Boston Driving, Fast and Furious

To describe driving in greater Boston, one has to use famous clichés or movie titles to convey what it's like to drive in Eastern Massachusetts: Every Man for Himself; Every Women for Herself; Our Lady of Blessed Acceleration Don’t Fail Me Now; People On ‘Ludes Should Not Drive; Hit The Road Jack; Don’t Get Mad, Get Even; They're Heading for Population; or Go Ahead, Make My Day, are examples of what a driver may be thinking at any moment on a street or highway in greater Boston.

Using movie titles: The Fast and the Furious; Bullitt; Death Race 2000; The Gum Ball Rally; The Cannonball Run; The Sugarland Express; Dirty Mary and Crazy Larry; The Blues Brothers; Rebel Without a Cause, or Grand Prix, are visual examples of describing what it's like driving in Boston.

Some people may assert that the driving culture in Boston increases driving skills, but in reality, the bottom line is that generally a huge number of people have no respect for the auto laws. The culture of driving in Boston has created a frenetic atmosphere, and it is impossible for state or local police agencies to enforce the auto laws to a degree that would change the culture.

Drivers in greater Boston are experts in statistics. That is, if a driver knows it’s 1000 to 1 he or she could get caught running a stop sign, then he or she will choose to run the stop sign. If it’s 200 to 1 to get caught running a red light, then many people will choose to run the red light. The most ironic of all the local driving decisions is life-betting. That is, some drivers will bob in and out of lanes at 20 mph over the speed limit, and essentially bet their life (and others) to save a small amount of time. Driving is done at a subconscious level, with the decision "Shall I save 3 minutes by driving faster versus the 500 to 1 chance of getting killed?" being made every day by many drivers in the area. The 499 to 1 choice is taken quite often, but thankfully the odds are weighted in favor of not killing oneself or others.

This author used to commute all over Eastern Massachusetts many years ago, especially when the Central Artery was still the main thoroughfare downtown. I have witnessed after the fact: a dead pedestrian, innumerable unnecessary accidents, thousands of dangerous or irrational drivers, numerous accidents caused by alcohol, road-rage incidents including fisticuffs with males and/or females, vehicles wrapped around posts or barricades, vehicles launched into Boston Harbor, and, sadly, many roadside memorials to those who lost their lives.

The culture of near-intentional vehicles strikes during heavy traffic appears to still prevail, and violations are still likely fixed via the court system. Changing the driving culture in Boston is pretty much hopeless; the only feasible means would probably be $20 gasoline, and the subsequent large drop in the number of vehicles on the road.

The following is a satirical summary of classified driving observations over the years:


In General

1. Making eye contact usually means you yield the right of way.

2. Yield signs are often incorrectly interpreted as hit the gas in Boston.

3. Stop signs mean stop, but many people believe they can be interpreted as roll slowly instead of making a full stop.

4. In a rotary or traffic circle, the vehicles already in the circle predominantly have the right of way, but many drivers ignore this rule when entering.

5. Right on red after stop is legal unless otherwise marked, but most drivers do not stop. Many rear-end collisions happen due to this.


In The City

1. Look both directions before entering an intersection. Green lights are supposed to mean it is safe to proceed, but not always.

2. Brush up on your parking skills if you plan to park along the curb anywhere in the city. The parked vehicles may be inches apart, especially in the North End.

3. Because of road repairs signs, lanes, street direction, and off ramps may change without notice, with predecessor signs randomly remaining in place.

4. Leave as much space as possible between you and the vehicle in front of you. Pedestrians often dart out in front of vehicles.

5. Gridlock occurs daily during rush hour. Cars may stop in the middle of crosswalks to irritate pedestrians, or block the most important intersections in the downtown area.

6. One can often see vehicles blocking the left-only or right-only lane at red lights, as they expect a lane-jumper to run the left-only lane and be the first vehicle to cross the intersection.

7. In the neighborhoods, late on a Friday or Saturday night in summer, one-way streets may become two-way streets.

8. In the neighborhoods, day or night, double and triple parking may occur.

9. In the neighborhoods, pedestrians may start a conversation with the driver of the vehicle in front of you, thereby blocking the entire street.

10. During winter snow storms, residents often dig out a parking space, place a chair in that space, and then reserve that space until 99% of the snow has melted.

11. During winter, the potholes can be so deep they can consume one corner of your vehicle, and usually throw out your alignment or damage your suspension.


On The Highway

1. Driving in the breakdown lane or shoulder is illegal unless marked in very few places, but occurs every day during rush hour, especially near off-ramps.

2. Lane Jumping, or weaving in and out of traffic and getting nowhere faster than anyone else, is extremely common during rush hour.

3. Clover Leaf Jumpers, or drivers that merge in front of you, and then jump three lanes over to the left while cutting off everyone else and traveling at 65 mph, are extremely common to find during rush hour.

4. In the slowest vehicle lane, you may actually witness vehicles yielding to the left to get out of the way of speeders behind them. I infer that some drivers think they will not get caught if they speed in the right lanes, which causes the latter behavior.

5. Lane drawlers may occupy the center lanes on a highway. You may observe the center lanes traveling at a much slower rate of speed than the far left or right lanes. I infer that fear of clover leaf jumpers causes this behavior.

6. Mystery signs, such as lane closure ahead, are often left on the highway even though the work crew went home hours earlier.



1. Keep a camera of some kind in your vehicle at all times. The auto insurance and tort system in Massachusetts can be considered somewhat tainted, so if an accident does happen, photographs are useful for determining fault.

2. Interview any witnesses of an accident if available. The person that struck your vehicle may be great friends with the investigating police officer. The other driver may also procure witnesses that you were unaware of (or weren't even there).

3. The person that struck your vehicle may admit fault at the scene of an accident, but may likely file an accident report containing a completely different account. Hence why photos can be extremely important.

4. The insurance claims handler of the driver that struck your vehicle may not believe in the physical laws of inertia or gravity when reviewing your vehicle's damage for determining fault, which is another reason to take photos.

5. The repair shop you take your vehicle to may discover $1,000 damage you didn't even expect you'd have, which will then be reimbursed most likely by an insurance company if you were not at fault for the accident.

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