I've lived in Dallas, LA and Arkansas, and driven extensively throughout California, Texas, Arkansas and Oklahoma.
Time will tell, but right now, the drivers here may not be as stupid as those in Arkansas and Oklahoma... or, they may be a fuck-ton stupider. Hard to tell.
Today I almost got hit by a guy blithely parallel-parking in Harvard Square, who felt like he didn't have to look at the passing traffic as he swung into their ... I mean MY... lane. He didn't even have a big car, he had a VW GTI. He really is a crappy parker if it takes that much of a swing into the adjacent traffic lane. A quick blast on my horn woke him up inches from caving in my passenger door.
Oklahoma has some terrible drivers. I've seen a woman come the wrong way down an entrance ramp and turn into oncoming traffic. In Arkansas I've seen people making a right turn do a big 'ol swang into the left lane to make the turn.
Springdale, Arkansas -- Chicken City -- has always been the standard bearer for shitty drivers. It's never even been close. People in Springdale drive like they got their license at Sears. (Not my line, sadly: Joe Pool fired that one off years ago.) They're slow, they're distracted, they're lane-wanderers, they're just terrible.
And right now, they're second-worst of all time.
People bitch about the traffic in Dallas or LA, and yes, it's a mess. But in LA, you learn pretty quickly how to deal. On those rare occasions when the freeways open up, hit it. It's a speedway.
In Dallas, unfortunately, you have fast drivers with a borderline unhealthy dose of crazy. They'll dodge in and out of openings like meth-heads trying to beat everyone else to the liquor store before closing. I guess natural selection will take care of that in time.
In LA, everyone understands that it sucks, and they just cope. The craziest thing you'll usually see are the line-runners: motorcyclists who squeeze between cars on the freeways. In rush hour they're the only ones moving. What's really nuts is when the rest of the traffic is tooling along at 50-60-70 mph and the line-runners still whoosh between. What a rush that must be, until the last one.
But, that's pretty much the extent of the crazies. Here, people mostly drive like complete dickheads. There's a long-established term for this: Massholes.
We're trying to bring a little Southern charm to the proceedings... if someone's trying to squeeze in, we let them. If an intersection is too full, we wait back until it clears so that we don't fuck over the next group crossing with the light. (That move got me honked at today by a prick cabbie. Fuck him.) If I'm ambling down a street and see someone trying to turn across, if there's enough space I flash my brights to try and wave them through. We're trying to be nice to folks. Maybe in some small way it will resonate with these people.
I've always been a big fan of horn-play. It's a communication device! It is useful in driver interaction. But people here are horn-y. They're on those damn things all the time.
Part of the situation is clearly related to the awful roads. They're pockmarked, bumpy, and not clearly marked. Lanes are sometimes only hinted at. People double-park, they park on the curb, they park on the walk. My aunt Nancy once said the streets of Fort Smith were "laid out by a drunk Indian on a horse." Hilarious. Thing is, that characterization might actually apply to some of the street layouts here. They wind and swirl and don't seem to make a lot of sense.
You just have to go with it. But it bugs me a little that the drivers here are so up their own asses that they don't cooperate a little more. Instead there's a very selfish attitude behind the wheel, and that's dangerous. I suspect that there's a lot of money to be made here in the insurance and auto-body businesses.
In the meantime, I'll continue to be slow, you people here can continue to honk, and I'll show you that the middle finger is understood in all driving situations.