You may think you know the rules of the road when it comes to driving…and then you move to Texas.
Well, bless your heart and welcome to the Texas School of Creative Driving.
Before I get too far into this, I must mention that you should—no, you must--follow all state traffic laws to the letter. What I am about to share with you is information you need to “watch out for the other guy,” as my father liked to say before I took off on a road trip anywhere.
This is not meant to instruct you on how to drive in Texas. My advice about driving in Texas is this: drive like they’re out to get you, because they just might be.
Texans are notorious for not using their turn signals when indicating which direction they are turning. It is not that we are trying to play a high-stakes game of “guess what I’m thinking now” with you. We just have a bad habit of believing it’s just quicker to make the turn rather than tell anyone we’re gonna do it.
Another theory is that for a very long time Texas was sparsely populated and we just felt it was a waste of a real good light bulb to turn that thing on when there was no one around to actually see it.
The four-way stop is another example of Texas motorist creativity. It’s kind of like a highway version of Texas Hold ‘em if you think about it. Four or more drivers are watching the eyeballs of the others to see who is bluffing and who isn’t.
When I have a choice, I travel through intersections with traffic lights. But then that’s no guarantee of safety either, because it seems like we think yellow turning red makes orange and falls under the category of “almost” which only counts when you’re tossing a game of horseshoes. When you are stopped at a traffic light and it turns green, give yourself a little time and look both ways before darting across the intersection because you might get mashed flatter than a tortilla if you don’t.
If you’ve spent any time on the back roads here in Texas, you may have noticed that we will often pull over and drive on the shoulder for a spell. This is because we think you want to pass us and would rather not kiss the grill of the oncoming 18-wheel truck barreling down the road at about 10-20 miles over the speed limit. This is what we consider driving “Texas-friendly” even though it is rather dangerous.
It’s also our little way of saying, “Be my guest, wingnut. If you want to catch the eye of that state trooper just over the hill, knock yourself out and get off my tail.”
Farmers who look like throwbacks to the Jurassic era like to do this after they’ve made you tail them for 14 miles at about 14 miles per hour. My father said it was because they were checking out the progress of somebody else’s cotton field, but I think it’s more out of a passive-aggressive need to drive the “silly Yankee” bug nuts crazy.
On behalf of my late cotton-farming grandfather who was the god-king of passive-aggressive pranks, I apologize.
I’m not gonna leave out the motorcyclists.
My father loved to point out that Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution might be correct because all the riders who chose not to wear helmets were, indeed, practicing natural selection and the stupid ones were getting siphoned out of the gene pool by virtue of not wearing personal protective clothing and equipment.
“Your skull’s like an egg,” he said, after pointing out a bare-headed biker next to us on the highway. “What do you think’s gonna happen when that egg hits asphalt?”
Because of that, I never got on a motorcycle until about seven years ago, and only with a whole lot of leather and a helmet. I’m extra careful, even as a passenger on a bike. I grew up in Texas. I know how we drive. I’m not taking any more chances than necessary.
I can’t address all the foibles of Texas drivers, because I just don’t have that much blog space to spare. But I will say this: wherever you go, drive safely; drive defensively. And remember, just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.