Rolling hazard

It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon on Route 95 North near the Neponset Street/Canton exit. What could happen? Well, a man was pushing his older model Ford Explorer with the driver's door open and half in the breakdown lane and half in the right travel lane.

It was a surprise at first. Then I saw the tag. The guy was from Rhode Island, which explained everything, especially the idea that this was an OK practice. Since most of my driving was done in the south-of-Boston area for most of my driving life, I've become very familiar with the antics of Rhode Island drivers. Let me tell you, there could be a whole weblog dedicated to that, too.

Within weeks of getting my learner's permit, I learned to avoid Rhode Island drivers after being cut off by three different ones in the span of a week. Since then, the number of Rhode Islanders making a daily commute to Massachusetts has grown nothing short of exponentially. That phenomenon was, and is, being driven by the fact that Rhode Island homes have long been an affordable alternative to almost any town in Eastern Mass., and all of the good-paying jobs are in office parks along Routes 95, 24 and 495. (While spending more time in the past few years on the roads north of Boston, I've noticed a similar number of New Hampshire drivers.)

This, in and of itself wouldn't be a big deal, except that Rhode Island drivers, as a rule, are awful. People I know who grew up in Massachusetts their whole lives automatically became horribly erratic and unpredictable the minute they switched their licenses. It's stunning.

In their own habitat, Rhode Island drivers seem to function fine. On the many trips through that state on Routes 95 and 24, I've seen surprisingly few antics that I've seen exhibited from the drivers who represent Rhode Island across the northern border. It's hard to understand why there's a difference. They drive on the right, like we do in Massachusetts. Their cars are subject to the same federal safety standards, and so on. Perhaps it's the fact that the state doesn't require extensive driver training for its younger drivers, so bad habits are passed down the generations, only to grow worse with each passing of the torch. Who knows.

Regardless, I avoid Rhode Island drivers at all costs. They are the one set of drivers I yield the right of way too even when I have the clear right to take it. It's sort of the same way I deal with skunks or bees. Just let them pass and you will be spared a whole lot of trouble.


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