An Open Letter to Nashville Drivers

Dear Nashville Drivers,

I have noticed a few things now that I have the ability to drive 70 miles an hour to work in the morning, the most important thing being that you do not know how to drive on interstates.  Let me help you.  Say that we’re in this situation:

As you can see, I’m in the gray car, attempting to merge onto the highway.  You are in the blue car.  The safest thing for me to do is to attempt to get up as close as I can to speed before merging onto the highway.  I, therefore, am going about 60 miles an hour.  I am not going 70, because the on-ramp is too short, but I am going 60.  You are going 70 miles an hour.  You can see that I am ahead of you attempting to merge onto the highway.


There’s no one to your left.  Just get over.  Why the fuck would you sit in the right lane when you can see I’m trying to get onto the interstate?

God damn, that pisses me off.

Scenario Two:

This scenario is a little more complicated.  I’m attempting to merge on.  You cannot move left because there’s someone in the left lane.  But, pay attention: YOU ARE THE ONE ON THE ROAD.  I am only the one attempting to get onto the road.  I will look to you for guidance (if you are not in my blindspot).  If you slow down, I will accelerate and enter the roadway.  If you speed up, I will take my foot off the gas and let you pass.

I would prefer you slow down and let me on the highway, since I am ahead of you, but I appreciate that you might not have grown up driving in Chicago and are thus unaware of what my expectations for your behavior are.

But for the love of Christ, do something.  Don’t just trudge forward at the same speed I’m going, slowing down when I slow down and then freaking out and accelerating when I accelerate.  Let me on the god damn road.


Okay and 3:

If you are only comfortable driving 45 miles an hour for whatever reason–you’re drunk, you’re blind, you’re afraid of trucks passing you in the dark at 80 mph, you’re lost, I don’t know.  Whatever.–don’t get on the interstate.

If you must get on the interstate, and again, I don’t know why–I think it would be terrifying to get on a highway and drive half as fast as most everyone else on the road, but maybe you’re allergic to stoplights.–turn your lights on (yes, it not only makes it easier for you to see, but after dark, it makes it easier for those of us also on the road with you to see you) and stay out of the middle lane.

Thank you.

Aunt B.

30 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Nashville Drivers

  1. Ha, well, I don’t know if it’s against the law, but it sure seems to be against the rules. I swear, it’s enough to make me feel like I should just install a roll cage, paint a number on the side of my car, and start treating my ride to work like a straightline demolition derby.

  2. I think they drive worse in Boston than here, but otherwise, Nashville is the worst I’ve ever seen. I like the demolition derby idea, though, because then we could all get sponsors.

  3. I’ve never driven in Boston, but I spent a few days riding in Plimco’s car being all “How do y’all ever find anything?” I swear, that’s a town of twisting roads connected by circles.

    I don’t know what Nashville’s deal is, though I’m glad to see that the days of people stopping on the on-ramps is over. When I moved here in ’99, it was like people just woke up one day and discovered there were interstates and were still startled and unsure about them.

    Now, it does seem like only an inch or two either way separates us from a demolition derby, and, I totally want to be sponsored by the Sony Building.

  4. Whoever taught the people of Nashville to drive must now be in the St Louis area… This is my experience everyday… I avoid the highway as much as possible and have found that I only actually have to drive a 2 mile section of it but that 2 mile section make me want to jump out of my car and put the smackdown on people!!!

  5. Really? I grew up in St. Louis and never noticed this sort of thing there. And my husband, who resolutely refuses to drive on highways in Nashville because the drivers are so unpredictable, has no trouble driving highways in St. Louis. It’s really a whole different universe of bad here.

  6. See, and at least St. Louis has a driving culture. It might freak you out when you see folks roll through a stopsign, but everyone does it and you get used to it. There just is not standard driving culture here.

    Plus, why do folks get on the interstate after dark and drive with no lights on?! Who does that?

  7. If you really want a driving clusterf**k, head south to Jackson, MS. Those cosmopolian-city wannabes have never heard of merging, much less understand the concept.

  8. But do the Jackson all know what everyone else is going to do? I think that’s what B’s getting at with the driving culture thing, and I think she’s absolutely right about Nashville not having one. All the more reason, one would think, to try to be aware of the other cars on the road. But nooooooo ….

  9. I love you, B. Seriously. I grew up in Chicago, too, and when I moved here I was all, “How the hell can a place that has nowhere near as many cars have such worse traffic?” And then I started paying attention to how people here drive like assholes out for revenge and think that following the general rules of traffic only shows signs of weakness.

    I drive 80 miles a day, 68 of those miles on the interstate (I24 and I440), and I swear it’s going to be the death of me.

