Road Rage the Worst in Wynnewood

Which town has the angriest Main Line drivers?

I’ve lived on the Main Line for a while now and one thing has really plagued me the entire time: the way people drive. Being raised in Canada, I spent my formative driving years accustomed to a group of relatively polite drivers, most of whom are diligent about rules of the road. Then I spent 10 years on an island where people stop their cars to chat, to let people in … oh hell, they’ll stop for anything. They putt around and wave to people. It’s actually considered impolite there to not beep twice when you see your friends in another car. Nobody there was in a hurry. Then I moved here — to a place where absolutely everyone is in a hurry, other drivers be damned.

The first thing I noticed was the speeding up for yellow lights. Believe me, I’ve accumulated some driving habits that weren’t recommended in the drivers Ed booklet, but stopping when the light turns yellow was something I heeded religiously. Philly drivers apparently see the light as an opportunity. Maybe it’s a glass half full sort of thing. They’re optimists, really. It’s just that it’s a fine line between running the yellow and running a red, which is a bit scary for those of us who don’t want to be plowed into. [SIGNUP]

The next local driving practice to really surprise me is the jump-the-green left turn. This is when the light has just turned green and drivers making a left turn don’t wait until the road is clear of oncoming traffic to make their left. Instead, they just go right ahead and turn in front of the oncoming traffic. I’ve interpreted this to mean that they think they’re really stealth and their car goes fast enough to smoke the oncoming traffic. The truth is that they aren’t and we have to avoid them and often slow down or stop for them on our green light. This is a road hazard. It’s rude, dangerous and wastes my time. Perhaps they don’t realize it sends the message that they think their journey is more important than everyone else’s. The truth is they probably don’t care what message they send.

Another driving surprise was the stop sign issue. I live near a busy four-way stop that is rarely stopped at by people traveling eastbound. I have no idea why this is. I also sense that a lot of drivers don’t appreciate the whole “taking turns” concept of the four-way stop. I seem to find some buried hostility within myself whenever I’m at particular intersections that results in a blood pressure spike and a stream of obscenities spewing from me. I just can’t get my head around why we can’t be civilized about this. What is the problem?

Then there’s another matter altogether: Friday nights on the Schuylkill. Note that “kill” is in the name. Coming home from the city after a Friday night dinner is seriously one of the scariest thing I’ve witnessed. I do not believe I’m exaggerating when I speculate that half the drivers are hammered. It’s like being in an Indy race in a parallel drunken universe. Those lines on the road seem to be merely suggestions to these drivers. We go into the city a lot, and I’m repeatedly amazed that cars aren’t regularly hurtling over the barricades and landing somewhere near Manayunk. I’m also regularly impressed with my husband’s reflexes. That drive home in the dark is like a shot of adrenaline. Wow.

Lastly, there’s what I like to call the “Wynnewood phenomenon.” This is when I get anywhere near a certain plaza in Wynnewood and it feels like it’s one of those law-free zones where it’s every man for himself. I’ve been yelled at, honked at and totally freaked out just trying to make perfectly legal left-hand turns into a particular parking lot. I’ve checked over and over to make sure I didn’t miss signs with turn restrictions there. I even once marched a store manager outside to explain what I did that upset everyone. He just shrugged and told me people just have road rage around here. I swear the road rage gets exponentially worse upon crossing into Wynnewood. West of the Church Road Bridge, everything is normal (or Main Line driving normal, anyway). Get a few blocks east and it all goes to hell. I’ve found an alternative (read: longer) route to that store that involves only right turns. It’s just more pleasant that way.

I guess my issues and fears with the local driving customs are not only for myself. Although it does piss me off sometimes, I’m a careful, seasoned and defensive driver. No, my greatest fear is that in a handful of years I will have to teach my child to navigate these roads and what am I going to tell her? Remember everything you learned about the rules of the road? Well nobody else around here does!