Beware Twin Cities drivers: You stink

It’s always me who ends up being the innocent victim of others’ poor driving.

Driving in Minneapolis is a lot like exercising. The idea seems harmless, but once you do it, you’ll never want to do it again. The drivers in the metro area have to be some of the scariest, most reckless fools on the planet. A short trip to the grocery store can leave me jittery for days.

Nothing can compare to this insanity. I lived in Los Angeles over the summer and drove in the worst traffic every day. I’ve even driven through Chicago. But I only get genuinely freaked out by drivers around here.

You see, drivers in Los Angeles and Chicago are pretty crazy, but it’s a “smart” crazy. They’ll speed by, weaving in and out of lanes without their directional on, but they know what they’re doing. Heck, in Los Angeles, it’s acceptable to go through a red light three seconds after it changes from yellow. Yet, I still felt secure in the other drivers’ confidence.

It’s a whole different story in the Twin Cities. People are usually more of the “dumb” crazy variety. Nobody knows how to merge, lane position is negligible and “yield” always means “go.” Furthermore, there don’t seem to be any nice drivers out there. No one ever lets me merge into their lane; in fact, they try to match my speed so that my only options are braking hard or crashing into the girder.

And if you thought the left lane was the “passing” lane, you’d be wrong here in the cities. You can be stuck behind a slowpoke in the left lane for days and they wouldn’t see you, nor care if they did. I’ve tried speeding up and passing these people from the right side, but as soon as you overtake them, they ride your bumper as if they’ve been using cruise control the whole time.

It gets particularly frustrating every time I use a Minneapolis on-ramp. Apparently, the people ahead of me don’t understand highway speeds, and I am usually left merging in front of a semi-truck going half its speed.

Even the pedestrians here are crazy. For example, I was driving along the one-way section of University Avenue Southeast, when all of a sudden a middle-aged woman walked out in front of me while she looked the other way. I slammed on my brakes and my horn, and avoided missing her only because she jumped back at the last second. I made a hand gesture that showed her the street was one-way only, and she responded with an angry, dissatisfied shrug – like it wasn’t her fault. One would think she would be a little more thankful that she didn’t die, but no, she had to play the role of the innocent victim.

It’s always me, however, who ends up being the innocent victim of others’ poor driving. I’m always the one swerving to avoid the 16-year-old who’s chattering on a cell phone, drinking a latte and putting a new CD into the player. I’m the driver who is flanked by slow, elderly controlled Buicks on all sides of my car. That’s me getting the middle-finger salute from a soccer mom in a hurry. And from now on, I’m the guy who’ll do whatever it takes to avoid driving in the Twin Cities.

That, and exercising.

Mat Koehler welcomes comments at [email protected].