  10. Don’t even get me started on driving in Minneapolis/St Paul. Those idiots are crazy. 4 lanes of traffic in each direction, and they weave in and out at 75 miles an hour, crossing all 4 lanes just to get to an exit ramp 2 seconds before the car that was ahead of them (and the speed limit is only 60 in most of the areas). When I drive there, I have to have the music off, nothing to drink or eat, and no talking at all. I need every ounce of my attention on the road and the drivers around me just to keep from getting hit. And no one will give you an inch, let alone enough space to merge a car onto the freeway (and if there are signs saying a lane is closed 1 mile ahead, they will wait until the lane is actually closed before moving over into the open lanes). Drives me absolutely batshit crazy, so I don’t go to the Twin Cities any more often than I absolutely have too, and try to time DH’s doctors’ appts at the VA so I miss most of the rush hour traffic.

  11. Heh. A friend of mine who used to live in Mpls says she knew she had to leave when a woman she worked with told her that she didn’t look at what was coming when merging into traffic, just closed her eyes and stepped on the gas — and my friend realized that that was how everyone there did it. I suppose that could pass for a common driving culture, though.

  12. Megan, I find the thing that drives it home for me is that when I’m up at my parents, we’ll be listening to the traffic report on WGN and they’ll have four or five accidents that are delaying traffic and then I’ll come home and there will be four or five accidents that are delaying traffic and I think “How in the world can we have the same number of traffic-tying-up accidents as Chicago?!” But in Chicago, people seem to accept the same basic rules–go fast, let people merge onto the highway by slowing down so they can get over, etc.

    And we don’t seem to have a community wide agreement here other than drive fast and angry. This morning, i saw a guy leaning clear out his SUV window, I’m talking whole upper half of his body leaning out of the driver side of his window, to flip someone off.

    I was like “Can’t we just all agree that a person’s bottom should stay in the seat while driving?!”

  13. Some of St Louis isn’t bad… 64/40 55/44 but when you are talking 70 or 270 it is horrible…. I drive about 2 miles on 70 in the downtown area and it is crazy how many people refuse to get out of the right lane to let people get on….

  14. Speaking for the natives-I learned to drive in this state and mainly in this city. This cutting you off while merging from the on-ramp is new (last 10-15 years). Before that everyone moved over or made room, I don’t know when it started happening but it infuriates me. I can even go with the “close your eyes and gas it ” school of thought for how it used to be.

    Every morning when I’m getting on to I-40, with 4 lanes of open traffic, some yahoo is rolling at 70mph in the right merge lane and will not yield. I can say with all honesty that a lot of times, I’m aiming for them.

    As long as I can remember traffic has accelerated as it moved downtown. The 24/40/65 merge fields are much larger and traffic friendly than they used to be(let that scare you) and it is a Nashville and Tennessee mindset that speed limits are a mere suggestion and not a requirement.

    St. Louis is a cakewalk even with all the crazy splits and the faint smell of cooking dog food. Atlanta is balls out insane at full speed, thankfully there is usually a traffic jam.

  15. I suspect, though I could be wrong, that the problem is not actually native Nashvillians, but the fact that we actually have so many people here from so many different places and everyone is trying to drive like they did back home.

  16. I refuse to believe that, B. There can’t possibly that many places for people to come from where they refuse to use turn signals.

    Shug, 70 is pretty bad, true.

  17. You know, NM, I kind of side with B on this.

    When I talk to people back home and they inquire about what “it’s like to live in the big city” – they seem to always ask “how do you drive in that traffic?” – to which I say “you stay in your lane, and go with the flow, otherwise you go ‘bang.'”

  18. Many, many years ago I learned that to drive through Nashville was to abandon all hope and wish for dumb luck. In truth, though, Nashville was far better than Memphis – I realize this is damning with faint praise.

    The best drivers I’ve ever found were in Maine (at least north of Portland); the second best were in Iceland. The groups have two things in common: cold-ass weather and traffic circles/rotaries. Each requires cooperation and attention to detail; otherwise you die.

  19. Oh, God, so much to comment on here, and so little attention span with which to comment.

    Anyway. OMG. Minneapolis/St. Paul has to be the worst place I have ever ridden. (I’ve been there visiting my uncle. He doesn’t trust my southern ways of driving, which is fine because I’d hate to drive in that godforsaken place.) I have no idea about their drivers, because I was too busy boggling at their bizarre signage and the fact that they have STOPLIGHTS on the onramps. Seriously? When I saw that, I said to UJ, “You have to be fucking kidding me.” but he said it works. Errr, if you say so, bub.

    I have this really horrid recurring nightmare that my uncle dies and leaves me his house provided I move into it for 5 years. If I don’t take the deal, the house is to be sold and all the money goes to the Republicans. (No idea why, he’s a rabid liberal) At first it’s okay, but then it occurs to me that I’d have to drive in the snow with all those onramp stoplights and I’m like fuck that, let the GOP have the money.

    As far as Nashville driving, I totally agree with Megan that for most Nashville drivers, following the rules of traffic shows signs of weakness. When I first moved here, I was struck by, any time I needed to move into a lane there were people in, and I turned my turn signal on, people would purposely get in your way so you couldn’t get in. Fuckers.

    And don’t get me started on merging. See, where *I* learned to drive, if there was an accident involving someone merging onto the freeway and someone already on the freeway, it was generally considered to be the person on the freeway’s fault if there was an accident, because, hey, you’re on the freeway already. Get out of the way of the people who are trying to merge. Here? Not so much.

