Aren’t drivers in your city just the worst? Apparently, people in every city seem to think so – at least if local online communities can be believed.
If you frequent these communities in places like Reddit, you’ve probably seen posts that insist that people in your city just don’t know how to drive properly. And if, like our editorial team, you frequent more than one community, you may have noticed that the same appears to be true for practically every city.
After reading the umpteenth thread on our local subreddit about how our city definitively has the worst drivers, we wanted to see if we could find the same sentiment on local subreddits for other cities. Our researchers took a look at subreddit communities for each of the top 30 cities by population in the U.S. and, as expected, found that somehow every city on the list apparently has the worst drivers in the country.
Yes, People in Every City Think Their City Has the Worst Drivers
In the following section, you’ll find posts from local subreddits for the 10 biggest cities in the country by population about how drivers in that city are indeed the worst in the country (and in some cases, beyond).
New York City, New York
New York City is the largest city in the U.S., a center of culture, and apparently home to the most terrible drivers around. The author of the thread “Drivers flouting basic traffic laws” on r/nyc wondered if city traffic officials “enforce traffic laws in Manhattan.” They also suggest that drivers “would be thrown in jail if they tried to drive like this in California.”
Los Angeles, California
The r/nyc poster who suggested that bad driving would get one thrown in jail in California must have been excluding Los Angeles. Residents in the City of Angels say on Reddit that their drivers are truly the worst. This means that either L.A. is exempt from the apparently strict traffic enforcement in the Golden State or that the LAPD just hasn’t gotten all the bad drivers off of the streets and in jail yet.
“L.A. drivers are terrible,” is a thread that shares an opinion piece from the Los Angeles times. While several Angelinos in the thread were quick to defend drivers in their city, some agreed. This includes one poster who said, “I’ve lived in Florida, NYC, San Francisco, Boston, North Carolina, and here in LA. LA drivers are absolutely the very worst of the bunch.”
Chicago might have the moniker of “The Second City,” but according to The Chicago Tribune and the Reddit poster who shared the article, it might be first when it comes to having the worst drivers. In a thread that goes deeper than a Chicago pizza pan, many posters agreed with the sentiment. While it also featured a few defenders of the city’s drivers, the top-rated comment said, “After learning how to drive in Chicago I have had no problems driving in any other American city I’ve been to.”
Drivers in the other cities that have the worst drivers have nothing on Houston, according to the person who asked the (presumably rhetorical) question of “What the hell is it with Houston drivers?” The poster lists Chicago among the places where they “have done most of [their] driving” but states emphatically that “Houston is by far the worst,” contradicting the likes of The Chicago Tribune and several Reddit users. Maybe Paul Wall was making a public service announcement.
One r/phoenix user isn’t mad about the state of driving in Phoenix, they’re just disappointed. In this thread, the original poster (OP) rattled off a long list of bad driving behaviors that are apparently highly concentrated in Arizona’s capital.
Several Reddit users suggested that people not from Phoenix are the problem. “What did you really expect? A bunch of non-natives live here.” Another pair of users singled out “snowbirds” – people from northern parts of the U.S. that flee to southern cities to escape cold winters. One said, simply, “Snowbirds are the goddamn worst.”
San Antonio is named after Saint Anthony of Padua, patron saint of shipwrecks. While collisions are few and far between on the San Antonio River, they’re to be expected on the roads of Texas’ second-largest city. That is, at least according to r/sanantonio.
A succinctly and enthusiastically-titled thread, “SA Drivers!!” elicited a flood of responses who echoed the exasperated sentiment. The OP called out the “lack of intelligence” of one driver, which was supported by another San Antonio Reddit user who blamed the city’s apparently uniquely-poor driving on “a mix of uneducation and self-entitlement.” According to another, San Antonio doesn’t just have the worst drivers in the U.S., it has the “worst drivers on the planet.”
San Diego, California
The California policy of jailing bad drivers that the r/nyc poster referred to must also exclude the city of San Diego. A thread titled “What the hell is wrong with drivers here?” confirms that bad drivers are still allowed to navigate the streets of the city and its suburbs freely.
The top comment on the thread singles out drivers in Temecula, a suburb north of downtown San Diego. A commenter said that drivers from Temecula are, “the worst on earth,” even though those drivers clearly live in San Antonio, according to users of another local subreddit.
One of the more popular genres of local subreddit driving threads is the public service announcement (PSA). In one thread on r/dallas, a helpful Reddit user posted a nearly-300 word PSA to help educate drivers “who [don’t] seem to understand the concept of an acceleration ramp” on how, exactly, to use one – no doubt getting the message across to the drivers who wronged them.
