Friday, September 10, 2010

Red, Yellow, and Green

One of the biggest adjustments we have made since the move has to do with how we get around. Driving is a totally different experience here than in TX--much more interactive, and much less rule-bound.

Now, I'm pretty sure that many of the laws are the same--at least in the books. A simple example:

We all know that Green means Go, Yellow means Proceed with Caution, and Red means Stop.

If you ask someone in Texas what they do when they approach these lights, they'll probably tell you that, yes, Green means go, and Red means stop . . . but Yellow means "speed up so you make it through the light."

I think if you posed the same question here in Pittsburgh, your answer would be yet different. Here, Green means go, Yellow means go, and Red means look before you go. (As far as I can surmise, it's considered fair game to go on a red light, as long as you actually saw the light change to red. I think almost every single time I go through a yellow light that changed red while I was in the intersection, thinking, "I probably should have stopped," the car behind me also went right through it.)

Drivers also interact much more here. In Texas, if someone has started to make a turn they couldn't quite execute, leaving them sticking out in an awkward position, other drivers will curse this person, saying, "It's your own fault for trying to make that turn, skalliwag!" Here, someone will probably let you correct yourself, with a wave of their hand or a flash of their lights. The same goes for if you're trying to change lanes, parallel park, or do some other maneuver that requires you to hope for the good will of your fellow drivers.

Other things to watch out for include cars parked in the right lane, many right- and left- turn only lanes, cyclists, pedestrians, emergency vehicles (today, on my way to the library, I saw a caravan of 4 cop cars and an ambulance!), narrow streets, street-sweeping signs (restricting parking at certain hours of the week), etc.

We're adjusting, though, and learning how to make a left turn just when the light turns red or green in the absence of a left-turn arrow. (I have, on more than one occasion, been honked at for not making a left turn INTO ONCOMING TRAFFIC when the light is green. I don't yet have that level of trust in my fellow drivers, but perhaps it comes with time.) We wonder how this will translate in our next visit to Texas. We're starting to drive like Yanks!


  1. Beware of on-ramps. The yield sign sometimes means stop and wait, instead of yield...

  2. Isn't it interesting how driving varies from place to place. Personally, I thought highway driving in Texas were some of the scariest moments of my life--they do not believe in letting other cars merge, as far as I could tell. And on my mission in Illinois, when the light turned green, you did not go--you waited to make sure nobody was running through the red lights. And then there's Utah driving, which involves cutting people off left and right so you can get one car ahead. Good luck with the adjustment!

  3. I ask myself all the time, "What does Pittsburgh have against left-turn signals??"