Driving in NW Arkansas – The Rules Don’t Apply Here!
I know what you are thinking . . . there are bad drivers everywhere. At some point even you have thought that your hometown is full of bad drivers. It is true that every town will have a few bad drivers but NW Arkansas seems to have more than our fair share. I have driven in other states and witnessed far fewer traffic violations than I have seen on the streets around here. The really sad part is that people from other states come here and completely forget how to drive, making the same mistakes as the natives, then they will go back to their home town and tell people about the crazy drivers in NW Arkansas! The following are some of the most common violations that I have noticed. (Just for the record, men and women are equal when it comes to traffic violations!)
No Passing Here – But Go Right Ahead!
The car in front of you has to stop for oncoming traffic before making a left turn . . . you are expected to wait a minute or two for them traffic to clear up and the car to make the turn? Heck no! That is what the shoulder is for. What if there are a couple of cars between you and the one making the left turn? That’s ok, go ahead and use the shoulder to go around all of them.
You are stuck in a line of traffic behind a slow moving car . . . so what if they are going 42 mph and the speed limit is 45 mph – that is still going to slow! So what do you do? Go ahead and hop into the center turn lane and floor it! You are in hurry and can’t wait for slow moving traffic . . . the center lane is there just for you! Then when you catch up to the slow car at the front of the line of traffic, cut back right in front of the slow car, making them - and everyone behind them - slam on their brakes . . . that way the slow driver knows just how perturbed you are at having to go 2 or 3 mph less than the speed limit.
The yellow lines painted down the center of the road are there to tell us when we can pass another car. However, you think you are a very important person and you can pass whenever you feel like it. Double yellow lines on a bridge that ends in a blind corner? That’s ok . . . go ahead and pass! So what if you run other people off the road as you reach that blind corner . . . you are a VIP and they need to get out of your way.
You are in the far right lane on a 5 line road . . . you decide at the last moment that you need to turn left. Should you go on down the road, turn around, and come back to where you need to turn? Nope! Go ahead and cut across the other lanes to get to where you need to go. If the other drivers are smart, they will get out of your way. It is even funnier if you make a U turn from the far right lane in order to go back to the liquor store that you just passed. All the people you just cut off will understand . . . gotta have your beer.
There is a Speed Limit – But it Doesn’t Apply to You!
The speed limit on I540 ranges from around 60 mph to 75 mph, depending on where you are. Some people go the speed limit that is posted. A few people go closer to 80 . . . 90 . . . even faster if their car/truck/bike can handle it. You will see those people zipping in and out of the other traffic like the cars are standing still. They are not dare devils . . . they are just VIPs in their own minds. You will also notice these people on other roads, such as 71B or Crossover (also known as Hwy 265), as they leave you in a cloud of dust.
Even more noticeable are the elderly, new drivers, and the overly cautious. These are the people who get on I540 and go around 35 mph to 45 mph, causing traffic to back-up and causing the VIPs to have accidents. These are the people who you will see on the country 2-lane highways . . . going 35 mph in a 55 mph zone – at rush hour. You gotta love them as they cause traffic to back up and cause road rage flairs in all the people stuck behind them as they take their sweet time.
No Parking Zone – Except for You, of course.
You pull up in front of a store and the closest spot to park has lines across it and a no parking sign. You are only going to be in the store for a minute or two . . . no one will care if you park right in front of the door. You are just going in to buy something to drink or a pack or smokes . . . it is not your fault that there is a line of people waiting to check out in front of you. So what if the lines on the spot are red and say “fire zone” . . . what are the chances of the building catching on fire while you are waiting in line. If it happens, you will have time to move your car/truck before the fire department can get there.
You pull up in front of a store and stop . . . but you are not parking, you are just there to pick up someone. The person was getting in line to check out so they will be out in just a minute or two . . . and 15 minutes later they finally come out with a shopping cart full of stuff. They had forgotten a couple items that they went to find after you went outside to pull the car closer. Then you have to get out of the car and help load the bags in the car. By the time you get back in the car and ready to move, you have been sitting in the no parking zone for around 30 minutes, causing other drivers to have to go around you and putting the shoppers crossing the parking lot in danger. All because you are waiting on someone who is too lazy to walk across the parking lot with a shopping cart full of stuff.
Multi Tasking While Driving – How many hands do you have?
Everyone has a story to tell about the driver who was talking on their cell phone/eating/putting on makeup/etc who almost ran someone else off the road. On more than one occasion I have saw a driver who was talking on the phone while smoking or eating something. Let me tell you about the one driver that comes to my mind when talking about multi tasking while driving. I had the misfortune to get behind an elderly lady with handicap tags on her car. At first I couldn’t tell what she was doing, only that she kept going over the lines on the road. I was passing it off as just another elderly person having trouble with the heavy traffic. She would speed up to about 10 mph over the speed limit . . . and then slam on her brakes to slow down to around 10 mph under the speed limit . . . just to speed back up after a few minutes. Finally we stop at a red light and I pull into the turn lane next to this lady. I look over and am completely amazed at what I saw. She had a hamburger in one hand, a cigarette AND a drink in the other hand, AND had a cell phone tucked between her shoulder and chin. She was trying to drive with her elbows, which explained the swerving back and forth on the road.
Arkansas is one of the many states that have passed a law making it illegal to talk or text on a cell phone while driving. You are allowed to talk on your phone if you are using a hands-free device – Hello! Bluetooth! – but many drivers are not able to focus on the road and what is happening around them while talking on a hands-free device.
Red Light – Doesn’t mean stop any more.
When stopped at a red light, the left-hand turn lane for the oncoming traffic has the protected turn . . . their light turns red, your light turns green . . . and yet another 10 cars go through the turn lane. Your blood pressure starts boiling as your green light is being taken by these other drivers. If you try going before these other cars stop coming, then you risk having an accident. It might be the other driver’s fault for running the red light, but you still risk getting injured and damage to your car. It does no good to honk your horn . . . the other drivers will just flip you the bird for being rude. Most of the drivers who turn after their light has turned red are simply following the car in front of them . . . they don’t even look at the light.
You are coming up on an intersection when the light turns yellow . . . no one is coming from the other directions. Do you stop? Around here, most people will hit the gas and pass through the intersection under a “pink” light. This is fine as long as there is not a police car sitting somewhere, watching to see who runs the light.
Even more frustrating is when you are sitting in a long line of traffic at a stop light, the light turns green but the person in the front of the line is not paying attention. This delay means that only a couple people make it through the light before it turns yellow again. Just be glad that you are not in the old junker car whose engine is overheating while sitting in traffic.
Getting to the point
The reason for this article is to warn you about the VIP drivers in NW Arkansas . . . all those rules you learn when taking the test to get your driver’s license – they are only suggestions when you are in NW Arkansas. Please use caution when you visit. For those drivers from NW Arkansas . . . please be aware of your surroundings, stop multi tasking, and start following a few more of those driving "suggestions".