I spend a lot of time driving in the south. I live there, so that really goes without saying. Over the weekend I went on the Annual Angie’s Apple Adventure, which means a 4 hour drive to the mountains for apple picking and then a return drive home. Having just driven to the mountains the week before, I was well-versed in driving I-26 from Columbia SC to near Asheville, NC. While on the way there and back, I started thinking about driving in general. There seems to be a separate set of rules when driving in the south, so I wanted to let any potential tourists know how unique we are, thus sparing you the hardships and frustrations of learning to drive in the south during a future trip.
Rules for driving in the south (as recognized by southerners):
All lanes are equal. The left lane is just as useful as the right lane, and no one has any more right to it than anyone else. If you are speeding along and want to get around a southerner in the left lane, start looking for a place to pass on the right, because they will NOT get over. Unless, of course, by getting over they succeed in blocking you from getting around in the right lane, because there’s someone driving slightly slower than BOTH of you in the left lane.
Don’t even consider flashing your lights at someone in front of you. Sure, you want them to get out of your way, or speed up, or get distracted and run off the road and die when they hit a pine tree. Flashing your lights at a southerner (particularly one going the speed limit in the left lane) will probably get you one of two positive reactions – not including their complete ignorance of you being behind them: 1. They will speed up to pass whatever larger vehicle is in the right lane preventing them from getting over. When they get almost to where they could get over or you could pass on the right, they will “formation drive” with said large vehicle, for about five miles, leaving you stuck next to the truck. 2. They will flash their tail lights back at you, usually accompanied by a sudden reduction in speed. Flashing headlights doesn’t do any harm. Their flashing tail lights may be expensive for you.
Southerners can “formation drive” with the best of them. The Blue Angels would be impressed at the level of precision with which southerners can formation drive. Whether it’s two trucks, a couple of cars, or any other combination of vehicles, its truly a site to behold when several southerners spread out across the intersection at equal distances, thus blocking any attempt to pass. The formation driving can go on for miles as they chat with their families or text their friends with complete disregard to the fact that you left an hour late and have to be at the cruise port in two hours or your vacation is going down the drain. Don’t flash your headlights.
Southerners love a good car wreck. Blame the Nascar culture, but if there’s a car wreck ahead, we have to look. It doesn’t matter that the wreck is in the northbound lanes of traffic and you are going south, or even that the wreck is on a side road that doesn’t interfere with the interstate at all. If there’s a wreck we can see, we’ll slow down to 20 miles per hour to look at it. So when you sit in traffic going at a snails pace for 75 minutes, and finally realize that on the other side of the concrete divider you can see a few fire trucks, a state trooper’s car, and the top of an ambulance, you might as well try and get a good look, because that’s what all the people in front of you were doing.
We can’t drive in snow and ice, or even major thunderstorms. Everyone knows this, the whole state shuts down if there’s an inch of snow south of the Mason-Dixon line. We all have to get out and look at it, too. Never mind the fact that Facebook will be full of pictures (once the power comes back on), and that the traffic lights will probably be out. Southerners just have to get out and “look” at the inch of snow. So we drive around in it, spin around, wind up in ditches. We also pull off to the side of the road in thunderstorms and put our hazard lights on. A side note here – because I see you northerners do this and it drives me nuts. The flashing lights on your car are “hazard” lights. If you park next to the interstate during a downpour, or your car becomes disabled, put on your hazard lights. DONT drive down the damn road with those things on. Hazard lights say “this car is broken down”, not “hey look at me while I drive in the rain!” Southerners know that really heavy storms will often be gone in ten minutes or so, which is why you’ll find us parked on the side of the interstate until they pass.