T Nation

Driving Etiquette in the USA?

So yesterday I came across this video

It was in an Italian article which was discussing how much drivers from here suck compared to the rest of the world. I haven’t really traveled abroad so far, much less driven abroad, so I can’t comment on driving habits in other countries, but for what is worth I do consider Italian drivers to be pretty bad on average.

We don’t have four-way stop intersections like the one shown in the video here, and watching it struck me by how everything seems to flow nicely and without anyone cutting anyone else off or having to honk to get others to give way.

Basically, they look like good drivers.

My question to the people from the US (I’m asking about the US because that’s what the video shows; everyone feel free to comment with their perspective even if they come from another country) is: how common is such behavior on the streets? Are people on the road that well-mannered? Do you consider the drivers in the place you live to be good drivers on average?

That should not be anything to be surprised by lol Driver behaviour in your area can’t be that bad can it?

I think put stressed people in an enclosed space and they will be assholes.

It is, believe me

Under no circumstances.

No one comes to complete stops at stop signs, everyone speeds, turn signals are infrequent, majority are texting and driving, etc. 4 way stops, in particular, are nightmares, because people don’t come to full stops in the first place so a real “right of way” order doesn’t get established. And some people are too concerned with being nice vs being correct, so they’ll wave someone on to go when it’s NOT their turn, which throws off everything.

Have you been to China :rofl: Although, lots of cameras, heavy fines and revoking of drivers licences seem to have made some improvements


We have a courtesy problem a lot of times around here. People will stop, and instead of following the rules of right of way, will wave one another on and defer to the other through hand gestures.

It doesn’t seem like that should be annoying, but sometimes it creates confusion.

But generally, yeah, people are polite and courteous. This can vary wildly from region to region though, time of day, certain roads, and even specific intersections.

Around here we have some 4- way stops that have more than 1 lane in each direction, some of which are turning lanes. This makes it very difficult to determine whose turn it is. I feel this is just bad traffic design. With one lane in each direction, I don’t feel it is too complicated. Left turns throw a wrench in things, but it’s not too bad.

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I’ve never seen that many people not stop at once. That’s a rare-ish thing where I live. It’s heavily policed tho. My neighbor gave my wife a ticket for a rolling stop, less egregious than that. The typical thing here is people stopping 20’ before a stop sign to beat the other person. lol.

Also… Thailand. Right around the 1:45 mark you can see scooters inching forward to the next place because they can’t wait behind the line.

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Drive? I’m afraid to cross the bloody roads lol. It’s like the traffic lights are just there for show.


This legit looks like that area I live in. And yes, this is very typical for a 4-way in my area.


This is also an issue in some of the towns around me. Drive me nuts.

Also, @samul, get people on a highway or some other ambiguous street where no one knows who has the right of way, or the only way to make a turn onto a street is to be super aggressive and everyone loses their damn mind and they’re not this polite or orderly at all.

…but yea, the drivers around here are situationally polite and orderly.

There are a couple of these right near by. These roads will make a 90° turn with a straight through “other” named road breaking off at the bend.

So, if you’re going straight or turning you proceed unimpeded, but oncoming from the spur road has to stop, as does the oncoming from the opposite direction, which is not opposite, it’s perpendicular.

A screw it. You’d have to see it. :joy:

This sounds like sci-fi to me. People here will do the opposite–cutting you off, or entering the intersection without giving way, and if you dare honk at them, they’ll give you the middle finger in return. It’s happened to me and I’ve seen it happen to others.

I agree with you. Still, people here seem not to understand how a simple left turn works sometimes, so it’s less of a matter of being complicated and more of a matter of people just being bad at it IMO.

Those roads look so different than the design of those we have here. Also, is it normal that vehicles are just running over the white lines and signals on the ground? Aren’t those supposed to have a meaning of some sort, as in “this is your lane, stay in it”?

But that was kinda what I was wondering to begin with. Is it that people don’t know whose the right of way is because of bad road signaling/design, or is it because people can’t drive?

Because here in Italy, I gotta say the signs are pretty clear, well-placed most of the time, and the signaling is redundant on purpose to completely take the guesswork out of the equation. So when someone fails to act correctly, you can tell it’s their fault as a driver.

