Other cities have comprehensive mass transit.
But in metro Detroit, everybody is on the road, even if they don’t want to be there, or have no idea how to properly use a motor vehicle. Not that our region’s drivers are worse than motorists in, say, Los Angeles or Texas, but the overwhelming majority of metro Detroiters see no alternative to driving everywhere. That stubbornness, and the destructively stupid driving
it engenders, can be frustrating as hell. But, if the success of our blog post “The 10 stupidest things motorists in metro Detroit do”
is any guide, people love to talk about our region’s bad drivers. In that spirit, here are “Ten more stupid things motorists in metro Detroit do.”
1.) The Big Blind
We get plenty of action out of our rear-view mirror, because we have to flip it up almost every night. That’s because of the blinding light of freeway drivers creeping up on us. We’re happy to let them pass, though they overpower our vision even in our driver’s side mirror while they do so. Then we’re left driving 70 mph while trying to see something other than the black spots that were just burned into our retinas.
Headlamp technology has come a long way — and the etiquette of our local motorists has yet to catch up with it. It’s one thing that your car can sport a pair of improperly installed after-market 75,000-candela Xenon Roadhunter bulbs that have the blazing glare of an arc light. But it’s quite another thing to leave those fuckers on all the time. Yes, we have a shortage of working streetlamps in some places, and it can be hard to see pedestrians at night, but WTF? I mean, what are you wearing behind the wheel? A goddamn welding mask? Do you feel the need to have lights so bright they can set objects on fire? Please get those HID bulbs properly rebased, and only use your brights on those long stretches of road without any motorists.
2.) The Cut-and-Crawl (or Cut-and-Turn)
East Wattles Road
You’re tooling down a one-lane road with no center turn lane, and going at a pretty good clip. Up ahead you see somebody pulling up to the road ready to make a turn. You’re pretty sure they see you coming, but they pull out anyway.
It’s not necessarily upsetting. If they get going fast enough, we figure they’re sporty enough to pull that maneuver off, and if they keep out in front of us, we judge their choice was a sound one.
And yet, too often, the person who pulls out in front of us seems determined to go about 5 or 10 miles per hour below the speed limit. Why? Why did you race out into the road in front of us only to crawl along? You saved yourself 10 seconds and cost us a few minutes. Not very nice. The only thing not-nicer is when they pull out in front of you and come to a stop to make that blink-and-you’ll-miss-your-chance left turn against a mile-long column of oncoming traffic. Thanks a lot, pal.
3.) The Passive Aggressive Passer Repulser
It’s a common scenario: You drive along the freeway at your normal cruising speed, and you come up to a car that is clearly cruising more slowly than you. You signal a lane change to pass them and begin softly accelerating. So do they. You step on the gas a little more. They do too. At this point, you have to make a choice. Should you choose to drop back and follow this motorist with a renewed interest in speed, you’ll notice that they return to their former, too-slow cruising velocity. If you stomp on the accelerator and try to get in front of them, they will race you. There is no way they are going to be passed by the likes of you!
This makes no sense at all. If they want to cruise slowly, they should be delighted to see you pass them. If they wanted to go faster, they wouldn’t have been in your way in the first place. Clearly, they see anybody getting in the passing lane as a challenge to be answered with the most annoying pace-driving ever. Will a boulder please fall out of the sky and end this?
4.) The Bike Lane Occupier
The “complete streets” movement has been making serious headway in Michigan. Inner ring suburbs have embraced bike lanes, and MDOT has generously allotted money for these projects — though these expenditures represent something like .0001 percent of the billions of dollars the department hurls at roads, freeways, and interchanges year after year. (Have to start somewhere, right?)
But if Lansing has come a long way, metro Detroit’s drivers have some catching up to do. In the past few years, we’ve often seen trucks (almost always beefy pickups) veering into bike and parking lanes for deceleration before turns. It’s a small complaint, of course. Perhaps in response to this light infraction, bike lanes in Ferndale have received brighter paint jobs, indicating where trucks may cross, and illustrating where bike lanes continue to the left of deceleration lanes. The response has been impressive: Cars and trucks seem determined to claim that lane before making a turn anyway. There’s an urban design “arms race” of sorts going on, and city and state governments will probably soon decorate bike lanes with rumble strips, bollards, and glitter to make their point, until they shimmer and glow like the mouth of hell.
