happen to pull in front of a disgruntled, coked up, former GM CEO with a .45 in his glove compartment.

David Pratt said...

I was late to work today due to the traffic outside my exit extending what should have been a 90-second cruise to a 10-minute stop-and-go ordeal. I had to deal with traffic in New York, but never have I felt the complete sense of futility and frustration that is driving in the MD-DC-VA area.

Ozkirbas said...

I'm fairly certain that, by the end of my life, if you took all the time I'd spent waiting in traffic due to jackassery and compiled it, I think there'd be enough time to orphan a small child to carry on my legacy.

Ozkirbas said...

*raise. Raise a small orphan. I am on the ball today.

David Pratt said...

I like the first one better.

Dennis said...

John, you give the title of this blog post a whole new meaning. <3

David Pratt said...

Also more time efficient - it takes years to raise an orphan. Creating an orphan can be done in a few seconds in an alleyway outside a theater showing "Zorro."

Jason Heat said...


Dennis said...

I can't even begin to count the amount of times I've been sitting in traffic behind rubberneckers and I've thought, "DAMN! I could have murdered the parents of SIX young children in this amount of time."

Anonymous said...


...I drive in the mergency lane
...I double park for cigs
...I carry a .45 in my glove compartment
...and I have a crew of 50 guys who accompany me on trips around the metropolitan area to purposefully stop up traffic, especially on the beltway, especially during rush hour, and especially between silver spring & route 270

You should FEAR us!
And your children should FEAR us!

Ozkirbas said...

Prepare to be orphaned, Anonymous. Your parents are mine!

Dennis said...

"Honey, I think there's a bear slaughtering, *squint* someone's parents on the shoulder."

"That's no bear......that's a MAN!"



Anonymous said...

Your whole post is why I do not drive: other drivers. They terrify me with their jackassery. Plus, I get enough road rage back-seat-driver style, thank you very much.

nevie said...

dude, i will never understand what is apparently so hard about using your blinker.

Damo said...

Nevie, so true! The whole point of blinker signals is to communicate with the drivers around you. No matter what you think, 99% of the time they can't hear you yelling. So blinkers are all we've got.

If you use them properly you even make it safer to drive "assertively." It's a win-win.

greg said...

don't worry! Maryland is building the ICC, so all traffic problems will be SOLVED

but I agree with everything b-graham says about jackassery. I don't miss driving for the reasons listed above

Scotty said...

I used to answer the WTOP traffic hotline during morning rush hour. Oh, the times I had to counsel people not to resort to violence...

The people who are causing traffic problems are often the same ones kvetching about them. People rubberneck - it's human nature, and no amount of complaining is going to stop it. You're guilty of it, I'm guilty of it... we see something out of the ordinary, and we can't resist our curiosity to look. Next time you have to pass a gory pileup on the highway, just TRY not to look. I dare you. You can't resist.

Also, if you think a heavy delay is entirely due to rubbernecking, chances are it's because emergency response moved the accident out of the roadway not too long before you got to the scene. Residual delays always take some time to fade... traffic jams dont ease instantly.

And everyone who complains about the Beltway should be more pissed that they didnt build I-95 all the way through the city like they planned in the #70s. Understandable that some people didnt want their neighborhoods bulldozed, but now you have an overburdened Beltway as a result. Enjoy.

Jason Heat said...

this isn't really a new observation, but I don't find driving in this area nearly as frustrating as most people, apparently

Dennis said...

That's because you drive like a mad man. : p

David Pratt said...

No guys, you're supposed to take speedbumps at 10 mph.

Some guy told me.

I think he was a doctor.

Jason Heat said...

i fully admit i'm a bit more aggressive (or perhaps simply comfortable with the capabilities of my vehicle) than either Dennis or David but if you really think I drive like a "mad man" you've never been in a car with a seriously aggressive driver, believe me.

Scotty said...

Jason - I'm confident that you're in control, but I have to wonder how quickly you go through a set of brake pads.

What I learned from a few years of being a cocky driver who took the road like it owed me money was that knowing the limits of your vehicle doesn't mean you should always test them.

Jason Heat said...

my brake pads actually hold up pretty well, but i do go through mileage way quicker than i probably should. I

Carrie Crawford said...

I'm not sure which is better, the post or the comments page.. both are brilliant, though.

I was traffic jackassed a lot on the road today, while driving the 15 passenger van with David sitting next to me. I will admit, however, I was totally (unintentionally) the jackass in the gas station. It was stressful.