Rolling Poorly on the Random Bad Driving Encounter Table

23:08 Tue 24 Feb 2009. Updated: 21:12 18 Mar 2009
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This isn’t about something that happened to me, just something I happened to witness. It centered on a BMW driver, but contrary to stereotype, he wasn’t at fault in any of it. It wasn’t too serious, either, but struck me as quite ridiculous.

The first thing I noticed was when a pickup truck in front of the BMW decided to make an illegal left turn onto Market from the middle lane of 7th Street. The BMW driver beeped them (which is forgivable, really… should I even bother noting that the pickup didn’t have its turn signal on?), and someone in the pickup (I think) called him an asshole in response.

After getting clear of them, the BMW made the forced left onto McAllister, in the middle go-straight-or-right lane. As the BMW entered the McAllister/Leavenworth intersection, the car in the rightmost, right-turn-only, lane decided that they didn’t want to turn right after all, and cut in front of the BMW in that intersection. More beeping, again justifiable—perhaps more so this time because, frankly, who knows if the driver of that car had been aware of the BMW at all?

(I was tempted to knock on the guy’s window and make some comment about the amount of crazy drivers around, but figured that was more likely to be irritating than anything else.)

Amazingly, there were no incidents at McAllister and Hyde. At McAllister and Larkin, however, the BMW stopped at a red light, in the rightmost lane. When the light went green, a driver going in the opposite direction decided to take a Pittsburgh left*, and pulled across the intersection in front of the BMW as it was starting to move. Justifiable beeps again.

(I started laughing out loud at this point.)

I thought that was it, particularly since the lights were green and the BMW would soon be quite distant, but after all that, between Polk and Van Ness the car that had been in the other lane, next to and in front of the BMW, started to drift over into the rightmost lane, prompting more beeps and then, as far as I could tell, this other car swerving between the two lanes in front of the BMW, possibly on purpose, possibly out of drunkenness, or indecision, or sheer incompetence.

Between Market and 7th and McAllister and Van Ness, the only other moving cars this guy encountered did stupid, dangerous, mostly illegal things right in front of him. That’s four acts of egregiously bad driving out of six-and-a-half intersections (I think the forced left onto McAllister doesn’t really count as a full intersection), one bad driving incident for every 0.1 miles driven.

*I have it on good authority that the custom in Pittsburgh is for cars waiting to turn left at an intersection take that left as soon as the light turns green, rather than waiting for the yellow as seems to be the custom everywhere else

3 Responses to “Rolling Poorly on the Random Bad Driving Encounter Table”

  1. briang Says:

    I love gmaps street view. I forgot what the McAllister/Leavenworth intersection looked like, but was able to trace this through.

    I used to see the “Pittsburgh left” on a semi-regular basis in the bay area. It seems like it needs 3 ingredients: aggressive driver, wide intersection, the turn left is onto a one way street so the driver can cut sharply and keep more distance between himself and the oncoming traffic.

    As a motorcyclist, I find I keep my composure more if I assume stupidity, not malevolence.

  2. Tadhg Says:

    I generally try to assume incompetence rather than malice, too. There’s also Taleb’s approach of regarding all cars as dinosaur-like beasts, i.e. non-sentient things from which you wouldn’t really expect much consideration or intelligence.

  3. Denise Says:

    I happen to do the “Pittsburgh Left” with regularity… and I’m from Pittsburgh. But I had NO IDEA that it was called that or that I do it because I’m from there! Thanks for the education.

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