Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Driving culture

Driving around the Pacific northwest, a couple of things jumped out at me

  1. In Washington state, people pretty scrupulously adhere to the posted speed limit.  Even in a 70 mph zone, very very few people were exceeding 71 or 72, and many were going 65 or so.  This is very strange coming from the east.  Compare, for example, the 70 zone on I-85 between South Hill and Petersburg, VA, where, despite signs warning that speeds are being monitored by airplane, people routinely are pushing 83-84 and up.  I myself trend towards 77-78 through there.
  2. When you cross the border into British Columbia, all of a sudden people start testing the limits again.  Even though it's Canada (or, as I like to call it now and again, Canadia), where people are reputed to be so law-abiding.
Part of me wants to say this has to do with an urban/rural divide, because once you cross into Canada, you transition from a pretty rural to a very urban zone, as 95-98% of the population of BC lives south of the mountains just north of Vancouver.  And urbanites push the envelope. But that doesn't explain the limit acceptance of the drivers in the Seattle region, so very law-abiding.

The speculative me wants to attribute this to Turner thesis* driven behavior.  In the east, we are always conscious of the loss of the Frontier, and we buck against its absence, as if to demonstrate our desire for the elemental freedom forever lost to us.  In the West, where they have lived beyond the bounds of the Frontier ever since they got there, and where wide-open spaces still seem, at least, to abound, there is less of a need to demonstrate freedom.

In any case, I'm off to the coal mine.

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