Monday, April 18, 2011

The average American driver and G-Force.

Having lived here for 10 years now, I've come to the conclusion that the average American driver is desperately afraid of G-forces.
The slightest bend in the road will cause the brake lights to come on, as will any slight change in road condition - a difference in the crash barrier, construction cones, a bump, an different road surface.
I've seen maybe 1 in 1000 drivers actually accelerate away from a green light. The usual method of doing this seems to be to gently rest their foot on the accelerator so the car creeps up to 25mph over the course of 30 seconds or so.
Worse still, when traffic lights go red, they start braking a good 100m ahead of time, drifting idly to a halt.
I can only surmise that this is because they don't like G-forces. Acceleration, braking and cornering all cause you to be moved around in the driver's seat and it seems like no American likes this. Why else would you go around a corner with the brakes on? Brake before the corner, then lift off the brakes and turn - it's not that difficult. If you're braking and cornering at the same time, you're overloading the tyres and asking them to split their grip between slowing you down and keeping the car in the corner.
Freeway intersections are the worst - when you have a large-radius, curving flyover to go from one freeway to another, you should be blasting around that at freeway speed to keep the flow of traffic. They're designed specifically for that. But no - everyone slows down to 40mph and ambles along to the point where - on a motorbike - I've been able to slalom between 8 or 10 cars on a single overpass. With plenty of room too - not cutting anyone off.
Given that G-Force seems to be the issue, lightweight, small-capacity cars are what America needs. 800cc two-cylinder engines in little shopping commuters. V8s, V6s, turbos and superchargers are all wasted in this country - nobody uses them. Low-profile high-grip tyres? A waste of time. Lowered sports suspension packages? Useless.
From a European's perspective, it makes me look like I'm speeding everywhere I go when in fact I'm doing the limit. Everyone else is just driving too damn slow.

13 comments:

Mystery Girl said...

I've had to adapt my driving style because if I don't brake whilst I'm turning the corner, the dipshit who is hugging my bootlid will go right up my exhuast pipe.

Silas said...

Ugh, don't remind me. They almost always take those silly advisory limit signs seriously, instead of as a challenge to do double what they say, and as for their attitude towards gentle speed humps... I can't entirely blame them, the sleeping policemen in parking areas around here will bounce your head off the headliner at 5mph, but the ones on the roads are absolutely fine at 25, which is the speed limit. They're also apparently allergic to using the onramps to accelerate up to freeway speeds so they can merge safely.

I suspect this is also why they're deathly afraid of rear wheel drive. They're scared of how it has to be set up to handle, and they're scared of handling in general.

Chris said...

Well to be fair, American rear wheel drive is a real handful with it's overly powerful engines and 1950's suspension. I'm afraid of it - the only car that has ever properly tried to kill me was a Ford Mustang. Japanese and European RWD cars are an entirely different beast.

Paul said...

I think you all need to come to Texas/Houston. If you're going less than 10 over the limit then you get passed while getting dirty looks.
As for the slow cornering, my experience here (Houston) is the opposite.

Paul said...

Sorry, I've been here 2 1/2 years now. What I meant to say was...
"I think y'all need to come to Texas..." :-)

Silas said...

I have to admit to only knowing European rear-wheel-drive, with reasonably stiff suspension (for America, anyway; for Europe, it's kind of squidgy and vague, but out here it's set up sportier than most Mustangs), and no excess of power at all. Still, there's no real reason you can't have safe handling with a live axle - that's what my brick has at the back.

Anonymous said...

The "average" USA driver is an ill trained driver from the onset. 50% of drivers are females that could care less about "proper" driving and techniques to do so. The males can also be divided from the aggressive to the tame to the ignorant class. Most people brake or slow down too late. I have yet to see people that drive too slow from a stop light. In fact, my observation is the opposite. The game is to see who can drive the fastest to the next red light!! This destroys fuel efficiency. As far as driving "slowly" it seems to be relative. I see people driving 5, 10, 15+ the speed limit. All for naught! I catch up with them at the next intersection or exit or I see them stopping for fuel more often than what I do. Why? Ignorance of how a car works, time per mile and wind resistance, etc. I am 65 and I have never had a speeding citation, a crash, etc. My car, 10 years old with 66,500 miles has original brakes!! Yep. Smart driving trumps fast driving each time, each day, each mile.

Chris said...

You need to come to Utah. Here everyone has V6s and V8s and their idea of accelerating when the light goes green is to simply take their foot off the brake. More often than not I seriously doubt they ever touch the gas.

Paul said...

Hang on Chris, you say "...American rear wheel drive is a real handful with it's overly powerful engines..." but in another blog you're criticizing how inadequate american engines are.
Which is it? You can't have it both ways.

Chris said...

You're right. That does beg the question - how bad is that live axle suspension setup if it can make a 150hp car into a deathtrap. I'd never really thought of it that way but given how little horsepower they get, its even more amazing how undriveable US RWD cars are :-)

Klaas said...

Inadeqate doesn't mean no power. It just means the size is not in relation to the power.

Stuart said...

I have to agree with 65-yo Anonymous and point out that slowing early before a red light is far better for fuel efficiency, and if you get it about right, won't affect your trip time.

Slow early to a speed where you are approaching the stop line as the light turns green; by keeping as much of your momentum as possible you can then accelerate again to cruising speed for less fuel.

Of course, if you slow to 5mph from 100m back, then yes, you're going to piss people off and the light might go green when you're still 80m away. And unless there's another red right ahead of you, yes you *should* speed back up again when you pass the lights!

Anonymous said...

>Worse still, when traffic lights go red, they start braking a good 100m ahead of time, drifting idly to a halt.

Why you should brake hard before traffic lights? It is plain stupid. Just roll and if lucky you can catch the green one without stopping. This helps reducing phantom traffic jams as cars behind you will not need to brake too.

Still I think drivers should be learned to brake properly without jagging at the end. When doing complete stop at the very end the brake pedal must be almost realeased. It helps avoid jerking completely. Mainly females don't understand this and are afraid of braking as it makes them experience a little G-force but it is their fault of not properly braking.