When I introduced myself here at Jalopnik, a decent number of commenters took offense to the fact that I don’t yet have a U.S. license, rather just a useless UK licence. I’m currently going through the process of rectifying this.
It’s been an interesting process full of complicated forms to prove that I’m a resident here, pre-licensing tests, and a whole lot of warnings about road rage in New York State.
I’ll start at the top, before going into all the rage-filled details the DMV gives you later down the line.
The first hurdle was getting myself a learner permit to actually start getting out on the road. To do this, there was a written test that quizzed me on American road signs, speed limits, rules of the road and best practices behind the wheel.
That’s great. Those are all things I wanted to know before being let loose on the city’s streets. I passed, and quickly found myself happily marching to the local DMV. There, they took a few awful photos and asked me my life story. Now, I thought, I’m free to hit the open road.
But wait! There’s more paperwork lurking in the shadows.
To make sure that you really know all the answers to the written test that you’ve already passed, the New York DMV requires anyone over 18 to take an additional five-hour course on the rules of the road.
Sure, there’s a bit more information about right-of-way, but it pretty much covers the same stuff you presumably already know by this point.
That is, until you get to the hefty section on road rage.
Chapter 8, Defensive Driving. And, due to its sheer size, I can only assume that most of New York’s motorists are always driving around in fits of rage.
To quote the course, road rage is “an emotional state of anger or hostility.” Someone in a state of road rage can be forced to carry out “violent criminal acts, or threats or attempts of violent acts,” while at the wheel of their vehicle. That all sounds pretty scary to me.
During the course, drivers new to the state are taught that construction zones spark road rage, poor scheduling can leave you in fits of anger, or traffic on the road can send you into a spiral.
It warns you that road rage can lead your fellow motorists to cut you up, deliberately slam into your vehicle or even drive you off the road. Then, it describes how road rage can drive people to fight, attack or injure you.
At this point, driving in America sounds like it can, at any moment, descend into a scene from Death Race.
But before you start creating Frankenstein’s Monster to defend yourself on the wild open road, the DMV is on hand to teach you how to diffuse any road rage situation.
It offers handy hints like “avoid eye contact” and “move away safely”, which it assures you will be useful for any young driver caught in a tight spot.
Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but is an angry person going to respond well to your reversing your car away without looking them in the eye? I don’t think so.
Thankfully, now that I’m fully versed in every way of avoiding angry motorists, I’m allowed to book myself a proper driving test. But here’s hoping none of these handy hits about road rage come in useful when I sit the final exam.