I live in Providence, Rhode Island. Laugh, cry, shock, despair; all reasonable responses to that statement. That series of emotions also sums up the daily commute through Providence. Yes, the stories of how horrible Rhode Island drivers are tend to be true or understated even if they are spread mostly by equally bad Massachusetts drivers. A short aside which will clue you in to both Rhode Island politics and the state of driver training: when my wife went to get her driver’s test, the instructor asked if she was related to what proved to be her father. When the answer was yes, the clipboard went down and “Well why didn’t you say so!” was followed by absolutely no evaluation of driving skills. Where am I going with this? Well, I think it pretty well summarizes how people drive in Rhode Island.
What’s even more shocking, though, is the state of the roads. Ever wonder what it would be like to drive through Mosul or Baghdad? Try Providence and save yourself a long trip, though you might be more likely to get shot at here. Providence has decided that in lieu of smooth pavement they will just continually patch and repatch without the aid of such modern mechanized equipment such as asphalt layers or steam rollers. Why would they? Pull a truck up, throw some patch on the hole (sorry, China) and drive off. Job well done! Where there is smooth pavement, the roads are dotted by submerged manhole covers. How many? In a stretch of road near my home that is nearly one mile long there are approximately 100 manhole covers. Just in that mile. And none of them are level with the road surface, making the brief luxury of smooth pavement more of a suspension test than it needs to be.
To cope with the relative lack of driving skill, the “go ahead a hit me” attitude of most drivers, and the atrocious road conditions, I see only one vehicle which is truly prepared to deal with this – a Dakar-spec Mercedes-Benz Unimog: