Our quest for safety in this modern world is one shared by democrats and republicans alike. The only difference between the two is they differ on exactly what we should be afraid of. Neither really fear cars even though cars kill in excess of 30,000 humans a year as we unwittingly enter this “Mad Max Fury Road” field of play unprepared and unarmed. Many of those deaths come in and around metro areas as the risks must surely increase with the number of automobiles. Having lived and worked in the Detroit area of Michigan for about 25 years I have darted and dodged through the maze of demolition derby contestants many times with varying levels of success. If you plan to drive and live in the Detroit area there are things you need to know so please, take a seat grasshopper.
Please keep in mind, once you have chosen to enter the roadway driving your precious little vehicle you have actually entered a contest. You may think you are simply driving to work to earn money to buy a lifestyle. You are wrong. You are now at risk. You have entered the equivalent of a “Death Race 2000,” dystopian future, fight to the death, sans only an apocalypse.
70 MPH may be the posted speed limit on highways but drive this slow at your own peril. 75 to 83 MPH is much more aligned to reality. If you choose to travel below 75 then travel in the far right lane as this is the lane where other drivers are less likely to hate you or harm you.. If you keep your speed below 83 MPH you are unlikely to get a ticket, or penalty flag. If you do it will be for only 5 MPH over the speed limit (more on tickets later.) Be aware though this 75 MPH and above speed is as mythical as unicorns and fairy princesses during rush hour (More on rush hour later). No such speed shall be attained.
Blinker use on the highways is a sign of weakness and to be avoided. Laugh if you will but, if, when travelling on a highway you see an open spot in the lane to your right and, being a courteous human you put on your blinker indicating your intent to enter said lane, the cars in that lane will risk life, limb, and engine to cut you off before you can enter. You are much better served by just hopping in the lane before they can prepare. They smell courtesy on you. It is fear to a tiger and they will destroy you for it.
Blinker use is also an issue in town, off of the highway. Essentially, there are two types of blinker user in town. The city blinker user and the country blinker user. The two are distinctly different and easy to spot.
The city blinker user understands city driving and is aware that there are 17 possible turns that he could be indicating to you, the blinker interpreter. He knows this and will use his blinker at the very last moment so you know precisely which turn he wishes to make. While this seems bad as you have only a moment to interpret the blinker it is actually more efficient.
The country blinker user however, is used to driving out of the city. In the country there is one turn every 34 miles or so and so you can put your blinker on right after the corner store Jeb inherited from his parents, and keep it on for 3 miles until you turn into the driveway at Aunt Paula’s. In downtown Detroit this becomes a problem. They place the blinker on and you are left to guess as to which of the myriad places available, that they actually intend to turn into. This is especially annoying if you are trying to turn out onto the road and see them coming as you cannot trust them in any way. Trust is a very dangerous, often deadly, trait when driving anyway, so never use it.
Rush hour is its own animal. In the beginning, depending on your personality type of course, you might see lanes to the right and left that are moving when you are not. You will be tempted to join them. You will think this will move you along faster to your destination as you take advantage of the optimal lane principle. This principle is a fallacy. The optimal lane is the one you are in. The only destination you will reach faster by lane hopping is your grave as your blood pressure will soar as you get angered trying to find gaps in lanes to jump in and out of. My advice is to buy a Sirius Satellite Radio subscription, put on your favorite music or comedy, pick a lane, and get comfortable. You will arrive at about the same time either way and your blood pressure and longevity will be optimal.
Entering the highway system in southeast Michigan can be a perilous endeavor. It is akin to reentering a NASCAR race from pit row when there is no yellow flag in effect, but far more dangerous. In NASCAR they did something that you did not. Before the race started they chose to only let professional race car drivers on the track. I assure you, the drivers around you as you enter the highway are in no way professional anything. To enter you will want to be at 70 MPH at the least. If you thought buying that Prius sounded like a good idea for the planet now will be the time you will understand that it was not a good idea for you. Also, you will soon discover, highway on ramps are not standardized. They vary in length and level of difficulty as does Olympic diving. What might seem simple off the springboard will be deadly off the 30 meter platform so beware.
Getting off the highway in downtown Detroit has its own perils. Among them is getting lost. Signs and things that might assist you to get back on the highway when you desire are suspiciously absent in Detroit. You will have entered an “Escape From NY” landscape sans the dubious, but lovable, good guy Snake Pliskin. This is in no way an attempt to paint Detroit as different from any other metro as I cannot say but, if you hear bottles clinking, and someone saying over and over “Warriors, come out to play…” you should leave the area. In fact, forget that, if you are off the highway in downtown Detroit, just get out of there. Do not wait for clinking bottles as it is the bottle you do not hear clinking that gets you, or something like that.
Tickets I have saved for last. Tickets are the penalty flags of this particular contest. They are not thrown for death or destruction but they will come your way most likely as many, if not all, of the police departments in Michigan suffer from budget cuts. They must fill their coffers at your expense. They often will not pull you over for simply speeding, you must be doing a significant amount over to attract attention but, once attracted, rules apply. If you are not from MI, know you need your drivers license on your person. I am originally from Upstate NY and did not know this. It will be an issue. Also, keep in mind, the police are merely reluctant referees in this death race. They know their role is both thankless and unwanted.
If you are injured or knocked from the race you will need a way to communicate with the world. Carry something, be it a cell phone or wood, matches and a blanket for smoke signals. Walking out of the highway system is more difficult than getting down from Everest in a blizzard. You will need assistance to live.
If you have survived the mornings adventure and arrived safely at work, then relax, for now. Know that the race begins again at lunch hour, and once more at the closing bell. Strap on your gear, charge your communicator, turn on your Sirius radio, and reenter the fray. Glory of survival or the ignominy of defeat are yours to be had. In my experience there was a herd of red Camaro hating blonde teenage women I called my nemesis. Three times I was attacked and disabled by various members of this particular clan of killers. I could not decide if they were my actual enemies or, if like snakes, blonde teens could not see the color red. I knew it didn’t matter. I survived in spite of their best efforts. I won no prizes as there are none to win. The only measure of success is that you live to do it again.