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How do you feel about driving in D.C.?

By Abha Bhattarai  |  October 15, 2010; 6:22 PM ET  | Category:  Local Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Most drivers in DC are awful. They drift from lane to lane, driving any speed they feel like with no thought of what's going on around them.

They turn where they want to, they'll drive in any lane they want to, they don't consider the impact of what they're doing around them.

They have fancy cars, they're on the phone, and they're just terrible.

I wouldn't care if they want to drive like that if they would stay in the right-most lane, but since they're on the phone so much, they can't be bothered with paying attention to anything around them.

Not all of these drivers have DC plates, either.

If you're doubting anything I've typed here, drive down north capitol in rush hour (either one), and you'll see exactly what I mean.

Posted by: Skeptic1 | October 17, 2010 9:48 PM

Okay, I admit that I am a Boston driver. But I do drive in D.C. a lot, and my answer wasn't among the multiple-choice options given. Go ahead and laugh, because you know the stereotype of us Boston drivers, but I think D.C. drivers are not aggressive enough. They slam on the brakes at the slightest hint of a yellow light. They meander at 20mph and yak-yak-yak on their phones. They do not know how to inch into an intersection to get pedestrians to stop jaywalking. They do not know how to merge at speed, coming to a stop at onramps which then makes it all the more difficult to merge.

In Boston or NYC, drivers are efficient, and everybody understands certain clear rules. Merging happens quickly and gracefully on an every-other-car basis. You let one car in, and then you hit your gas pedal. You do not piddle along the road in constant abject fear that the green light will turn yellow. In my judgment, the deplorable traffic in the city is caused primarily by slow, inattentive, and inefficient drivers.

I know everybody's going to say, oh, the Boston driver is too aggressive, so let me just clarify that I'm for efficiency. Go when it's your turn to go, and do not hesitate, zone out, or imagine you're being polite by sitting there interminably wondering why the other driver doesn't go when you're the one with the right of way. On the other hand, stop when it's your turn to stop, do not speed, pay attention to cyclists, don't run red lights. If Boston has maybe too much aggressiveness, D.C. has too little. If you don't have someplace to be, why are you driving?

Posted by: jdsher00 | October 18, 2010 12:39 AM

Actually, some of the most difficult situations presented in DC involve cars with out of DC plates. Suburban drivers, especially those from Virginia, barrel into the city at rates of speed 20 or 30 miles an hour over the posted speed limit and the safe speed on city streets. Complete out of towners meander all over, stop inappropriately, make illegal turns and cut others off.

Just this afternoon, the driver of a car with Maryland tags I saw apparently became irritated with a slow lane on Massachusetts Avenue, so he veered off into the oncoming traffic in order to lap the slower car in front of him.

I can only assume these drivers are oblivious to the idea that they are actually driving in a city.

Posted by: thmas | October 18, 2010 1:00 AM

The list of choices was incomplete. One of the options should be: Beyond horrific and the No. 1 reason why Washington is an untenable place to live.

That sums it up for most of us. We can't afford homes close to work. And the road network is horrible. Mass transit is maxed out and now nearly as bad as driving. Employers don't grasp telecommuting and there are just too many agencies of the federal government here to get anything done.

Throw in the low number of river crossings, the number of jurisdictions that must approve anything (States, DC, federal government, individual counties)and you have a recipe for the worst traffic in the world.

What's worse, is there is no obvious solution, so things simply get worse.

Posted by: dgainor | October 18, 2010 5:49 AM

I'm with jdsher00 -- I lived in Boston for four years and found the traffic to be courteous in exactly the way described. Coming from D.C. it always amazed me in Boston when I'd put on my turn signal to change lanes and immediately someone would open a space for me. Boston driving is correctly described as aggressive, but it is not aggressive in a competitive sense, like D.C. I always felt that Boston drivers got most angry when another driver failed to be polite, and that's not a bad thing.

Posted by: Bookbinder | October 18, 2010 6:05 AM

I've driven in every city in the U.S., and the aggravation is directly proportional to the population density and the age of the street layout. It's that simple. The city of Washington itself is certainly no worse than (for instance) Philadelphia or Boston or New York.

