The beauty of being a car enthusiast is seeing cars as more than mere appliances. Unfortunately, this mentality doesn't always stretch to daily driving. There certainly are moments where my car is nothing more than a mere appliance, trudging through traffic, the dual clutch box more jerky than when I accidentally managed to get Tabasco in my eye. It's just a grind and it's completely impossible to avoid sometimes, no matter where you live. Then there's the DC Metropolitan area. I'll explain to you why this is quite possible the single worst place outside of Manhattan to own a car, let alone be an enthusiast.
Let us begin, shall we?
There Quite Simply isn't Enough Road
This applies to quite a few places, particularly those with terrible public transport. I'm looking at you Los Angeles. That being said, DC and the surrounding suburbs have generally excellent public transport options. Yes, Metro is pretty much consistently
broken under maintenance to bring the customer better service, but it's clean, usually free of crime, and goes to most places you'd ever need to go. Heck, the buses ain't too bad either. So, that should mean that the roads largely benefit from this. Nope. Each and every day, folks hop on every road imaginable to play Escape from DC, or Tysons Corner, or Bethesda, or... Well, you get the idea.
Surprisingly, the Beltway isn't my worst offender. Yes, it's terrible, but sometimes you do move... Sometimes! Nope, it's not even 270, or my personal commute of 395, but the terrible abomination that is 66. I've never seen so many nearly homicidal individuals rushing around on the same road at nearly all hours of the day. Sunday morning? Traffic. Midnight with light construction? Traffic. Car broken down? Rubbernecking for miles. It's horrific. This, conveniently, leads into my next grievance.
Nobody Can Drive Worth a Damn
I don't consider myself to be a fantastic driver. By no stretch am I remotely talented or particularly skillful behind the wheel. I don't expect many people to be able to execute a perfect heel toe shift, nor do I expect them all to drive diesel, manual, RWD, wagons that are brown. That's completely unrealistic. However, is it too much to expect common courtesy and general competence behind the wheel? Apparently so, especially around these parts.
Other than your average recklessness... Oh you know, your red light runners, your distracted teens, your soccer moms tailgating because little Jimmy was supposed to be at bassoon practice by now, etc... There just isn't a single shred of courtesy around here. Two folks decide to go 40 right next to each other on the GW Parkway or Fairfax County Parkway while the speed limit is 50? Tough luck. Neither are going to let you pass. Doesn't matter that it's 10pm, the road is otherwise clear, and there's a line of cars behind all flashing to pass. You shall not pass!
Just today it decided to snow. Naturally this led to poor visibility.
While dodging folks doing 30 with flashers on and idiots doing 75 in
all lanes, I noticed one very distinct thing. Nobody bothered to have
lights on in these conditions. Flashers? Sure. Go wild! But the set of
headlights that come as a no cost option? (Well, unless it's a Porsche)
Nope. I see perfectly fine, it's not even dark out.
Don't get me started about the night. Oh? You want me to?
Everyone and their mother either has high beams on 24/7 or no lights on at all. This is first day drivers ed stuff.
We have a lot of folks from around the world around here. Largely, this is a brilliant thing and makes the region incredibly diverse. Unfortunately, this leads to completely diverse driving styles as well. What may be acceptable in one place, is completely unacceptable here. This makes the roads generally unpredictable.
You'll note that DC and Maryland light right up. There's a reason why among the top 10 cities with the worst drivers, DC and neighboring Alexandria/Arlington are 1, 7, and 10 respectively.
It's a Car Destroyer
Have a nice car? A car you love? Well tough shit mister. It'll be destroyed. If not by the sheer incompetence of other drivers, our roads will certainly cripple your ride. No matter how long you've parked far away, no matter how close to the curb you are, no matter how little you bring your car out, the Previa with three different body colors will find you and crush your dreams like a hopes and dreams seeking missle. Heck, even the brand new lease 328 will give you another knock for good measure.
You can't win here, so you should probably stop trying.
Suicidal Cyclists and Pedestrians
Cyclists and pedestrians have every right to use the street in a safe and legal manner. Sharing the road does make a better place for all of us if we follow the rules and are predictable.
DC has a lot of traffic circles. Well, to call them a traffic circle is a bit of a stretch. They're confusing at best with lights, thru roads, etc. Every so often I come across a cyclist that adds to the confusion. Red light? Just blow it while everyone is merging into the circle. You can't stop. You have important conflict free coffee shops to get to. Your Tumblr followers can't wait for another post on your personal progress in the Oppression Olympics. Have a bike lane? Don't use it! Sway back and forth across the main lane of traffic. Rules are for sissies.
Let's move on.
Pedestrians normally don't cause too many issues. Except those that think it's a brilliant idea to cross the road as a stream of traffic barrels towards them. Of course, they have right of way, but I'm sure one or two cab drivers wouldn't mind pegging a couple of these idiots. My favorite? Step out between two parked cars and expect traffic to stop on a dime. It's filled my pants more than once zig zagging around these people.
The Police are Strict
I don't condone stupidity behind the wheel. That guy street racing in broad daylight as his D series engine struggles to pull 50 mph? Yep. That guy is an idiot. But I'm sure as enthusiasts, we all like a bit of fun behind the wheel. Surely. Around here? Think no, no, and nope.
Police Are Everywhere
Speed Limits are Artificially Low
Speed Cameras Dot Maryland
Virginia nor DC allow Radar Detectors
Virginia Law Says 20 over or 80mph+ Automatically Constitutes Reckless Driving; a Misdemeanor
It's rough. I'm not the cop hater type; that's just generally juvenile, but it's very easy to get into a lot of hot water around here. Couple this with most Northern Virginia departments not having a great deal of crime to deal with, and you'll regularly be pulled over.
My favorite quotes?
"Have you smoked marijuana today sir? I can't arrest you for it, but I'd just like to know."
"You ran that no right on red sign."
I don't smoke nor did that sign exist. Oh dear.
That all was a pretty terrible rant. Unfortunately, living around here is pretty frustrating when it comes to driving. Don't get me wrong, I think it's brilliant in many, many other ways, but driving ain't one of 'em.
All photo and video credits to their respective owners