Things you learn when driving in Austin

You see that Porsche? That’s my car. Her and I are partners in crime around Austin. Braving the heat, bad roads, and even worse drivers. Austin is a haven of good food, great sights, and great music. And for the most part, very good people. That is, until they step behind the controls of a Motor Vehicle. Moving from The Woodlands, to Austin, has taught me many things about Texans and their driving habits.
Let me explain.
The first thing you will notice about driving in Austin will either be the poor quality of the city streets, or the amount of traffic they contain. The second thing you will notice will be the quality of the drivers. Texan drivers can be be put into three categories. Fast and Aggressive, Slow and Stupid, or Average and Kind.
Fast and Aggressive drivers you will find in cities like Houston, Dallas, and the bigger suburbs, like The Woodlands. The speeds are high, the moves are daring, but generally everyone gets there okay and on time. The Average and Kind drivers? Those are gonna be the kind, gentle folk who live in farming communities, or older quiet towns, like Fredericksburg. Honest folk who just want to get to point B from point A, and by golly, they are going to enjoy the scenery of this great nation while they do it. They are by far my favorite drivers to deal with, because if you are category one, they will get right the fuck out of your way, or wave you by if they are going under the limit, or lost. Amazing people, angels driving mid range American cars from the early 2000’s.
“But Patrick, you aren’t going to say your own city is slow and stupid, are you?” Yes I am. And while I might have sugar coated the rest of Texas a little bit, it is here that I show the dark side of drivers in the Friendship state. I will start this off with a caveat though; Blake Z. Rong, who recently moved here called Austin drivers “Polite” and told me they “Never Honked” which either means that he just lives on a better side of town than I do, or means LA is the single worst place on Earth to drive a motor vehicle. That, and he kindly reminded me that he was from Massachusetts, the state that weaponized bad driving.
But, back to Austin. Austin drivers, and drivers in San Antonio, who are guilty by association, are Slow, and stupid. What do I mean by that? Constantly under the speed limit, no merging discipline, often forgetting to use their turn signals, or in some cases forgetting to turn their lights on at night. Combine all that with idiots constantly driving distracted, and incidents of road rage, and I have to say Austin is one of the worst places to drive in the US. Distracted driving is an art form around here, and just last night I saw someone enter the brave new world of looking at both their Apple watch, and their iPhone. At the same fucking time.
Now where does my Porsche fall into all this? Well, first off, It gets both a lot of positive attention, which I enjoy, and it’s easy to park, which is always nice, but it does have the weird superpower, of no one seeing it. The amount of times I have used my horn to let someone in a big SUV that they are about to crush me to death, has to number in the dozens. That, and let me just say, the AC being dead has left me using the windows, which thanks to Austin’s constant catchup construction has left me getting sand and rocks in my eyes and face. That, and the amount of idiots that think it’s funny to roll coal on someone has skyrocketed in the past couple months.
Austin is in the middle of some painful growth right now, and with all the influx of drivers from other states, combined with the lack of any useful public transit is killing any enthusiasm I usually have for running errands. I know more and more people here in Austin that are afraid to drive their nice cars, or to drive at all in the city. I for one, will never ride a two wheeled anything within the city after getting run off the road by a distracted driver.
While the city is dragging it’s feet, what can you and I do to make Texas, and it’s Capitol a better place to drive? Put down your phone, use your blinkers, and just make sure you know what you are doing. That and, for gods sake, don’t drink and drive.

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  1. Manxman Avatar

    I went to UT and worked and lived in Austin for 35 years and I left for the Ozark Mountains for many reasons, one of which was Austin traffic. I love the way the inner-city has been revitalized with an influx of young people with money and South Austin has changed from hippie/redneck chic to upper-moblie moneyed hippster chic. But the traffic sucks. I will say this, at least Austin drivers stay on their side of the road and know how to merge on freeways where as in the Ozarks the yellow line is a sugested separation point for lanes and merging means going as slow as possible (I don’t think locals know what merge means). The thing that bugs me about Austin is that you can find yourself on one of the new tollroads without knowing it. The best way to get around inner-city Austin is by bicycle, moped or small motorcycle. I just gave my son who lives in Austin one of my vintage Honda Scramblers and he loves the way it works for him in city traffic. If I were younger, though, I would love to still live in Austin – great food, music and events. And get your ac fixed – women in Texas love their ac.

  2. Bryce Womeldurf Avatar

    I must have driven in a different part of town as I really liked driving in Austin on a trip earlier this year for my sister’s wedding. I’ve always loved the wide roads, high speed limits, and the faster driving in Houston, where i was born. The only thing I’d say against Texas is that it’s just so darn big that it just wears me out to drive there from one city to another. My wife and I went from Austin to College Station to Houston all in one day and I was beat by the end of it. But Florida, where I live, is often the slow side of the coin. There are days when I drive home the whole way at ten under the limit, because nobody will go any faster and the last minute lane changes overlap on top of each other, and here the speed limits are about 20% lower which makes it even worse. Having windows down has got to be rough for you with how much construction is going on there. Texas in general really seems to be booming. I’d consider moving back if there were more full time photography opportunities.

    1. Cool_Cadillac_Cat Avatar

      But…you had good beer in Austin, right?