    And, while we’re bitching about driving, I’m gonna have to share this bit that I’m still pissed about. I’m on 24 coming from Murfreesboro onto Sam Ridley Parkway. Now, for those of you non-Rutherford Countians, Sam Ridley can either be a bitch to merge onto or a breeze, it’s never somewhere in the middle. The offramp speed limit is either 40 or 45. The road speed limit is 45.

    My turn? A left turn pretty much immediately after you exit off the freeway. So you have to watch traffic and jump 2 lanes in a space of about 300 feet.

    So I’m on 24, and the dude in front of me is going 65, which is irritating enough. He exits onto Sam Ridley only he slows down to TWENTY FUCKING MILES AN HOUR on the onramp. I watch the street go from no traffic to shitloads of traffic while this bumbling motherfucker is making his way down the ramp. I start screaming, “GO, MOTHERFUCKER!” which only slows him down and now we’re going 15 miles an hour merging onto Sam Ridley with traffic galore.

    2 days later and I’m still pissed about it. Rutherford Countians, we have some road rage, let me tell you.

  20. I was going to just chide you about how you don’t know how to merge, but after all of these commments, I have to conclude that all women don’t know how to merge.

    As I suspected.

  21. Having driven extensively in both Boston and Nashville, I have to say I much prefer Boston drivers. When describing them to outsiders my description is: Boston drivers are insane – but they do know how to drive, and they’re not particularly interested in dying. They will cut you off, close holes, ride your bumper, etc. etc., but when push comes to shove, they don’t actually want to die – though they may not mind if you do. Nashville drivers, on the other hand, aren’t too clear on the rules of the road to begin with, and must think they’re in good with God, because they are NOT afraid to die. Merging is a giant game of chicken that they don’t want to lose. Signaling is giving the advantage to the enemy. I’ve never encountered such a concentration of driving assholes (and this was about 10 years ago, so this behavior is at least that old).

    The day that defined Nashville driving to me was the day my office manager explained his method for getting up a hill that was blocked by traffic because of slippery conditions. “I just floor it and go up the wrong side of the street. Gives me momentum to get past the ice.” No mention of possible oncoming traffic was made.

    Exador – nice. That must explain why my husband has three merging accidents to his record while I have none, despite the aforementioned commuting in Boston and Nashville. He just understands merging better.

  22. Nashville traffic IS bad. Driving through it on the way to Mule Town from Indiana, I would always be struck by how insane people became. One male driver decided, in the bitter December cold, to roll down his window and wave his penis at me as I passed him. Now THAT’S some dangerous sh*t.

    But I have to say that California has taken the cake for me. Driving on a highway with ten lanes on one side seems to make people go utterly bonkers. We’ll be in a tight traffic jam and everyone’s constantly changing lanes, trying to get in the one moving fastest and inevitably slowing us all down in the process. It is LEGAL for motorcycles to drive on the dotted lines between cars, so you’ll be toodling along with cars on either side of you and then suddenly, WHOOOOM, a motorcycle squeaks between you. I live in fear of weaving a little bit and knocking one over. I’ve also been driving in the city here, and put on my left signal to move into the left turning lane, and had a person zoom up behind me and PASS ME ON THE LEFT before I can get in the turning lane, cutting me off. People are insane out here. At least they passed a law against driving and talking on cell phones.

  23. What? He waved his penis at you?! Like you were just suddenly going to be all “Oh, mister, stop so I can admire that thing up close?”

    God, people are weird.

  24. I am in awe. I’ve had fingers, fists – yea, and even a gun waved in my direction while navigating this world’s highways and byways, but a penis?

    I’ve lived a long, fulfilling, and what I’ve considered (up to now) to be a fairly interesting life, but now I find I’ve missed out on traffic tallywacker waggling. Damn.

    :::scribbling like mad on my bucket list:::

  25. Atlanta is madness. Tailgating at high speed seems to be the norm. It’s so bad in Memphis that we were considering changing the name of our NBA team to “the Memphis Drivers,” to better strike fear into the hearts of our rivals.

    A bit off-topic, but since we’re talking about driving on a feminist blog, I may as well share this gender joke (Don’t kill me, it’s not what you think):

    Q: Why can’t women parallel park?

    A: Because they’ve been told their whole lives that this…


    …is six inches.

  26. Hehehe, OMG. I just found your blog and appreciated this. I live in NW Indiana and have this same frustration at times trying to merge onto 94 in Indiana. Just drive people! Too many years of driving into Illinois has made me irritated at slow drivers.

  27. “When I first moved here, I was struck by, any time I needed to move into a lane there were people in, and I turned my turn signal on, people would purposely get in your way so you couldn’t get in. Fuckers.”

    Had the same experience.

    Lived in Boston, Philadelphia and Nashville. I’d rather drive in Boston or Philadelphia any day.

  28. Pingback: I Hate Nashville Drivers

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