I have decided that I am never, ever going to attempt to drive a motor vehicle in Scotland.
I admit that I wasn't keen on the idea in the first place, what with Scots driving on the left instead of the right like I'm used to. And there's that whole roundabout thing. Instead of having nice, neat and orderly intersections with traffic lights, you move from one road to the next by driving around and around in circles until a) centrifugal force finally takes over and your car sails off in some random direction or b) a Scottish driver sideswipes you into a signpost.
But now there's another reason: Scottish officials have decided that the best way to reduce accidents and traffic problems is to remove road cues. Specifically, they plan to narrow some roads, blur the pavement edges, remove the white lines in the centre of the road, and plant trees to remove sight lines. The reasoning is that if the roads seem more dangerous, people will drive more carefully.
Clearly these officials have never been either psychologists or humor columnists. If they had been, they'd know that the best way to get people to throw caution to the wind is to tell them they should be more cautious. People like a little frisson of danger in their lives, even if they have no clue where they can buy frissons. (Incidentally, they're in the bread aisle, next to croissants.)
Don't believe me? Consider the following list of driver types and tell me if you've met any of them:
Triple Chicken: This driver waits to overtake you on a two lane highway until you both are approaching a hill, which is on a curve, and it's pouring rain. Inevitably, she will have to slam on the brakes and cut in front of you in order to avoid hitting the very large transport truck in the oncoming lane.So do any of these sound familiar? Really familiar? Did you, in fact, recognize yourself?
The Drifter: Either a victim of bad wheel alignment or a firm believer in the power of telekinesis on the steering wheel, this person likes to allow the car to drift into other lanes. Indeed, he is so casual about keeping control of his car that he doesn't notice you until he's sheared off your side mirror.
Hot On Your Tail: These people suffer from an extreme fascination with mufflers. They must they spend the entire trip from Toronto to Windsor trying to park their cars in your tailpipe.
Speed Demon: You could be going 160 kph and it wouldn't matter. This driver will pass you as though you are standing still.
Parallel Paths: This person pulls out to pass you but takes nearly 10 kilometres of road to do so. In addition to spraying rain/ snow/ sleet/ hail all over your windshield for 15 minutes, this driver makes everyone else in the passing lane especially happy as she queues up and waits for her turn to overtake.
You Can't Pass Me: This driver, almost always male, will pull his large van/ truck/ rig to the lane marker so you can't see around him to pass. Should you find an opening and overtake, this driver will be very upset, because clearly your intention was to imply he is not manly enough. He will go mad trying to overtake you back.
Bad Timing: You may be the only car on the road for 20 kilometres in either direction, but this driver will wait until you are almost at the road junction before pulling out in front of you. He/she will then putz along at 50 kilometres an hour while sightseeing. Or whatever it is people do when going that slow on a highway.
If so, please move to Scotland. I can personally recommend the roundabouts.
To read more of Chandra's work, visit www.ChandraKClarke.com.