According to the OP, driving in Dallas is “just one big circus.” Another helpful user suggested that Dallas drivers needed to be taught “how to operate a motor vehicle before we can get into zipper merging,” in a statement that in no way belittles people who grew up in and around the city.
San Jose, California
The r/nyc poster who cited the California state policy of jailing people who drive like New Yorkers must have forgotten about specific exceptions in the policy. Or, perhaps they were confused about the very existence of such a policy, because the city of San Jose is apparently also home to an abundance of bad drivers.
In an open letter to the drivers of San Jose, a member of the r/sandiego community deplored the “aggression on the streets.” A Reddit user who felt the need to mention being from “the South Bay” suggested that San Jose is “home to a particularly full-on angry, aggro breed (mostly dudes) that I’ve not encountered elsewhere.” Another commenter replied, informing them that the reason San Jose has such uniquely aggressive drivers is “because they are complete losers in life.”
Why Every City Thinks It Has the Worst Drivers
It is entirely possible that there exists a roving band of turn signal ignoring, red-light running, improperly zipper merging, too fast and too slow at the same time drivers traveling from city to city with the sole goal of annoying local subreddit users. But according to Dr. Dwight Hennessy, Ph.D., professor and chair of the SUNY Buffalo State Department of Psychology, what is more likely is that driving is stressful everywhere and people often take to social media or online forums to express their frustrations and blame external factors in the process.
“When we are inconvenienced and slowed down to some extent, most people look to the other drivers for blame or responsibility, rather than look to the context, environment, or themselves,” said Hennessey. “And as we become aroused, stressed, or angered, that tendency increases. The other drivers become our source of frustration.”
Hennessey said that this frustration can compound with other human psychological tendencies.
“Add to that something called the fundamental attribution error, which is a bias that leads us to attribute others’ actions to something internal, such as other drivers being unskilled, rude, aggressive, selfish, or threatening,” he said. “So, when the driver slows down in front of us too quickly, when they have to merge and push their way in, when they fail to signal, when they drift over a line – which, honestly we all have to do at some point – we blame them. We attribute it to an internal and stable quality – they’re a sucky driver. When that happens over and over, everyone sucks.”
Relocation Can Add To Driving Stress and Create Something To Blame
Hennessey said that part of the reason we found so many examples of Reddit users insisting that drivers in their city are uniquely terrible has to do with the stress of navigating a new environment.
“I’m sure the novelty or newness of the commuting environment plays a role,” said Hennessey. “Not knowing the environment or the best routes is a challenge because you increase the number of sources of frustration.”
But Hennessey says that the existence of cultural differences in a modern world where people move around more than ever before also likely plays a big role. We found a substantial undercurrent in many of the threads we read of presumed locals blaming outsiders and presumed new residents blaming locals that support that idea.
“I would say that this is especially impactful when you consider that the ‘unwritten’ rules of the road vary from place to place,” he said. “We really don’t talk enough about how important and impactful unwritten rules are. Driving is much more than just transportation from point A to point B – it’s a social environment with very unique social transactions. But we still learn and ‘share’ the local driving customs just like any other customs. We learn it from others and through experience.”
A Shift of Perspective Could Diminish Road Rage
Taking complaints to local forums and social media can be cathartic, but it isn’t likely to help alleviate traffic problems or reduce the stress of driving. To have any chance at doing that, Hennessey says drivers should work towards changing how they view traffic and driving.
“The intent of traffic psychology has long been to educate people about the process in the hopes that we can collectively change how we view driving,” he said. “Again, it’s not just about transportation. In the bigger picture, there are efforts to create a culture where people start to view traffic events and drivers more realistically.”
Hennessey suggests that, while there is very little drivers can do about other cars and people on the road, a change in perspective can make the experience less frustrating.
“Everyone makes mistakes while driving, everyone does something stupid from time to time,” he said. “So extending others some courtesy and realizing that they probably didn’t slow down just to tick you off, or to also think about the magnitude of positive events while driving, and to understand that the number of conflict points is really quite low compared to all the times other drivers have not been a threat or challenge, can hopefully change the overall outlook on driving.”
Another reason Hennessey suggests a change in attitude is that perception can influence reality, and viewing one’s city or town as being full of bad drivers can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
“Sometimes coming into a commute with the expectation that everyone else is a jackwad puts us at risk of easily finding jackwads,” he said.