Traverse City Record-Eagle


February 16, 2014

Nathan Payne: Winter drivers drive me nuts (we're 35th)

‘Michigan has the worst drivers in the nation,” I muttered, my foot crushing my brake pedal to the floorboards below.

I’ve groaned those eight words to myself every week this winter during my twice-daily, 20-minute commute across Traverse City. It’s a sentence usually triggered by some blatant violation of both traffic law and common sense. And it’s usually followed by some head shaking and a string of insults directed toward the guilty driver.

This time it was triggered by the cellphone-jabbering pilot of a Volkswagen who apparently missed the day in driver’s education class when the instructor introduced students to the stop sign.

Her hands flailed with the vim and vigor of her obviously important conversation. She sped past a required stop and straight into my path, narrowly avoiding the clutches of natural selection while my tires groped for grip on the slick pavement.

My horn blared. Her eyes rolled. We parted ways.

Mere moments earlier, I had watched another driver slide sideways down the second half of a steep hill near the intersection of La Franier and Airport roads. He managed to test both his own intestinal fortitude and that of several other drivers who crossed his trajectory. His pickup landed a mere hair’s length from a blender of cross traffic at the intersection’s red light.

I had plenty of time to ponder my claim that night while rolling home at an agonizingly-slow pace on the skating rinks we call roads. My daily game of Detroit dodge ball gives way to a relatively relaxing stroll home a short distance outside of the Traverse City limits.

Then, the city lights fading in my rear-view mirror and my pulse finally settling from a sprinter’s pace, it struck me.

I’ve accused drivers in at least 13 states of being the worst, probably convicting most of them without so much as a shred of actual statistical evidence.

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