February 2, 2017 | Posted in ASH Online
By David van Hulzen
Even here in the Netherlands, we often complain about other people’s driving skills. Rightfully so, I might add, because sometimes it seems like over here people get their drivers’ license for free with two kroketten at FEBO. It might be useful to add that (here in the Netherlands) I ride a motorcycle, and doing so really opens your eyes to how incapable some people on our roads are. Florida’s roads, however, are tripping on a whole other level. Unfortunately, I was lucky enough to experience this first hand.
A recent study conducted by insurance company QuoteWizard showed that Florida drivers are the second best drivers in the United States, just behind Rhode Island. But if that is actually the case, I most definitely do not want to know what the remaining forty-nine States’ highways and interstates are like.
Let’s start with a really, really short story. I love the fact that in the US right side overtakes are allowed (well, not really, but everybody does it and nobody cares). It can, however, create some risky situations. One time, me and some friends headed for Cocoa Beach; cruising down the highway, rocking some country music in the background – probably not, in all fairness, but all the same I wouldn’t be surprised if that was actually the case. Either way, I was driving, and had been doing so for quite some weeks already, so it would be fair to say that by that time I had already gotten quite used to the American road system. I was truly enjoying the practicality of being able to overtake other drivers on the right side, and could not really find any downsides to it, up until one time when I overtook a bus on the left side. When – after finishing my takeover – I started to merge back into the middle lane, some guy overtaking the bus on the right (can I say wrong?) side had the same brilliant idea. Well, I can tell you: two cars merging into the same lane at the same time is not an ideal situation. I swerved back, and luckily we did not hit him (he probably never even noticed, too busy looking on his phone), but it showed me for the first time why it is a good thing that right side overtakes are not allowed in the Netherlands.
Something else that can also potentially be pretty dangerous in the US is tailgating. Basically, the US knows two types of tailgating; a really good one, and a pretty bad one. The good one involves a lot of students drinking a lot of beer – and a little bit of sports (Go Knights!). The bad one involves driving bumper to bumper. No hard feelings to any of my American friends, but do you really think that two meters – I know, six feet sounds like a lot more, but it isn’t – is going to save you from kissing your windshield (especially since none of y’all are wearing your seatbelts)? Yeah, well, it isn’t.
Talking about a lot of students drinking a lot of beer: Americans do know how to party, I’ll definitely give them that. But whereas drinking and driving is a bit of a taboo here in the Netherlands (good for us), that is slightly different at the other side of the pond. I have to defend them on this issue a little bit, though. Going out in the US is a bit of a hassle sometimes. Take my university, the University of Central Florida, for example. There are some fun bars and clubs near campus, but if you want to do it right, downtown Orlando is the place to be (got to love how some Americans actually use that phrase in all seriousness). The only problem, however, is that downtown Orlando is a twenty minute drive from campus. And, besides the fact that hardly anybody even owns a bike over there, cycling from campus to downtown would take you about one and a half hour. Thanks a lot, but no thanks.
This, then, means that students have a choice: pay a shit load of money for a cab every time they go out (or pay slightly less for an Uber, but still), or simply drive home a little less sober than you would normally be while moving at one hundred kilometers – right.. that would be 60 miles – an hour. Even though it is definitely not the morally preferable choice, it is (and I hate to say this) somewhat understandable. It’s a bit of a shame though that, during all this, they are texting – or even facetiming (yes, I’ve actually seen that happen) – a friend about their drunk escapades..
I have to add, though, that Americans are a bit ill-informed about how alcohol works – which is probably caused by the fact that many American parents rather deny the entire existence of alcohol than to educate their children about how to enjoy the most deadly drug in the US responsibly. It happened more than once that I heard a friend say that, after drinking nine beers and four shots, they would stop drinking one or two hours before leaving and would be perfectly fine to drive when that time came. Yeah, well, that’s not how alcohol works. They all got home safe though, I got to give them that. But then again, they have all been practicing driving under the influence since age sixteen.