Driving in America

The Petrolhead looks at the sorry state of motoring in the United States of America in his latest post

Photo credit: slworking2 via Flickr Creative Commons

Photo credit: slworking2 via Flickr Creative Commons

I went to America this summer and let’s not beat about the bush here, everything to do with motoring over there is terrible. You may think that is a rash generalisation, and you’d be right. However it is a startlingly correct one.

Let me start off with the act of driving in the self-titled “Greatest Country in the World.” I experienced the simultaneous joy and terror of driving through the centre of the Big Apple (although I actually saw no apples there – something they should look into). The joy comes from saying that you drove through down Manhattan without being attacked by a gun-wielding taxi driver who has less than pleasant things to say about your driving. The terror is everything else. Buses care about you about as much as most do for Hitler. Taxis are aggressive and out for themselves. If you don’t accept this, you will crash.

Out on the open road things are somewhat quieter, but no less odd. In Britain we have fast and slow lanes. In America it appears that you just find a lane and remain there for your entire journey regardless of your vehicle. Four way stop junctions are equally stupid. It is first come first serve and it makes no sense. I’d have a roundabout all day please. Alas, the driving culture of America is about as sensible as dropping a scorpion down your underpants.

The cars themselves are additionally puzzling. It appears that if you are American you either have an absurdly large truck or a fat, wobbly “sedan” (Lexus do exceedingly well out here). Our hire car was the latter, a Nissan Altima. As a Japanese car this was what you’d expect; boring, dull and tedious. However to adapt to the American market it had to have some modifications. One was a ridiculously bad automatic gearbox, which had some difficulty remembering what it was at certain times. Another was cupholders the size of my face. But by far the worse was the suspension which made the car wallow and pitch like a boat. It was grey inside and out (literally). It was Nissan’s equivalent of a Vauxhall Vectra; a truly shocking car.

Those that do not drive Nissan Altimas will drive trucks like the Ford Lightning. These things are the motoring equivalent of John Prescott: big, brash and incredibly stupid. And when I say big, I mean Range Rover-dwarfing big. They all have ludicrously big engines as well, and due to the fact that in the northern states you appear to be unable to pass 70mph without being stopped on suspicion of being a terrorist, they are utterly pointless.

I could see no positives to driving in America. The pleasure is sucked out by diabolical cars, nonsensical road systems and zealous policemen. There is a reason why US built cars do not sell well over here; I trust I have given an inkling as to why.

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