How Do Driving in the North vs. the South Compare?
There are quite a few differences when you compare the northern and southern areas of the country. We often hear about the differences in accent, culture and food, but did you know there can also be some pretty significant differences in driving habits as well?
If you’re moving to the South from the North or vice versa, you might wonder how different the rules of the road are. Whether you’re just learning to drive in general or you’re an experienced driver, it can be a bit of a culture shock like many other things in the North compared to the South. Even the official rules of driving as outlined by the DMV can be different in the South.
The following are some general things to keep in mind when it comes to driving in the South.
Snow Is a Big Problem in the South
If there’s one universal truth about the difference between driving in the North and the South, it’s that Southerners tend to be very ill-equipped to drive in winter weather.
When it’s going to snow, even a tiny bit, you’ll see cities and towns across the South preparing for the apocalypse. People will either stay off the roads altogether or, if they do venture out in even a half-inch of snow, you’re likely to see accidents and long stretches of traffic and even some abandoned vehicles.
It’s not a stereotype in the South—it’s the reality. There are real reasons for this.
First, most people in the South don’t have snow tires that are appropriate for winter conditions. Most tire shops don’t even offer them because they don’t do well in dry conditions.
If you have a tread of less than 4/32 of an inch, it’s not going to fare well in snow.
In the North, nearly everyone uses winter tires and they’re specifically designed for snow and ice. There’s also more ice than snow in the South during a lot of winter storms, and even people in the North struggle with driving on ice. It’s something that pretty much no one can drive on.
Where are the Worst Drivers?
You might think about terrible drivers being in the North where there may be more traffic and less patience sometimes, but statistics show that’s not necessarily the case.
Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration created a ranking of the best and worst states in terms of drivers. They look at roadway fatality rates related to failure to obey traffic laws, drunk driving, speeding and careless driving.
Some of the top-ranking states were in the North, including New Jersey, Vermont and Massachusetts.
Some of the worst-ranking states were in the South, including North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas and Louisiana.
Old School Manners
There are rumors of some old school rules and gentile manners that still permeate driving in the South, but this is purely anecdotal. For example, some people say that in the South at a four-way stop, you let ladies go first, although you might not actually see this in action.
Another anecdotal story from the South? Drivers in North Carolina don’t like to use their turn signals, but again, who really knows if this is the case? In the South, what you will likely see are people pulling over for a funeral procession.
It’s intended as a way to show respect, so you pull over and stop until the procession goes past. In Kentucky, pulling over for a funeral procession is an official law, and if you turn on your headlights or try to act as if you’re part of the procession so you can keep moving, you can get be ticketed.
Finally, some general things make driving in the South different from the North. First, while there are certain areas such as Charlotte and Atlanta where traffic is a nightmare, in general, there is just more space to drive, and you’re less likely to encounter the traffic you might see in New York or New Jersey.
People don’t necessarily drive any slower in the South, and in fact, because of the more open roadways and those safety statistics above, it might be the opposite. In the South there tend to be fewer pedestrians and cyclists as well, so if you’re from the South and you’re going to be driving in the North, that can be something to be cautious and aware of.
There are so many scenic and beautiful drives to be had in the South. Just remember to stay away from snow and pull over for a funeral.
Photo by HannaPritchett from Flickr Creative Commons.