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My youngest brother recently vacationed in New England, starting by flying to Boston and renting a car. While on the phone with me he was lamenting how difficult it was to drive in the Boston area, saying that he had never experienced more difficult driving in his life.

I know what he means. When I moved to Cambridge in 1970 for graduate school I mostly got around on foot or by subway and left the car parked. But moving to the south shore the next year to work in Duxbury, I proceeded to get my full experience of the stress of driving in Massachusetts. An early experience occurred when I was driving to Boston on what was then called the Southeast Expressway. I was in the right lane minding my business more or less beside a driver in the left lane. Suddenly a motorist passed me on the right – but all there was on my right was the shoulder, mind you. Yes, he had passed me on the shoulder. I was so surprised and shaken that I had to get off the freeway, find a place to park and wait until I stopped trembling. But later experiences showed me that passing on the right and even on the shoulder was commonplace..

On many occasions, when at a traffic light, the light would turn green for me but drivers would continue to pass through the intersection, even though their light was red. Again, I was totally shocked and astonished, just as I was the first time someone pulled out in front of me to turn left, just sitting there, causing me to slam on my brakes and screech to a stop while he waited for traffic to clear from his right.

Over time, driving in and around Boston I continued to be surprised at the stupidity, reckless behavior and bad manners of Massachusetts drivers. I finally decided I would put together my own special list of “Massachusetts Driving Rules” and send them in to the Boston Globe as a letter to the editor. I never did, but reminded by my brother’s experience, I resurrected the list from my files and present it here. I am sure that most of these “rules” from the 1970’s still apply.

Freeway Rules

  1. Keep left except to pass; pass on right only; use the shoulder if necessary.
  2. If you accidently get off on the wrong exit, do not continue and get back on to find the right exit; simply stop and back down the exit onto the freeway. This way other motorists won’t take you for an idiot: they’ll simply think you are exiting.
  3. When traffic is merging, keep pushing in until the guy you are competing against “chickens out”. Do not ever take turns.
  4. When getting on to the freeway, the “YIELD” sign means keep going until the motorists in the right lane yield to you.

Other Rules

  1. When turning, first brake abruptly to confuse the driver behind you, then only signal (maybe… this is an option) as you begin rotating the steering wheel to the right or left to start your turn.
  2. At a stop sign, if the driver in front of you goes, you go.
  3. At traffic lights, regardless of whether the light is green, yellow or red, if the guy in front of you makes it, you can make it too.
  4. At dusk, always use your parking lights, not driving lights, in order to save energy.
  5. When turning right, whether signaling or not (remember that this is an option) ease the wear on your tires by swinging into the left lane and turning very widely.
  6. When turning left into two way traffic, do not wait for gaps in the traffic both ways. Simply pull out halfway, stopping traffic from your left. Then wait calmly for a break in the traffic from your right. Then proceed.
  7. When turning out onto a major road, wait until a vehicle is approaching on your left. Then turn abruptly out in front of them, accelerate slowly and do not exceed 35 miles per hour.

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