One thing I’ve learned on the internet is that Italy has way, way more roundabouts than the US. 90% of the intersections here are roundabouts. Don’t quote me on the number, but it’s the perception you get while driving. There are hardly any four-way intersections, and none of them have stops at all the entrances: you have traffic lights instead. But yeah, it’s mostly roundabouts of some sort. Whether the big ones, with multiple lanes, or even really small ones where you can barely complete the turn without having to back off (I have been told some smaller towns have roundabouts that small).

That makes driving pretty smooth for the most part, I have to say. Except many people don’t really know how and when to give way in roundabouts, and virtually no one uses turn signaling when approaching one.

Are there many road rage fatalities in Italy? In the US, it happens more frequently than it should. I believe it’s what gives way to excessive niceness.

Italians are notoriously bad drivers, yeah.

That said, the US has 7.3 road fatalities per billion kilometres driven, whereas Italy has 6.3.

Kind of makes sense, because from what I know of the US driving test, a trained monkey could probably muster up a pass. It looks like the test is basically “drive around some cones in the school playground” and then you get your license.

Denmark/Finland/UK apparently all have very hard-to-pass driving tests, and they’re at 4.2/3.9/3.4 fatalities per billion respectively.

I live in Ireland (3.8 per billion, similar test standard to UK) and don’t notice a huge number of bad drivers. I mean, I do see a lot of poor driving, but compared to the number of cars I encounter it’s on the small side. If someone is driving well you don’t exactly notice it.

Worth noting I’ve only been driving a couple of years myself, so I probably am one of the bad drivers. I try not to be, though.

@samul what is the driving test like in Italy?

Here’s where it gets crazy though. I live in a little neighborhood right behind a church. It has been a long standing courtesy to let people cross in front of the church, especially before mass and after, but also generally. Bear in mind that this is also a major roadway with a 35 mph. speed limit.

So I (and many others) waiting to cross the road with my kid, the neighbor kid, and neighbor. One car stops and gives the “go ahead” while the person in the oncoming lane continues at normal speed.

People see and are looking at the stopped car, but along comes the other and it turns into a real life game of Frogger which includes small children and fast moving vehicles.

You also have people a few cars back that start with the fingers and some words. It becomes confusing and dangerous for everybody involved very quickly.

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I’d go with C.) all of the above haha

I know there are bad drivers, I know there are aggressive drivers, but then there are people who are situational drivers. I tend to drive fast on the highway here but I don’t weave in and out of traffic trying to get ahead. In traffic, I’m a bit more defensive, but can make aggressive moves if it calls for it - I see most drivers being a mix of both.

As far as the road signage goes, around here it’s not bad. Clear signs most of the time. The only signs I see most people disregard is ‘Yield’ (which is a problem) and ‘No Turn On Red’ (which isn’t so much a problem as most people I see exercise discretion - is it safe to turn or not?)

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Insurance companies have dubbed this “the wave of death”.

I try my hardest to NEVER wave someone on when it’s a split road like that. I will stop for them, but I am not going to vouch for the other drivers.

I didn’t know that was the name for it, but it makes sense. A woman was killed a few years ago at the place and in the manner I’m describing.

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My state has turned many of the 4 way stops into roundabouts (many two lane entering). You would think after a few years people would figure out that you really only need to look to your left, when entering, and that you can’t switch lanes inside, or cross the outside lane to make an exit. Many have not figured any of this out yet. I believe they are driving by faith of some sort.

I can’t quite answer that to be honest. Not informed on the numbers. I’ll go look it up later so we can compare the percentages to those of the US.

EDIT: nvm mattjp did it already haha

You have a written part and an actual driving part.

The written part consists of 40 questions with T/F answers, and you pass if you make 4 mistakes or less.

The driving part is supposed to be a 40-minute (more or less) trip around the city. They have you do a few maneuvers first, like a U-turn and an 8 in reverse, then you drive in a portion of a highway (you usually get in and then out at the first exit), plus driving around roads that have roundabouts, left turns, etc. I said supposed to because mine was none of that. The examiner arrived more than ONE HOUR late (I was waiting at the meeting spot under July’s sun and I was pretty ticked off) and didn’t ask me to do any maneuvers, just some driving around.

One more difference between Italy and the US–there is no such thing as right turn on red here. A red light is like a brick of walls, for everyone. I can see how allowing that could make traffic flow more easily on occasion, though.

You see all sort of things happening in roundabouts. I had this one episode in which I turned on my right blinker to signal I was about to exit the roundabout and the guy behind me must have interpreted it as me signaling that I was pulling over to the right (inside a roundabout) and tried to pass me. I wonder what’s on people’s mind sometimes.