      1. Bryce Womeldurf Avatar

        Darn right I did! 🙂

  3. Sjalabais Avatar

    I have never driven in Austin, but we have “Stupid and Slow” as a general rule in the summer season. Lots of tourists that are mortified by our narrow, winding roads and long tunnels. Worse, people keep filming and taking photos while driving. RVs driven by people who I suppose are used to Smarts and baby Peugeots are not just rolling at 20% under the speed limit, but you might encounter them or the 1km of angry cars behind them doing 40 where winter speed is 80-90km/h. It’s frustrating. The good old tradition of letting faster traffic pass seems to be unknown to Central Europeans, too.

  4. j_tso Avatar

    To be fair, most people in Austin aren’t from Austin but rather from California and the Northeast. Blame the higher traffic and housing prices on them.

  5. mrh1965 Avatar

    Just wondering if you see any difference in the number of exotics on the road in Austin vs. The Woodlands. Today, for example, my morning walk took me past one of the many golf courses here where there happened to be two McLaren’s parked side-by-side. One was orange, a 650S, I think, which I’ve seen several times before. The other was a white 12C, which I have not. And yes, I had to do some quick research to find those model names, I don’t walk around with that in my head.
    And really, too many Lambo’s, Ferrari’s, Aston’s, etc to mention. I was alongside a Countach on Woodlands Parkway recently, kind of faded red with gold wheels. That was so much cooler than spying another damn Gallardo.

  6. Maymar Avatar

    I spent a weekend in Austin several years back, and found it perfectly serviceable to drive in. I’m not sure if this means weekdays are considerably worse, or just that Toronto is a nexus of awful drivers (mostly the slow and stupid variety).

  7. CraigSu Avatar

    I blame Michael Dell.

  8. Rover 1 Avatar
    Rover 1

    At least you have a car named after the city.

  9. James Williams Avatar
    James Williams

    As a current San Antonio resident and Houston native, this has to be the most accurate description of both Austin/San Antonio and Houston drivers. Everyone in Houston drives like an asshole and is insanely fast, but everyone does it so it works. The highway speed limits in the metro area are 65 but everyone goes 80 and about 20% of the drivers go 90+ when they can. In contrast, SA drivers are the MOST incompetent drivers I’ve ever seen. The best way to describe the driver here is as follows; the get in their car heading to point A, half way to A they decide they want to go to B instead. While driving to B they get a call from the spouse telling them they need to go pick up jimmy from C. When they get to C, jimmy has to go to D to get supply for homework. But half way to D jimmy says he doesn’t need it until next week, so they head back home. Half way home they realize they haven’t eaten yet so they head to E after food they remember what the needed to do in the first place and rush to A. All while doing 10-15 under the limit and talking on the phone or looking in the mirror.

  10. wunno sev Avatar
    wunno sev

    i live out in Waco, and i commute daily through the farming communities to get to work every day.
    maybe it’s different closer to Austin, but the middle-of-nowhere drivers here are definitely of the slow-and-stupid variety. going 5 under – or worse, matching speeds with the guy in the right lane – while in the left lane. slowing down to 15 under and signaling a turn for 30 seconds before actually making the turn. there are signs every quarter-mile or so that say LEFT LANE FOR PASSING ONLY. they have no apparent effect.
    of course, driving through said farming communities at anything as much as two mph over will get you pulled over, and anything more than five will get you a $180 ticket, as i’ve experienced. so maybe i can understand it.
    do you ever go out to the Austin C&C? i try to go each month, if for no other reason than to spend a little time in a big city.

  11. ninjabortion Avatar

    I’m in Austin and can agree with you for the most part. I am doing my best to convert everyone to fast drivers. I used to just pass people on the right when people hogged the fast lane going the speed of traffic, these days i give em a few flashes and honks before ultimately still usually having to pass on the right. My hope is that if i harass enough people word will get out that fast lane batman while annoy you, or maybe other people will start doing what i do as well. Maybe they will get home and say “Honey this guy was honking and flashing his lights at me” and maybe with any luck whoever they tell will kindly let them know about the sanctity of the left lane. If you ever want to go on a cruise let me know. I’ve got an 84 supra that would look killer next to yours on the back roads. I’m only an asshole when it comes to the fast lane mostly, i promise. I’ve also got a set of ac gauges if you want to see about getting yours working…

  12. BuickButt Avatar

    The gleaming point to me was the statement about lack of public transportation. Which I would say extends to infrastructure in general. We’ve got busses, and that two car train thing, but the highways haven’t caught up either.
    I’m from Austin and live out west a little ways and I’d say that 290 creates a lot of problems. They lowered the speed limit a couple years ago after a cop tragically hydroplaned and got killed, from 65 to 60. But it’s the folks who hang out in the left lane, either anticipating a left turn, or they may not know any better. Then traffic finally clears up, and suddenly it’s a competition to get to 80.
    because of this, and I’m trying to tread lightly here, I pass people on the right all the time. The folks in the left lane are either so intent on remaining there, or not paying attention enough for this to ever be a problem, so I finally publicly admit that I have no idea what’s unsafe about passing on the right, and I’m open to guidance or criticism.