Ever Heard Of These Southern Driving Rules?
From Texas to North Carolina, we have our own special way of getting down the road.
When I first drove to Texas for grad school at Baylor, I was puzzled to see the car in front of me on a two-lane highway pull over to the shoulder of the road and continue driving at a slow pace. “Wonder what that’s all about?” I asked Mama, who was helping me move my tiny portable TV and microwave oven to Waco.
Eventually, I figured out what all those “Drive Friendly—the Texas Way” signs meant. For one thing, if you’re on a two-lane, and you’re driving slower than the person behind you, the sporting thing to do is pull onto the shoulder, drive at a safe, slower speed, and let Mr. Zippy pass so he can be on his merry way. It makes all kinds of sense.
Texas isn’t alone in putting its cultural spin on basic traffic laws. Whether we're out for a scenic drive or making a Publix run, Southern tradition dictates that we follow certain rules of the road—whether they're on the books or not.
“In my old neighborhood in Savannah,” remembers a SCAD grad, “it didn’t matter who got to a four-way stop first—the lady had the right of way.”
You have to love a town like Aiken, South Carolina, where horses have the right of way. Some of the crossing signals have change buttons convenient to saddle height.
Danger: Women Driving
In Memphis and New Orleans, supposedly, there are obscure old traffic laws that forbid a woman to drive downtown unless a man walks in front of her car, waving a red flag. Sure, we live in a more enlightened South these days, but don’t you wish you could’ve been a fly on the wall at the city council meetings that passed those red flag rules? What on earth prompted them? Maybe it was the council's way of avoiding telling the mayor his wife couldn't drive worth a flip.
The North Carolina Turn Signal
Question for North Carolina: Is it true that drivers there are anti-turn signal? That popped up a few times online, but we wouldn’t want to falsely accuse our friends in the Tar Heel State. What’s the scoop?
Surfside on the Coast
Driving on the beach opens up a whole new category of motor vehicle etiquette. If you’re a Gulf Coast beachcomber, you’d be surprised by the number of Atlantic beaches that allow you to cruise on the sand. You’ll find them on the Outer Banks, for instance, and in Florida spots like New Smyrna Beach—not to mention Daytona. (If you’re a first-timer in a rental 4X4, you can count on the locals to coach you out of your parking spot when you leave Cape Point on Hatteras Island.)
The Funeral Procession Pullover
The absolute best Southern driving custom of all? The funeral procession pullover. We hate like everything that your Pepaw’s left this earth, but he's in a better place, and we know how much he meant to the family. So out of respect (and because we were raised right), we pull over and stop while his funeral procession passes.
In Kentucky, the funeral procession pullover is required by law. And it’s illegal to turn on your headlights or otherwise attempt to become part of the procession so you can keep moving.
WHAT??? People actually attempt such a thing? Recommendation to Kentucky law enforcement: If you catch some ill-mannered embarrassment-to-his-mama trying to crash Pepaw’s funeral procession, don’t take him to jail; he deserves something far worse. Turn him over to the church hostess committee.
WATCH: Southern Places You're Probably Mispronouncing
Sure, it's nice if you can pronounce a place like the locals, but we'd much rather hear you say something like "KISS-uh-me," bless your heart, than cut into a stranger's funeral procession just to make that BOGO sale at The Pig.