Driving Myself Mad | January 5, 2004

Hi folks. Hope you all had a good Christmas and New Year. Sorry that postings have been a little sparse of late (read non-existant), but I stayed away from the computer over Christmas and made an impromptu road trip to Edinburgh to celebrate the New Year.

As I live on the South Coast, the journy to Scotland was pretty arduous. The trip up was around 500 miles (800km). Probably not a lot if you're from the states or Australia, but it's a huge amount in the UK.

First off we're not really used to driving large distances in the UK. This is partly because the UK is pretty small and partly because it's so densely populated, most things are close together. I've driven around places like Australia and literally you have to drive for 3hrs+ just to get from one town to another. In the UK, the next main town is likely only to be a few miles down the road.

I once drove up the coast of California, from San Diego to San Francisco in a matter of a few days. I've done similar distances in NZ and both times found driving long distances quite easy. However after being on a UK motorway for a few hours, my concentration is shot and I'm feeling decidedly stressed. I guess it's due in a large part to the busyness of the roads. In California, traffic outside the main cities was pretty quiet and in NZ you could go for 20min easily without seeing another car. Here it's wall to wall traffic the whole way.

Also the driving conditions here suck. On this trip we had think fog, ice, frost, pelting rain and snow. Because it's winter it got dark at around 3:30 which meant for most of the time we were driving in the dark. You'd think that in these conditions people would drive a little more sensibly but even in 30m visibility people were driving like maniacs. As such you really have to concentrate on your driving over here which can really take it out of you.

The thing that really got me though was the shear amount of bad driving I witnessed. People seem to have become so aggressive with their driving here. This was most notably demonstrated by the amount of tailgating and undertaking going on. People would zoom up to the car in front ridiculously close in order to force the driver infront to get out of the way. Now I've seen this happen occasionally when somebody is driving really fast in the outside lane and they find themselves behind a car much slower than themselves. However on this trip people were doing this when there literally 5mph difference in speed and where the car behind would have had nowhere to go anyway because that's how fast the lane of traffic was moving. People were even doing it when there was plenty of space for them to overtake, I'm guessing just for the fun of intimidating other drivers and as a means of keeping themselves entertained. Lot's of fun until the person in-front breaks and you've just caused a 3 lane, 15 car pile up.

Now I'm sure if you were to meet these people in person they would be thoroughly nice people. They'll be sensible and polite, kind to small animals and children, so god knows why they turn into raving psychopaths when they get behind the wheels of their Ford Mondeos, BMW's or 4x4's?

There were also a large number of completely clueless drivers out there. People pulled over on the motorway for a kip, make a call or go for a pee. People stopped on the slip-road to read a map, driving down the fast lane eating their sarnies, swerving all over the place or driving at 30mph in the slow lane with their hazard lights on for no apparent reason. It was like all the worst and most aggressive drivers in the country were on day release and determined to cause an RTA.

Luckily I made up back all in one piece but will definitely think twice before driving up to Scotland for New Year again. Especially as they cancelled the New Year celebrations at the last minute.

Posted at January 5, 2004 2:51 PM


Ryan Parman said on January 6, 2004 12:29 AM

“…In California, traffic outside the main cities was pretty quiet…”

Yes, but what about inside the major cities. Try driving 80 miles between Gilroy, CA and San Francisco on a Monday morning around 7:00am. Traffic is moving anywhere from 0 mph to 15 mph almost the entire way (I don’t know how many kmh that is… sorry).

Talk about stress…

Guy said on January 7, 2004 1:20 PM

Tailgators getting you down? Might I sugest you watch the tailgating scene in ‘Lost Highway’. It makes you feel a whole lot better.

Natalie said on January 8, 2004 1:38 PM

I live in Edinburgh so take it from someone who knows. The only way to get about in the UK is to fly. British rail is just as traumatic, especially across that distance.

I love your travel photography. Did you get any good pictures of Edinburgh? I know the weather wasn’t ideal.

The cancelled Hogmanay celebrations were a big disappointment for all of us. No fireworks can you believe it!