Most of the problems center on either rush hour or a handful of crowded arteries or neighborhoods, and the only way to do anything about that is by spreading the five day work week into seven days and encouraging more telecommuting. And even then all you'll be doing is creating more mid-day traffic jams in the suburbs.

As for jacking up Metro, that'd be great, but unless you went whole hog and started extending it deep into the residential areas where even then it'd be likely to be used only by a minority, you're still going to be making only a small dent in the problem. The whole pace and scope of our society simply doesn't allow for any easy solutions.

Posted by: andym108 | October 18, 2010 6:53 AM

IN DC, SIGNAGE is a huge problem. The signs are too small. In some key areas, signs aren't visible enough or spaced well enough to actually do any good. Drive to PA, for example, where you see country areas with good signs. It has improved but needs to continue.

DC area driver (many from the burbs) won't let other drivers in w/a signal thereby forcing others to jump over w/out signaling. Not the safest thing to do.

IN THE DISTRICT too many roads need to be resurfaced. Smooth roads = smoother driving conditions. Some roads haven't not been improved in over 10 yrs.

ON 495 MARYLAND, local drivers do not know that the left lane is a fast lane. When a car approaches from behind, drivers are supposed to be paying attention (many are not) and being responsive to move over to the right. That does not happen here, which is HIGHLY UNSAFE. As a result, the middle and right lanes are a maze of slow drivers and really fast drivers full of traffic hazards, congestion and driver frustration. Passing on the left is the norm EVERYWHERE....but MD. Ugh. This is my biggest issue of all.

Posted by: bosslady1 | October 18, 2010 7:06 AM

Also, I'd like to see METRO extended into more communities. The traffic in this area is out of hand.

Posted by: bosslady1 | October 18, 2010 7:09 AM

I always have to laugh when it comes to this subject. It's obvious that most DC drivers have never driven in a developing country. I'll take the beltway over Beijing's Third or Fourth ring roads or a Jakarta "freeway" any day. Most developing world drivers were driving an ox cart six months ago. Quit your whining DC, you have NO idea what real traffic is. If you don't like things the way they are then abandon that McMansion in Loudoun or Montgomery and move inside the Beltway. It's not "too expensive" if you downsize into a reasonably sized living space.

Posted by: kettke1 | October 18, 2010 7:11 AM

The problem is not drivers from DC, but rather drivers in DC that are from all over the world that don't or won't recognize and respect out rules of the road. For instance- the lines on the ground are not art work but are in fact directions as to where one should drive. Common courtesy i.e. deploying a signal before one hits the brakes to slow down for a turn would also help alleviate a lot of the road rage. However, just about every jurisdiction in this country is partly to blame- nobody is teaching driving any more; they just pass new drivers with the speed of light without a care as to their actual proficiency in operating this piece of mechanical equipment we so flippantly refer to as a car. Finally, let's not forget also that many jurisdictions are giving driving privileges to immigrants, legal and illegal, that barely understand English, if at all. That means of course, that there are hundreds if not thousands of folks driving around that can't read the street signs, and so, we get the driving experience we deserve.

Posted by: kmm88 | October 18, 2010 7:34 AM

Having driven in many different places, my chief complaint is directed to the piddlers. They just sit there and piddle along, leading a parade, oblivious to the fact that some of us actually have places we'd like to go. It's particularly infuriating when the traffic is light - and they still insist on driving well below a safe and reasonable speed. My personal vote for best piddler hotspot has to be the ramp from the GW parkway to head west on US-50 in Rosslyn. Nice long ramp and the piddlers insist on going 25 mph. Ugh!

Posted by: stodge | October 18, 2010 2:48 PM

Better than Napels!

Posted by: rexreddy | October 19, 2010 8:14 AM

With the new camera traps and crosswalk laws, I think DC drivers have gotten less aggressive. Maryland drivers, on the other hand, drive like the city is the suburbs, paying no heed to pedestrians, metro buses or sharing the road generally.

Posted by: mistyradar | October 19, 2010 7:39 PM

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