5.) The Up-Your-Ass Rusher
Your typical two-lane road
This guy’s in a hurry. How do you know he’s a guy? It’s the obvious influence of testosterone; the way his car is gaining on you as if he wanted to knock you off the road. In seconds his grill fills up your rear view mirror and … now he’s unable to go any faster. Now he’s just tailgating you, about an eighth of an inch away from your bumper.
What’s the matter? Didn’t you understand? The way he was rushing up to your ass was supposed to let you know he wouldn’t stand for you slowing him down. Now the way he’s riding your ass is supposed to show you that he won’t stand for you slowing him down. Only thing is, now he has to let you slow him down or break the law.
We recommend slowing down. Especially if you see a trooper off to one side.
6.) The Incher-Upper
Mount Elliott Road
We see this every day. Although, maybe it isn’t motorists’ fault. There are very few street-level traffic lights, and the ones strung on cable seem to be set really high; at tight intersections, you might have to crane your neck to get a good look at them. Of course, if you’re behind the limit line, you should be OK.
But there is a certain class of motorist that doesn’t completely stop at that broad, white line. Oh, they stop, for a second. But every five seconds, they let off the brake and coast forward a foot or two. At really long lights, they might be a car length out into the box. Sometimes, when the light turns green, they’re so far out into the intersection that they can’t see the light anymore; they only realize the light is green because cars are now passing them.
Here’s a crazy idea. If you’re in such a hurry to keep going, you might want to stay back behind the line and look at the light. Just sayin’.
7.) The Too-Late Turn Signaler
Your typical north-south Macomb County road
So you want to make a right turn out of a parking lot onto the road. You’ve waited through several waves of traffic. Finally, there’s just one car coming along, tooling down the right lane. When it passes, you’ll be able to just make it before the next wave of traffic comes.
But something’s wrong. This car is slowing down. Why? Just as it’s about to slow to a crawl, the driver helpfully activates the car’s right-turn signal, now letting you know that the driver intends to pull into the same driveway you’re trying to pull out of. And, just as you were about to gun it out into the road to take that right turn, another flood of traffic is already on its way, preventing you from safely making a right turn, for another five minutes.
But thanks for that right turn signal, guy. That’s what those lights are for: Letting people know your intentions — two seconds before you act on them.
8.) The Parking Lot Speed Demon
The fact that this happens in the inner-ring suburbs isn’t a knock on them. Let’s just say that city drivers are so used to pedestrians popping up right in front of them that they’re often especially cautious in any of the city’s smallish parking lots. And we have no problem with people blasting diagonally across a massive empty quadrant of the lot at Lowe’s as if it were the salt flats at Bonneville. But some drivers don’t know how to take it easy in a tightly crowded parking lot. We’ve leaped out of the way of several people taking a parking lane at high speed. Now, that’s just stupid. Stop it.
9.) The Deflated Tire Tell
OK, this is just weird. Whenever we see a hooptie in Detroit, we always take a look at the tire pressure. Is there some engineering reason why the rear driver’s side tire of a battered hooptie is always slightly flat? We were thinking that Detroit motorists must pull up to an air hose, fill up three tires, but just can’t get that hose around to that last tire. Or perhaps that’s unfair, and we should really blame those coin-operated air compressors with short, tangled hoses; they seem to run just long enough to inflate three tires. Whatever the reason, that floppy left rear tire is just one of those things that isn’t stupid, in and of itself, but it provides a clue that somebody is OK doing things right 75 percent of the time, won’t spend an extra 50 cents to get it 100 percent right.
In other words, something really stupid could happen at any moment.
10.) The Multitasker
There was a time when a weaving, bobbing car that could barely stay in its lane meant somebody was liquored up. These days, they’re more likely to be texting people on their phones, snapping a selfie, or, heck, shopping. Say what you will about drunk driving, but at least that’s easy to understand; you can't shut off your drunkenness when you want to drive home from the bar. Handheld devices, however, can totally be shut off. (Just try telling that to a certain class of smart phone addicts.) We choose not to be angry and instead just veer around them and leave them behind, just like we do with drunks on the road. And if anybody in the car gets upset at them, we cry, “Leave them alone! Can’t you see they’re on the phone?”