Yesterday Lieutenant Governor John Crosbie got a few
tongues wagging with the suggestion that Newfoundland drivers “are not the best
in the world.”
(You can read the story HERE)
Here’s the thing about that: he’s absolutely,
positively, totally and utterly correct. Full stop. End of story.
I’ve driven in nearly every province in Canada and I
can honestly tell you the only place I feel danger at every turn is on the
highways in Newfoundland, in particular the divided highways around the
northeast Avalon and the city streets of St. John’s.
I feel safer at 100 kms per hour on the 401 than I do
on the Outer Ring Road.
Why is that? Well let me tell you. And bear in mind
this is not applicable to everyone, because we do have SOME decent drivers, but
the ratio of idiots to decent drivers is not great.
Off the top of my head (deep breath)...
- “Keep right except to pass” is a concept lost on far
too many who just love blocking both lanes at 80 kms per hour in a 100 km per
hour zone. Most of the actual passing these days occurs in the right lane as a result.
- Our highways suck with all the ruts and what not,
and there’s moose everywhere, but that doesn’t stop everyone from driving 140
kms per hour in all kinds of conditions day or night. Quick! When was the last
time we had inclement weather and there wasn’t an accident on the ORR or Pitts? Never. That's when.
- Nobody likes to let people merge onto the highway.
- If you pull out to pass someone they will speed up
and make you earn it like it’s a personal thing.
- If you turn on a signal light to change lanes
anywhere in Canada, someone will open a gap and let you in. In Newfoundland, they’ll often rush
to close it up so you don’t get in front of them, and grin smugly about having
screwed you so nicely.
- There are FAR too many people driving on the roads
in NL who got their licence on a dirt road or in a tiny community where there
is no possible way to assess highway driving skills.
- You should absolutely expect to be cut off by other
drivers. The surprise should come when it DOESN’T happen.
- Signal lights are merely for looks. Nobody ever uses
them. EVER. To even contemplate flipping one on seems to drain the lifeblood
out of most people, and who could blame them (extreme sarcasm alert)
considering how terribly arduous and challenging it must be.
- Gender and life status doesn’t matter. From the
numbskull with the ball hat and the skidoo jacket driving the monster truck, to
the young girl driving 130 in the import car while texting, to the soccer mom
with the minivan, to the senior citizen in the Buick, to the slick suit wearer
with the German auto, all of the above can easily apply.
It’s also true that drivers here face obstacles they
may not in other provinces.
For example, the heavy equipment on the roads is
ridiculous from dump trucks to backhoes — what the hell is a backhoe doing on
the highway at 8:30 a.m. driving at 50 kms per hour when the rush hour is
And construction — oh God, the construction. As I
noted, the quality of our roads in general is sucktastic. But equally maddening
is how we try to address that problem. I mean, who the bloody blue hell
authorizes companies to do major road construction on insanely busy pieces of
highway and heavily used thoroughfares during the absolute peak hours? Like
pavement stripping on the ORR at 5 p.m. or bridge work on Pitts at 8:30 a.m. or
tearing up Elizabeth Avenue right when tens of thousands of students are headed
back to MUN. Are you freaking kidding me?
As recently as last year a relative of mine from Toronto
happened to stay here. He has driven in the most insane traffic imaginable (Rome!
Paris! Toronto!) and over 40 years has an absolutely clean driving record (knock
He had a rental car.
Two days into the visit, he decided to return the rental
car because he was legitimately afraid he’d be hurt or killed trying to get
around the northeast Avalon!
What can you add to that?
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