With snowbird season under way and spring training quickly approaching, we rolled out our list of the 10 worst things about snowbirds, a list that was easily topped by their driving skills.
The folks who live here aren't perfect drivers either — far from it, in fact. However, snowbird season adds a new dimension to poor driving around the Valley, so much so that we've compiled a list of the 10 worst snowbird driving habits:
10. Turning right to go left
It's an SUV, not an 18-wheeler. There is absolutely no reason to turn the wheel left to make a right turn, and there's no reason to turn the wheel right to make a left turn, unless we're talking about a drifting competition. There are few things scarier than cruising down a surface street at 50 mph when the person in the right lane, with their right turn signal on, is suddenly in your lane while they start an extremely exaggerated right turn.
9. Attempting suicide in the "suicide lane"
People who have any confusion at all about the "suicide lane," or reversible lane, should not use it. This is where the center lane is reserved for one direction of traffic in the morning, another direction in the evening, and is a two-way turn lane at all other times. Phoenix has two of these — portions of both Seventh Avenue and Seventh Street. It's all too common to see oblivious people sitting in the lane waiting to make a turn, while traffic is going full speed from behind them, or coming head-on.
8. Coming to a complete stop to change lanes on the highway
So, there's a long, slow line in the right-hand lane, where people are trying to exit, usually onto a ramp onto another highway. Some people just can't figure out how to get into that line unless someone puts it out on a silver platter for them. While traffic from the Loop 101 is going 65 mph or more in all four lanes, but it's going really slow in the exit lanes for the U.S. 60, some people — who have out-of-state license plates, more often than not — come to a complete stop on the 101, until someone waves and smiles, and tells them to come on in.
7. Trying to merge onto the highway at 45 mph
Almost all modern vehicles can accelerate to 65 mph in a quarter-mile without breathing too heavily. If an AMC Pacer can do it, any snowbird's car can do it. Yet, while everyone's cruising at 65 mph or more, one person decides that everyone needs to slow down by 20 mph, because they didn't feel like bringing their vehicle up to highway speed before merging onto it.
6. Obliviousness to all the mirrors on the vehicle
There's a mirror on each side of the car, and there's one right in front of your face. You'll see a lot of snowbirds even have the extra, convex "fish-eye" mirror on the sides to see in their blind spots. Yet, as you may have noticed, those mirrors don't work when the driver doesn't look at them. Heaven forbid they look over their shoulder, either.
"Here I come!" — Snowbird
5. Falling asleep at traffic signals
So, we're all stuck at a red light. It's not a death sentence. It's going to change in a minute. Instead, snowbirds are pulling out John Grisham novels, or looking around for something they dropped 20 miles ago, and act like they're completely surprised that a traffic light would change at some point, and five different cars are honking at them.
4. Making a barrier with fellow slow drivers
If people want to drive below the speed limit, that's fine — really. However, do you think anyone's ever noticed when there's no traffic in front of them, then looked in the rear-view mirror (of course not) and noticed that there's a mile's worth of cars behind them, because they're going 5 mph under the speed limit, next to someone who's going 5 mph under the speed limit, next to someone who's going 5.5 mph under the speed limit? (License plates reading New York, British Columbia, and Minnesota, respectively.) If you want to make friends, don't be ignorant or inconsiderate.
3. Guessing wrong on one-way streets
How is it even possible to turn the wrong way onto a one-way street? How does it happen all the time? The one way, do not enter, and no turn signs seem to make it clear enough, but other cars parked on the side of the street or on the street should give it away. Just about everyone has slowed down to think that they can turn onto a particular street, before noticing the dead giveaways. Actually turning down a one-way street, though, is something else.
2. Driving slow/scared to death in the HOV lane
This might be news to some people, but having a passenger in the car doesn't force people to drive in the HOV lane. This is especially problematic when there's heavy traffic, and the only thing holding up the HOV lane is a snowbird who's absolutely scared to death. With a dozen cars behind them, and nothing in front of them but open road, they'll drive at 50 mph. Again, there's nothing in front of them, but they continue to punch the brakes due to a fear of what's going on in other lanes. If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.
1. Clogging the passing lane
Why is it that snowbirds like to cruise in the passing lane, at or below the speed limit? Arizona has a "keep right" law, as do almost all of the states and Canadian provinces you'll see on license plates here in the desert during the winter months. This headline from a Canadian newspaper article earlier this year might not surprise you: "Driving in the passing lane: The Canadian disease." You've undoubtedly seen these people honked at, get high-beams flashed at them, cut off, and blown past with middle fingers directed right at them, but none of it seems to register with the passing-lane clogger, who treats the highway as if they own it.
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This article originally appeared in November 2013.