Are Colorado drivers really polite, or just in denial?
This is about driving in Colorado. More precisely, it’s about drivers in Colorado. Sure, Donald Trump might make my stomach churn every day of the week, but once I leave home, I put Trump in the back seat where he belongs and churn instead about dangerous or discourteous drivers just ahead of me. Or right behind me. Or in the case of bobbers and weavers, all around me.
You know who I mean: the ones who look like they got their license by bashing the bullseye on all the pop-up monkeys at the state fair: “Congratulations my friend, you hit the jackpot and here’s your prize: a driver’s license good for life.”
That wouldn’t be you, of course. You are either the most cautious, or most polite, or most skilled driver on the road. But how about all the others? How did they ever get that license, anyway?
I got to thinking about this last month when a report came out from an east coast nonprofit called Kars4Kids. After an online survey in all 50 states, it called Coloradans the seventh most polite drivers in America.
Not bad when you realize there are 43 states where drivers apparently aren’t as polite as we are.
Then again, maybe the survey was flawed, because when you look at it, you see questions like, “When a car is trying to pass you on the left, do you maintain your speed, or increase your speed?” Or, “Do you signal before turning or merging always, usually, sometimes, or rarely?” They asked, “Do you respond rudely to being tailgated?” And: “Would you steal someone’s parking spot?”
In other words, they were actually asking us if we think we’re polite! That’s like asking Donald Trump if he thinks he ranks as the best president in American history. “Well, maybe after Abraham Lincoln. Then again, I’m probably even better than him.”
What this politeness appraisal tells me is: people in 43 other states are less in denial than we are.
Not that all states’ drivers are created equal. They’re not. For inexplicable reasons there are certain ways people drive in some states and different ways in others. By region, in the survey, West was best.
What I notice myself is, whether impolite or incognizant, lots of Colorado drivers have distinct deficiencies. One is, a merge lane means “merge,” not “stop.” Another is, if I’m doing 70 on the interstate, and have to jam on my brakes, and you’re close enough behind me to see what’s in my trunk, you’re going to end up in the trunk yourself. The last takes the form of a joke that asks, “How do you identify a Coloradan?” The answer? “He’s the third one running the red light.”
I did a little survey of my own, emailing several dozen friends here, asking how they feel about their fellow Coloradans behind the wheel. “I grew up in Boston where driving is a full contact sport,” one wrote back. “By comparison Denver drivers are polite angels.” Another Boston-born friend who drives for Uber confirmed that: “I started to grouse about our drivers, then I returned to Boston this spring. I’ll never complain about Colorado drivers again.”
From a former New Yorker: “I just had a driver shoot out in front of me on a side street. My wife commented that in NY, a typical driver in my shoes would have 1) honked like crazy, or 2) taken a gun out and shot the guy. We just avoided it and moved on.” And from another: “In New York a horn is far more important than courtesy. In Chicago pedestrians are fair game. We have it pretty good in Colorado.” In the survey by the way, New York came in dead last.
By and large, my friends thought our politeness placement was pretty fair. And accurate. They cited acts of Colorado kindness on the road. And explained the growing impoliteness we sometimes feel from fellow drivers as the inevitable upshot of growth.
Still though, if you want to get inside my trunk, don’t tailgate. Just ask.