Sprawl-induced aberrant driving behavior
August 29, 2002 3:34 PM   Subscribe

Sprawl-induced aberrant driving behavior is a theory proposed by University of Ottawa geography professor Barry Wellar. Suburban roads, built for speed, encourage aggressive driving and bad habits that drivers can sort of get away with in the suburbs, but that carry over to other areas. So that's why it always seems that they're trying to run me off the sidewalk.
posted by mcwetboy (11 comments total)

 
Roads are supposed to be built for speed, that's the whole idea - to get from point A to point B in the least amount of time. How poorly one drives whilst using said roads seems to me to be a separate and unrelated topic.

Additionally, he seems to be basing his study on the posted speed limit, which, in most cases, is usually set too low. I'd be more interested if he based it on the 85th percentile rule.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 3:50 PM on August 29, 2002


Downtown commercial redevelopment frequently restricts speeds through parallel parking, pinch points and stop signs, so people have to slow down and check out the interesting shops and people. Traffic calming, it's called. People feel more like walking around and shopping too, when cars aren't whizzing by at life-threatening speeds. Roads may be most fundamentally about A to B, but they are places in their own right, and there's no reason they can't serve double duty. I have fond memories of playing in my street as a kid.

Off topic, but I've noticed in some of these newer burbs, kids have to be driven from house to house to trick-or-treat since the distances are just too great for the kids to hike. That's kind of pathetic.
posted by BinGregory at 4:11 PM on August 29, 2002


"I have fond memories of playing in my street as a kid."

Me too, but I was on a non-through street. If two cars passed by my house an hour it was a busy day.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 4:34 PM on August 29, 2002


Shouldn't you do the study first before you talk to the press?
posted by srboisvert at 5:24 PM on August 29, 2002


Interesting theory but I don't buy it. I think bad drivers are not a factor of the 'burbs. Bad drivers are universal. Just because you could drive downtown on the expressway at 80mph doesn't mean that you'll drive 80mph on a pedestrian heavy road in the city. Likewise, you're not going to sail through your neighborhood after hopping off the expressway on the way home.

A bad driver is a bad driver and the roads are full of them. They run mcwetboy off the road because they're caught up in their own world and not paying attention to what they are doing.
posted by birdherder at 5:25 PM on August 29, 2002


Ironically most of the bad drivers i encounter are in the city, not the suburbs. i always attributed this to the lack of experience behind the wheel as it's easier to get around in the city without a car, whereas in the suburbs you really need something with a motor to get anywhere.

Then again driving in urban areas always get's my blood pressure up, so i'm probably too biased to really make a fair judgement.
posted by quin at 5:56 PM on August 29, 2002


Interesting theory, the main problem obviously is that speed limits in rural areas are too low and need to be raised. Traveling long distances on interstate highways at the posted speed limits is unbearable, especially knowing that the road and the vehicle want you to go faster. We had these same speed limits 20 years ago. Modern vehicles run smoother, handle better, and stop faster. The road's built for speed. There's no reason why driving cars at high speeds in these areas should be against the law.

This also holds true on mass transit freeways. People drive 90 miles an hour for a reason, and it's because they do it every single day. Do anything every single day, you become proficient at it. The most dangerous drivers on the freeways are usually the slowest ones, driving slow because they rarely drive on the freeway and so are driving while nervous and hesitant, or else the car's a junkpile and has no business being on the freeway in the first place. If you live there, you've seen it a hundred times. A blow-out, a power failure, and suddenly a driver needs to pull over to the side of the road or simply stops wherever he happens to be. There may be a close call now and again, but usually everyone reacts in time and the next hour's traffic jam is the only real repercussion. All the while, the sign on the side of the road still says 65. It's ridiculous.

So I see how people can start to think they're a better driver than the speed limit allows for, no matter where they go. However, although modern cars stop faster, in urban streets where children play, stopping faster isn't always fast enough. If speed limits, everywhere, reflected the speed at which it is not safe to go faster, people would pay them more respect.
posted by David Dark at 6:38 PM on August 29, 2002


Ironically most of the bad drivers i encounter are in the city, not the suburbs. i always attributed this to the lack of experience behind the wheel as it's easier to get around in the city without a car, whereas in the suburbs you really need something with a motor to get anywhere.

