I've been driving in the north again for almost 2 weeks already (have I actually been home that long?) and I wasn't sure what to expect along the way. I thought that perhaps I had slowed down after being in the south for so long. But it's like riding a bicycle and it all came back very naturally. I have noticed that the traffic isn't much worse. There is more traffic, sure, but there are more people overall. So the congestion isn't worse in and of itself, it's all to scale.
What I have noticed is that the patience level of drivers up here is much lower, or rather, on par with the every place else. People in the south, while some of the craziest drivers I've seen (and I've driven in multiple countries on multiple continents), are much politer than up here. Naturally, I have a theory as to why that is. It's got nothing to do with the southern hospitality and it's got nothing to do with the asshole-ish (word?) behavior of us "damn yankees." It's something much bigger.
You don't cut someone off, blow your horn, give the finger or scream obscenities in the south for one reason and one reason only - EVERYONE has a gun. You never know who has it handy, who is a good shot or how many rounds are in it. More importantly, you're never sure if their gun is bigger than yours. So, much like US vs USSR in the 80's, the best offense is a good defense.
Up here, nobody is armed so people are freer with their verbal nonsense and everyone has extra muscles behind the wheel of a car. Well, when I say nobody I think you understand the distinction I mean. Some people are armed, but in the south everyone is and it's all legal. Before the gun control nuts use this in their favor, let me be clear. I'm not advocating for arming people to force politeness out of fear and I don't think most people in the south live in gun-based fear. Southerners have weapons, love weapons and are most assuredly NOT afraid of weapons. So, if I'm not afraid, neither is the other guy. So rather than terrifying people into politeness, it ends up being more of a mutual respect for the power we carry and the slight fright of the unknown. All in all, it makes for people to mesh better on the roads.
I've heard more horns, yells, screeching brakes and overall rudeness on the roads in the 2 weeks I've been back than in the 10 years I was gone. I've also felt my blood pressure climb and have had to stifle responses in this short time. Maybe some of it is shock factor after being gone and I'm readjusting, but a lot of it is just me and my reactions. If I thought for a minute that the guy I was blowing my horn at may have a gun, I'd think twice before laying on it.
Say what you want about the north, the south, guns, gun control, road rage, etc. All I know is that people were less jumpy when everyone around them had a firearm and traffic moved more smoothly.