The New Jersey Driving Debacle

I moved from New York to New Jersey recently. Besides renting a U-HAUL to move my stuff, saving up for a security deposit, and having to notify everybody and their uncle about my new address, there were other things that needed to be done to make my move complete. Perhaps the most frustrating of all of them was getting my driver’s license in the state, and having to drive in the state on a daily basis. As a new state-licensed driver in New Jersey, I have faced much frustration dealing with New Jersey drivers, the DMV, and annoying gas station policies. Although one is certainly eligible to drive in New Jersey with a valid driver’s license from another state, you don’t get a good feel for how bad the driving situation is in New Jersey until you’re licensed here.

The infamy of the New Jersey driver is legendary. Even as a child, I’d hear my dad mutter about that “cocksucker from New Jersey” who either cut him off, slowed down in front of him, or made any of the myriad traffic mistakes that one could make. With the exception of my sister, every member of my family was initially licensed to drive in New York. Not someone to drive into Jersey very often, I never really noticed that Jersey drivers were all that bad, with the exception of having to be behind one of them as they attempt to navigate the Adirondack mountains. All of that changed when I moved to New Jersey. Now, I can see more every day why Jersey people have earned a reputation as one of the states that produce the country’s worst drivers. I had lived in South Florida for 3 years, where you can drive up and down I-95 in South Florida and on any given afternoon, and play car bingo to all of the accidents you’ll see. Jersey drivers, however, still hold the shittiness title for driving because the main reason that Floridians are such shitty drivers is that Florida is a transient state. People from different states (and countries) move in and out of there all the time. Thus, people of different ages, from different states, with different driving styles, which they learned in different ways, are sharing the same road. New Jersey doesn’t have this problem because it is not quite as transient. Thus most of the people who drive in Jersey, learned in Jersey, or somewhere in the tri-state area.

Jersey drivers are reputed to be the worst drivers in this part of the country, and that reputation seems very well deserved. They simply don’t seem to want to drive carefully. You’d think they like to get into accidents. When I registered my car in New Jersey, I, in effect, tagged myself as being a crappy driver. You can call a New Jersey plate a license to drive like an asshole, because that’s what people do here. On two consecutive days, I went home from work using interstate 1 & 9. On each day, there was a bad accident on this road. It is a road which people know to be somewhat treacherous under good driving conditions; I can’t comprehend why people don’t take it easy on this road. It has to do with the backward thought process of the typical Jersey driver: If there’s a chance I’ll get there in time, I’ll risk fucking my car up in an accident. They’ll even risk killing you or killing themselves just to get that one car length ahead. Recently, I was on route 280 heading east at approximately 11:40pm. At exit 13, I had to get into one of the two right lanes in order to stay on 280 because the three left lanes head to First St. in downtown Newark. I was in the left of the two rightmost lanes to remain on 280, and a truck driver apparently needed to be in one of these lanes also. He decided to move his truck into my lane without looking in his side view mirror to see that I was there. Rather than slow down so I could get into my right hand lane, the driver of the car in the lane to the right of me decided he NEEDED to be ahead of me, so he shot forward. If that truck driver hadn’t finally realized that I was in that lane, (perhaps keeping my horn depressed alerted him to the fact) I’d probably be too DEAD to write this article. With drivers like this, its no wonder New Jersey automobile insurance rates are the worst.

Aside from the close calls I’ve had with drivers here, something happened to me in Jersey twice in the same weekend that has never happened to me anywhere before. I got “brighted” in a lane other than the left lane. For those who are unaware of what “brighting” is, it is the practice of telling the car ahead of you that you need to pass by flashing your brights quickly. However, it is not supposed to be done in any other lane but the left-most lane. The left lane is the passing lane, and when you have someone in the left lane going the speed limit or slower, people want to pass. It is a violation to pass on the right, so rather than do that, some drivers will “bright” you to get you to move out of the lane, and then pass you. However, most people in New Jersey opt to pass (illegally) on the right instead of brighting you. It is, after all, somewhat inconsiderate to bright someone, not that Jersey drivers would know from consideration. However, if you are the brighting type, the reason you’re not supposed to bright someone in a lane other than the leftmost lane is because you have the left lane as a passing lane. If you wanna pass someone, get your FUCKING ASS into the passing lane and PASS them! The first time I was brighted, I was in the right lane heading west on Route 80 doing the speed limit (which was 65) and some fucker in a van was crawling up my ass. You’re not supposed to tailgate no matter what lane you’re in, but ESPECIALLY not in the right lane. That’s the SLOW lane! I can go 40MPH if I want to and there are 3 other lanes for you speed demons, so nobody should be up my ass. In response to this, I just let off the gas a little to get the prick to change lanes. I brought my speed down to 60, and the fucker BRIGHTED me!! What fuckin nerve! Lazy Jersey drivin’ cocksucker! (I’m becoming my father!) The second time it had happened, I was headed east on Route 80 in the middle lane during a freezing rain/snow fall, doing approximately 60 MPH. A speed limit is designated under the best possible road conditions. Under THESE conditions, 65 was no longer a safe speed to drive. Some douche bag in a truck didn’t like that, so he tried to bright me out of the middle lane. Since trucks are not allowed in the left lane, he would have to stay behind me, or pass me on the right. The latter was not an option for him since there was a car in the right lane doing a similar speed. You know what I say to that? Too fucking bad! Truck drivers have to deal with the fact that they do not have a true passing lane just like they have to deal with not being allowed on parkways. It’s one of the few liabilities that make up for the fact that they are the biggest vehicles on the road and are safer in collisions with other vehicles.