I think driving in the city and driving in the suburbs require different skills (or different application). As does trying to cross the street.

Since I live near downtown (a block actually), I'm used to driving around the urban area, and used to the narrow streets, the one way streets that seem logical to me, and the quickest way to point A to point B. To make a turn, you rarely have to cross more than two lanes, and aside from parked cars, there isn't an obstruction to the view, like the hedges and trees of the suburbs.

But, my dad drove professionally for 30+ years, and despises driving downtown, and loves puttering around the suburbs. He doesn't mind making the (in my mind) thoroughly dangerous left turns across 50 MPH streets, or dealing with the balls bouncing around, skateboarders, etc.

So it's a matter of opinion.

As for the dangerous driving in the city, the biggest problem is people not paying attention to signs, trying to make turns when they can't etc, or aggressive driving that doesn't work in the cramped quarters of the city.
posted by drezdn at 6:42 PM on August 29, 2002


I grew up in the burbs, lived in a city, and now I'm in a fairly rural area. I would rate the people in rural areas to be the best drivers, followed by those in the city, with the suburban drivers trailing behind.

I hate suburban drivers. Every time I get cut off by someone watching the kids in the backseat instead of the road ahead of them I want to scream. Every person with a cell phone surgically attached to one hand (which is illegal in my county) and a coffee mug to the other deserves to land in a ditch, if only to protect the people they swerve into.

I won't get started on the elderly, driving slower than evolution and being kept alive by the organs of the young people they've run over. (The Simpsons=truth).

All that, and I still think people from western NY are some of the best drivers around. We have to be, if we can't handle driving in white-outs over three inches of compacted ice covered in another eight inches of snow none of us would even survive long enough to reproduce.

I suppose I shouldn't be allowed to comment on the driving of others. I've had four cars in my life, and three of them have ended up totaled. Once by a drunk driver hitting me head-on (in the burbs), another time by someone running a red light in a stolen SUV t-boning me as I made a left (in the burbs), and the third because I just plain fucked up. (in the country, but hey, I learned to drive in the burbs, I can't help it!)
posted by Kellydamnit at 8:23 PM on August 29, 2002


I think people drive fast because they're lazy. Think about it - if
you're the fastest car on the road, you don't have to pay attention
to anyone behind or beside you. They're moving away, and are
no threat. You just look straight ahead and steer into the spaces.

It's also because the modern car hides the sensation of speed
from you. It feels more like a video game than an actual life-
threatening situation, which it is (albeit a pretty non-taxing one
to control, most of the time).

I've seen underposted roads, and they irritate me too. Most
roads, though, are posted just fine. We're just in the speed habit.
Driving the speed limit is irritating at first, but it kind of grows on
you. Just relax. The four minutes earlier you get there driving
seventy isn't going to make that much difference, medical
emergencies excepted.

I think most crappy traffic is caused by jackasses doing stupid
things to get around all the 'slow' people. As if their time is
somehow more important. Hey, we're all going that way, just
get in line like everyone else. Do you jump the lines at [wherever
you wait in line]? Why are you compelled to on the road?

Oops. I wasn't going to rant.
posted by flestrin at 11:57 PM on August 30, 2002


Orléans Councillor Herb Kreling said he thinks there are plenty of examples of bad driving every day across the entire city.

The thrust of the argument is that suburban drivers are quite out of the loop when it comes to city driving, what with all the peds and bikes.

In Seattle as I am, I've found that the friendliest and safest drivers are here in the city of countless blind curves and hills and hidden intersections and not in the suburbs where things are more defined; cars venture out and peds are only peds because they've parked their car somewhere nearby. In the suburbs one has roomy boulevards in which a car can usually zip and zoom. Every once in awhile those drivers must venture into the city. I can imagine it's painful for one to have to actively deal with so many obstacles and obstructions coming from a land where the only good pedestrian crosswalk is the one that is fenced in and crosses overhead. Puts you out of practice. But who's fault is that? The lowly streetwalkers. You can't tell me that walking is more edifying than driving my new motorcar. (Hint: We shouldn't call them luxury vehicles. A luxury is something you can live without.)
posted by crasspastor at 1:03 AM on August 31, 2002


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