Tuesday, November 3, 2009

And Another Thing (about driving in Europe).

Lane discipline. What’s so hard about driving on the right unless passing? Why can’t/won’t Americans do it? It’s the law here. It’s the proper etiquette here. But good manners are simply un-American.

The autostrade in Italy have a speed limit of 130 kph (about 78 mph), except when it rains, when it’s 110. (What’s up with that? Two speed limits, like two flush buttons. Those furriners can handle some complex stuff, by golly!) They enforce the speed limits – laxly, it appears - with roadside cameras rather than patrol cars. And lots of people speed. It’s not at all uncommon to see someone zoom by in the left lane going 100 miles an hour. But on a perfectly maintained (or maintenance-free rubberized asphalt) road, with no morons on cell phones clogging up the left lane, there seems to be no problem.

I think there’s something to be said for the American disdain for rules. Rules are how the undeserving rich stay rich and the undeserving bosses stay bosses. But no one ever accused the French or Italians of being a particularly ruly bunch, at least not recently. The Germans and Brits, yes. But not the French and Italians. Yet they seem to have figured out that driving on the right is a good idea. It lets them go faster. They break the rules by speeding, and they observe lane discipline so that they can speed. They observe a rule so that they can break a rule. Chew on that one for a bit.

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