So three observations on driving in the U.S.

  1. Stop Signs are bizarre. Officially there’s a whole list of rules on who gives way to who. In reality it comes across as intensely polite inefficiency. Still, it means everyone is very careful.
  2. There are some very strange road laws. I got asked by a policeman to have a short conversation after I u-turned in what turned out to be the “business district”  of what can only be called a very sleepy little town. He explained the law was there so that people weren’t being delayed. I thought it wise not to point out that at a maximum speed of 25mph most people were delayed anyway, besides I think I counted one other car on the road 😉 . There are also some very good laws which are efficiently enforced. We found that out soon after entering Nevada where I got caught in a speed trap going 72 in what I thought was a 70 zone but turned out to be 65. Pulled over for being 7 beyond the limit! Again, no long-term harm done but it was an unnerving experience to see those lights flashing behind me! Why can I smile about it…. ?
  3. I think there is something called the Bertram Wooster effect in operation. As soon as I open my mouth and speak in a (admittedly slightly affected but nevertheless cultured and polite) english accent all problems seem to evaporate. I have no intention on working out how far I can push this principle but I am grateful that playing the slightly dumb Anglo-tourist has resulted in much grace and even some advice from the local constabulary on the best route to take.

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6 comments on “on American road etiquette and laws and the Bertram Wooster effect

  1. I had a similar experience. Nowhere, ever, has anyone described the way I talk as ‘adorable’ bar the American Midwest.

    But run a little experiment: consistently introduce yourself as an Australian, and see if anyone notices that your accent is British. I had several people admit to me that they had difficulty separating Australian, New Zealand, and English accents—in much the same way that Canadian and American accents can often sound very similar to those of us from Australia (sorry, Canadians).

  2. Remember – 7mph is 10km/h. That’s enough back here to do you. Also the AustEmb induction to expats included advice never to wave someone in, or thank them for waving by hand, because of the ease with which that could be misunderstood, and the consequences thereof (in a gun rich culture). Maybe down south it’s okay – guns but also manners. Mid-Atlantic: stow the hand gestures.

  3. BTW, that Wooster effect is real. And if you are Leutenant Commander Wooster, as I am, you can get away with heaps. I blagged my way out of a 15mph over the limit ticket.

  4. Hope you have a safe and pleasant trip. Are you going to Eastern US? Visit St. John’s Church, Savannah, Georgia (the Rev’d Gavin Dunbar) if you can. Another good man is @Christoferos (twitter name). God bless you.

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