UTSA Mathematics - Dmitry Gokhman
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Driving in San Antonio

If I had only one word to describe driving here, it would be sluggish. Anyway, here are some tips, if you are new to town.


Time to destination - 20 minutes from any point to any other point in San Antonio. Almost, anyway. North FM 1604 has become sludge during peak hours. I-10 at 410 is not too good either.

Other drivers - Usually polite. Not particularly attentive. Willing to assist, if you are in trouble. Typically drive trucks, suburbans or utility vehicles.

Acceleration - Very gradual, but keeps going until eventually at some speed. See next item.

Speed limits - Most of us obey the posted speed limit. Many of us will go even slower. Just in case. Often 10 mph or more below the limit. Especially if the road is lined with trees (some sort of psychological effect). Suburbs that are their own towns are speed traps. Beware. Most of the time we will not warn you of a speed trap by flashing our lights either.

Red lights - Light cycles are usually long. Cars approaching a red light will slow to a crawl, never mind the cars behind them who are trying to make it to the protected left before it's gone. Cars at a red will get impatient (or light footed) and will repeatedly inch forward, though typically the same people drift off and are really slow to take off on a green. Acceleration on a green is creepy, so your chances of making it through a busy intersection in one cycle vary. Expect delays.

Red light cameras - Used to generate revenue. Check online for a location near you.

Beer and booze - Not allowed to drink while driving anymore, not even passengers. Distances no longer measured in six packs. Also see next item.

Taxicabs - Remarkably efficient and tolerant (as long as you are not a violent drunk or about to boot) - only 20 minutes away (see above).

Following distance - There are some haemorrhoids but mostly decent. A few too many take it too far and insist on 15 car lengths in front of them when the freeway is crawling. Never mind that half a dozen cars could be getting home to their loved ones in that space.

Passing - Left lane is for passing only. Just kidding. Some of us will take being passed personally and will proceed to chase you and try to cut you off as payback or follow you all the way to your house and berate you once you get out of the car. If there is no passing, then it's almost guaranteed that the person in front of you will go at half the speed limit. But don't worry. As soon as the road widens and you can pass, they'll speed up.

Turns - We don't follow the dashed lines provided for our convenience and instead slice the turn often resulting in swinging into the adjacent lane afterwards. Must come to a near stop before executing a turn. On an unprotected left we will not pull into the intersection, so when the light turns red not a single car makes the turn - expect delays. An old joke: a blinking turn signal means it was that way when the owner picked up the car at the dealership. Actually not true anymore. We are improving with our signaling.

Entering a road - We may pull out of a parking lot or a side street without any consideration for traffic. If there is more than one lane, we may do it directly into the far lane just to confuse drivers rapidly approaching in the near lane. With the sole exception of entering a freeway, we don't merge, even if there is a separate acceleration lane provided for it. We will stop at the start of the lane and wait for the second coming of the prophet Zarquon. The reverse is true in the sense that if you merge like a normal person, it may be taken as a personal affront (see last two items)

Changing lanes - We don't change lanes unless absolutely necessary. We'd rather stop in front of an obstacle rather than go around it. If a lane change is required, it must be done at the earliest possible opportunity, even if it means stopping first to do it. The default lane of choice: left, of course.

Speed bumps - A self-imposed communal lobotomy spreading like a cancer. Just recently I was privileged to witness the removal of a speed bump - a rare occurence. Must stop first and crawl over the bump, even if the bump is designated to be taken at 20 mph with a large yellow sign. Thus, we lose out on the serendipitous entertainment of getting to know your suspension system intimately. That first jolt as you take a bump at full speed, the feeling of exhiliration as your passengers go flying, cursing your name under their breath.

Parking lots - We must make up our mind as to which parking spot to take before entering the parking lot. If it means blocking traffic for a minute or two on the street, so be it. If a lot is full, we will drive excruciatingly slowly looking for the miracle spot. During this time we will ignore all rules of the road. Most of the time you will not be able to drive between two adjacent parking lots, so pick your entrance carefully.

Cellphones - Learn to recognize the mannerisms of drivers who are inattentive to their surroundings and give them wide berth. The tells are there and are fun to discover. If you end up passing such drivers, you can check your initial hypothesis with a casual glance.

Ramps - Must slow down. Entering a freeway - no exception. Must merge at the earliest possibility even if it means stopping for a while and even with a quarter mile of merge lane ahead.

Grades - Most of us are yet to learn the obvious lesson that you need to step on the gas in order to maintain constant speed when climbing a hill. Expect delays.

Rain - Everyone will slow down. A lot. In all lanes. Everyone must stop before crossing a puddle. On the other end of the spectrum, there are always people who will take crazy risks to get to their previously planned destination, ending in tragedy. Expect delays.

Snow or ice - Very rare. When it happens, we have no clue and pile up all over the place. Avoid driving. I mean it.

High beams - Some people just don't care if they blind everyone around them. Not a bright move. Oncoming traffic will not flash their beams to let them know, so if you have one of them on your tail, you might as well pull over. Sometimes used for venting (see next item).

Horn - Not used under any circumstances, where it would be actually useful. Only used for venting, along with high beams (at night) and the middle finger (apparently required by State law).