On regional motorists

New Jersey people can’t drive.

Justin Tuck.

I think about this a lot. I’ve taken my shots at Jersey drivers in the past, and it’s true that the large majority of motorists on New Jersey thoroughfares cannot, in fact, drive. But the same is the case on Long Island, where I grew up, and in Westchester, where I currently reside.

The principal hallmarks of the bad suburban New York driver are aggressiveness and inability to signal turns. There are subtle distinctions between locales but they’re nebulous — Jersey drivers seem most likely to tailgate, Long Island drivers most likely to cut you off, Westchester drivers most apt to speed in parking garages.

But outside of a driver’s ed classmate who would thrice fail her road test (and once, due to no real fault of her own but to my great early-morning entertainment, hit a seagull mid-flight), all of the worst drivers I’ve ever encountered have been in Georgia, some 800 miles removed from Gotham.

Venerable former roommate Ted Burke and I traversed the 260-mile jaunt from Savannah to Atlanta (via Milledgeville, of course) reasonably early on a Saturday morning in May. It should have been a smooth and calm ride: It was a sunny day and there were few other cars on the interstate.

Problem was, every single car we happened upon was either driving too slow in front of us, too fast behind us, or maintaining a steady pace in our blind spot. Drivers cut us off only to immediately slow their pace. Others sped up when we tried to pass them. It was maddening. All around us we could see open road, but the entire trip was harrowing. I would have been covinced it was some sort of aggressive behavior toward yankees if our car weren’t a rental with Georgia plates.

So I wonder if perhaps most people can’t drive, and longtime New Yorkers like me just associate bad driving with Jersey the way every European country attributes syphilis to a neighboring state.

After all, D.C. drivers, with their wholesale obliviousness, are at least as bad as New Yorkers. And Boston drivers, who combine aggressiveness with a bizarre and uniquely Bostonian chip on the shoulder, might be the worst of all.

Why are there clear regional distinctions in styles of bad driving? Outside of, “well there are lots of old people in Florida,” I can’t think of any reasonable explanation. Are any area’s drivers actually worse than the rest? I don’t know. Your feedback is welcome.

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