Off-Ramp host John Rabe and contributors share thoughts on arts, culture, and life in L.A.

What the French are good at: driving

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If you followed us on Facebook, you’d know that I spent the last couple weeks in France. The French get a lot of heat for many things – the guillotine, dog poop on the sidewalk, Serge Gainsbourg, Napoleon Dynamite -- but you may not complain about their driving.

From Paris to Avignon to Montélimar, I drove the lanes, streets, highways, and freeways of France. I encountered thousands of drivers, and only one was what I’d call a bad driver. He was a jerk driving a huge SUV way too fast one a 1-1/2 lane country road on the way to the town of Lussan, and who very nearly caused an accident. I’m assuming he was an  American, or a fan of the movie Ronin.

This was a movie, not real life. In real life, when driving, the French do a number of things we might consider wrong, or “foreign.”  

  • French drivers use their blinkers to signal a lane change or a turn. This odd habit allows drivers to anticipate the signaling driver’s next action.
  • French drivers use only one parking space.
  • French drivers first take their foot off the accelerator when they wish to slow down, and only use brakes when necessary, eliminating needless slowing on the highway.
  • French drivers pass on the left, and if they desire to drive slower than other drivers, use the right lane or lanes to do so.  
  • French drivers don’t panic when they come to a roundabout.  
  • French drivers seem to know how fast they are going, and where their car is on the road. If two cars are approaching each other on a narrow road, both cars will move to the far right so they don’t sideswipe each other, or force one of them into the ditch. This sounds wacky, I know, but I saw this happen with my own eyes many times.
  • If a French driver comes upon a bicyclist – even if the bicyclist is from another country, like Belgium, or Germany – the French driver will slow down or even stop to keep the bicyclist safe.

I know this list is weird, and you probably are a little reluctant to believe that there is such a freak show happening on our own planet, but there you have it.

Totally off-topic, but I just read a great blog entry in EastingAsia about driving as the best means of seeing Turkey.

 I cannot overstate how much we love road-tripping in Turkey. As far as we're concerned, if you've got the time and can swing it financially, driving yourself is the only way to travel in what could easily be one of the world's most road-trippable countries.  "Why would I want to self-drive in Turkey?" you ask. Well, for us it's mostly about food. We love Turkey's open roads, the people and places they've led us to and the food that they've set before us. 

By the way, and would it kill you to LIKE us on Facebook?

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