Saturday, August 27, 2011

Michigan Musings

Since moving to Michigan 4 years ago I believe that I have finally adjusted to the weather, for the most part (you will probably need to remind me of that mid January). But the weather is not the only thing that sets Michigan apart from all other states that I have lived in. One of the major things I had to adjust to was how different it is to drive here. You would think that most states have fairly similar rules when it comes to speed limit, the signage that is used, etc.  But there are things that happen on the roads here that I think are ludicrous.
1.  The "Michigan Left"
The Michigan Left has nothing to do with turning left. Well, you want to turn left, but it isn't allowed. They claim that studies show it's "safer" to do a Michigan Left and yet I beg to differ. It seems absolutely assanine to think it's safer to do a U-Turn into oncoming traffic to be able to turn left. That's what a Michigan Left is. You approach the intersection and you want to turn left. However, you clearly see that there is no turn lane, there is no left turn light, and there is a sign that clearly says:

What you see instead, is a sign that says "Westbound Eisenhower" and points to the right. You can see from your trusty car compass that turning right will definitely take you East, but you obey and quickly move over two lanes to get into the right turn lane. You turn right and about 200 yards ahead you see another sign "Westbound Eisenhower" and it takes you into a left turn lane that puts you into the que to do a U-Turn. You fenagle a U-Turn with traffic barreling down on you to end up back at the same light you were 1 minute before waiting at a red light to go straight. It's insane. I don't understand it. No other state does this, or at least, no other state that I'm aware of and it is known as "A Michigan Left."
2.  Speed Limits are Merely Suggestions
With Michigan being the only state in the Union to lose population according to Census 2010, We are hurting for money. The economic downturn has hit us very hard and it's turned more into a recession/depression for the state vs just a "downturn." So, state services have been cut left & right, which means that the number of police officers on the roads has dropped considerably. The speed limit is 70 in the state, but if you are going 70, you feel as if you are sitting still because cars whiz past you on both fact, one time, we were passed on the shoulder, as there was no free lane available for the person to pass us and all the other cars in front of us. When we first moved here, I refused to drive on I-94 because I feared for my life. I would literally have anxiety attacks if I knew we were going to drive on the interstate because it was scary. My sister came to visit in November (we had moved in August) and I was trying to figure out a way to the airport that did not involve getting on the interstate. I sucked it up and drove on the highway anyway and that was when I became a Michigan driver. For your safety, you can't drive 70, or God forbid, a little under 70 and be safe. You must drive over the speed limit as fast as you can.
3. Tailgating
This is what makes #2, in my opinion, so dangerous. People here don't just drive 80-90 miles an hour on a regular basis, but they do it while they are sucking up the fumes from the car in front of them. I have been driving at times and literally cannot tell what kind of vehicle is behind me because all I can see is the chrome grill of their hood in my rear view mirror. It's not like I'm in the "fast lane" and driving 15 miles below the speed limit with no one else around me and he's trying to "encourage" me to move over. I'm normally following a car, who is following another car, and we have cars on all sides of us. And this vehicle is stuck to my bumper. It happens so often here, that it is common place and this is when I start to have a minor hyperventilation episode because if I even have to touch my brakes, I know that guy is going to be sitting in my backseat. So, I get over as soon as possible so he can zoom up and do his same tactics on the next car. Unfortunately this sort of bully tactic is not only found in Michigan, but I can safely say I have never seen it used more than here. When I lived in Charlotte, you'd have the occasional dorkus that drove this way and you'd grumble at him and get out of his way and move on with the rest of traffic. But when you are dealing with the majority of drivers doing this, it can lead to some serious problems.
4. No Inspections
That's right! Thee are no car inspections required in the state of Michigan. That means that you can drive with your car duck taped together and if it runs and will actually move down the road, Go For It!  I don't know if it's the car manufacturer lobby at the state level, but I think it's absolutely ludicrous for the state that Henry Ford called home to allow these cars that are destroying our ozone and dropping parts as they drive. It makes #2 and #3 on this list even more dangerous as these cars literally are held together with ropes and wires and duck tape.
5. Road Conditions
A. As mentioned in #2, there is no money in the state. So, repair work on roads is non-existent. Although I think they have used a ton of money to buy orange barrels and they just put them near dangerous spots in the road. A pot hole in Michigan is not a small eroded part of the road that makes the road a little rough. That doesn't qualify as a "pot hole." What qualifies as a pot hole here is basically something that can ruin your car. they actually have a segment on the news that discusses where the worst pot holes are located and routes to take to avoid them. I describe some roads as the "moon's surface" because of the craters you need to drive over and through to get to your destination. 
B. The other part of having no money in the state is that there isn't enough money to treat the roads when winter whether hits. they have to prioritize and hold back whenever possible. So, driving in the winter time can be quite treacherous depending on if the state has determined the conditions are bad enough to treat the roads or not.

So, as I continue to try to understand some of the thought processes that govern my new state, I'm going to try to remain calm and get out of the way!

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