Before I could register my car in New Jersey, thereby tagging myself a road hazard, I had to turn in my out-of-state license for a New Jersey license. When I went to do so, they actually made me take a written permit test! What the fuck is that all about? I already passed the damn thing at the age of 16 when I got my frickin’ permit in New York. With my full, non-Jersey driver’s license, I could live just outside of Jersey and drive all over the fucking state. I have a co-worker who drives to Jersey City from Pennsylvania. He drives all the way across the state without ever having to pick up the New Jersey driver’s manual. Since we both got our licenses in New York State, why does he have to be any less familiar with New Jersey traffic laws than I? In theory, he shouldn’t, but knowing that I had no choice, I took the written test. I FAILED it the first time! I refused to read the book, got 8 questions wrong, 3 of which were stupid answers (on my part) and 5 of which were stupid questions (on their part.) I have NEVER failed any motor vehicle test in New York!(permit, road, or motorcycle) The New York test was clearly worded and fair. The New Jersey test was full of questions like “If you’re turning from a two-way road onto a four-lane highway, what’s the best way to do it?” You had to read the book to know how to answer this. Otherwise, you couldn’t picture, in your head, exactly what the roads would look like. Does a four-lane highway have four lanes in each direction? What specifically do they mean by “highway,” and why am I turning left onto it when I should be using an on-ramp? Anyone with 10+ years of (legal) driving experience knows how to make turns, although they may not know how to express what they’re doing on paper. Nevertheless, I went back to take the test again the following week, and it was the same 30 fucking questions in a different order! A fucking monkey could pass it the second time around! Since I already possessed a valid driver license, and they practically gave me the answers to the test after I failed it the first time, there was no need to re-test. All they did was waste their time and mine.

One law that sometimes makes driving in New Jersey frustrating is that you don’t get to pump your own gas. It is actually ILLEGAL to do so. Somebody has to pump it FOR you. Many people consider this a good thing, and I will admit it is nice to be able to get your gas pumped for you at no extra cost. However, I like to pump my own gas. I would like to have the OPTION of filling my own fucking gas tank. The problem exists because SOMEBODY has to pump the gas. DO YOU THINK IT’S GOING TO BE SOMEONE WITH HALF A BRAIN?? No! It’s often some illiterate douche bag, or sometimes it is a foreigner who is not unintelligent, but you can’t understand each other. You might question why you’d NEED half a brain to pump gas. The act of pumping the gas itself requires very little cognitive function, but there are situations where you might not want to deal with someone who is completely brain dead. For example, I had to return my U-HAUL truck with the exact amount of gas contained in the tank when I picked it up. When the first 10 dollars worth of gas that I put in the tank wasn’t enough to accomplish this, I asked the attendant to put in another 5 dollars worth. The guy gave me 6. He actually put in more than what I had asked for. In my own car, that would be OK, because I would use the gas anyway. But in the U-HAUL truck? I’m not going to use that extra dollar’s worth of gas! The fucking guy just wasted my money! Therefore, in Jersey I am stuck having my tank filled by some moron, and I never get my tank topped off the way I like it. Furthermore, I usually have to sit there for an extra five minutes because they have one fucking guy manning six or eight pumps. What kind of convenience is that? Who made up this fucking law? I can understand the state making it unlawful to charge extra to have it pumped for you (and mandating that each station must have a full service island), but to make it unlawful for you to fill your own tank? It’s simply ridiculous. Not even Florida could conceive of a law so inane. And when it comes to inane laws, Florida takes the cake.

Everything about being a driver in New Jersey seems so messed up, but perhaps the problem is not with New Jersey drivers themselves. After all, I believe that people are essentially the same everywhere. In the Jersey driver’s defense, I’ll say that I’ve noticed that some traffic infractions in New Jersey have been committed by people with New York license plates. But I also notice that people don’t drive all that poorly in New York. They are skilled and swift drivers, I might add. Perhaps they are a bit aggressive, but for the most part, they don’t drive dangerously. I think the New Jersey state border is to blame. Perhaps there is some kind of force field that makes you drive like crap in New Jersey. If you’ve been under the force field for too long, it deteriorates the part of your brain responsible for driving aptitude, and makes you forget how to drive carefully. Those who were born, raised, and have lived here all their lives are fucked from the get-go. Someone like me will have to LEARN how to drive like crap. I figure it will take another couple of months for this to happen. Once it does, LOOK OUT NEW JERSEY!! I just hope for the sake of everyone else on the road that the process is reversible.

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