Tuesday, August 08, 2006

In praise of American drivers

Australian drivers could take a leaf out of the book of the Americans. This is a great car nation where multi-lane highways channel intensive clamours of cars and trucks eternally changing lanes as they speed to wherever they are going. The traffic is daunting. And yet the drivers seem not only to be skilled but also to be courteous towards each other. They do not attempt to "own" their lanes, as Australian drivers do with manic territorial imperative. While Australians do their utmost to prevent anyone from changing lanes in front of them, the Americans are polite and accommodating. But more than this, away from the seething, swarming highways, they are incredibly polite and accommodating towards pedestrians. In Australia, one takes one's life in one's hand when crossing a road let alone trying to move around the terrifying deathtrap of supermarket parking lots. In America, if one so much as sets foot off the kerb, cars slow to a halt. If one wishes to take one's supermarket trolley back to the car in the parking lot, the arriving and departing cars will stop to allow you priority. Even terrifying-looking big, beefy, shaven-headed, tattooed trailer trash men in their aggressive, high-chassis utes will cheerfully stop as one crosses the thoroughfare to enter or leave the supermarket. Even tough teen boys with their doof-doof stereos will stop for pedestrians. It is the law - and it is observed.
It is also the law in Australia, too. But you'd never know it.

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