The Joys of Adapting to Driving in A Big City

Posted: November 30, 2009 by Matthew Casey in Commentaries
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Lately when I’ve had time—not that I have much of that being a full time student and all—I have been reading the book called “Traffic (And What it Says About Us)” by Tom Vanderbilt.  It is a really fascinating look into the human mind and how we drive.  I recommend you read it; it will definitely make you think about your own driving habits a little more closely and make you pay attention to those of others when you’re driving next.

I must admit that when I moved to Toronto from a small city in the Maritimes I had a lot to get used to when driving around here. The attitudes of drivers in the big city are so different than those of drivers in a community of only a little over one hundred thousand people! Driving in Toronto is such a daunting task and I am still getting used to it even after three months of living here.

First off, road rage is a big factor in bigger cities like Toronto.  In this city it is not uncommon to be honked at several times on an average drive.  I’ve been honked at for reasons that are entirely out of my control.  In this city cars honking give Canadian wild geese a run for their money! I really don’t understand why the person behind me feels the need to honk their horn at me when I can’t move any faster than the car that is ahead of me. The horn in this city appears to be an instrument of stress relief.  But whatever makes you feel better I suppose…

The next big factor in getting used to driving in a big city is to get used to how aggressive drivers are in these cities.  They take so many unnecessary risks.  Even when in my mind I’m thinking there is no way this guy is going to turn left in front of me there is clearly not enough time, the car just turns left right in front of me forcing me to slam on my brakes! But I don’t use my horn; I haven’t been corrupted into using that just yet.

Finally I just have to say that when I’m driving on a major expressway in traffic that is stopped, I wish that people would just quit switching lanes! Drivers weave in and out of the lanes thinking they are going to get out of the jam faster but in turn it makes the traffic jam worse.  According to the book by Tom Vanderbilt changing lanes actually makes traffic flow worse.  Cars have to slow down or stop to let that car in front of them, which in turn slows down every car behind them in the lane. So if people would simply just stick to their lanes and not weave in and out of the exit lanes and other lanes, perhaps things would move a little smoother.

I would suggest just walking everywhere in the city, but even that is dangerous.  Pedestrians and motorists share the road, but the motorists tend to think that they own it. There are a lot of pedestrian-vehicle collisions in this city, so even walking is a daunting task at times.

Again, I recommend you read this book, it is very interesting and might just change the way you drive as well.  I know it has changed the way I do! Hopefully for the better.

—Matthew Casey

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