A Guide to the Gentle Art of Driving in Seattle, Washington

Many people are confused about the art, nay, the very concept of driving in Seattle, Washington. Never fear! I have been driving in Seattle since the amazing year 1996 and present myself as your humble guide to a world fraught with inconsistencies and potholes, metaphoric and literal.

I hear you ask, what, are there no established, official rules of the road in your fine berg? HA! HA! HA! Seriously, don’t be stupid. Those booklets are printed so the MVD will not suffer budget cuts, and to distract people from thoughts of suicide while they are waiting seven hours to have their driver’s license photo snapped.

Here are the rules:

1. There is a depressible button or panel in the middle of your steering that makes a sound colloquially known as a “honk” or “beep.” Take my word for that, because trust me, UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES ARE YOU TO EVER USE THIS BUTTON. Doing so will result in distress and confusion among your fellow drivers or wayward pedestrians. You may discover that these pedestrians will also stop in front of you and take a photo of your license plate with a promise of “hella tweet-shaming” you. You should be ashamed of yourself, you noisy piece of wombat excrement.

2. If approaching a four-way stop, wait. And wait and wait. Do not make eye contact. It is okay to slouch slightly in your seat; maybe the other drivers will think you are not in your car and that you just parked “assertively.” Eventually the other cars will probably leave. Don’t worry, no one else really knows what to do at these things; just try to endure them until they put a proper stoplight in.

3. If approaching a five-way stop–no. Just no. Take a different route to your destination.

4. Freeway/Interstate. This has its own special subset of rules. The 60 mph speed “limit” is a suggestion, but it is suspected your car will explode if actually driven that fast. 45 mph is much better, at least in the fast lane (in other cities and states, the “fast” or “passing” lane is all the way to the left). If anyone is tailgating you in the fast lane, do not, under any circumstances, move over for them. This is a democracy, for God’s sake, and you got there first. It is your responsibility as a Seattle ambassador to teach others about right-lane passing.

Anything goes in the other lanes! You’ll get there eventually, right?

5. Merging. If a car arrives before you, it is permissible to let them merge first, UNLESS: you disagree with their “initiative” bumper stickers; unironic use of “baby on board” sign; they are driving a hybrid and are merging smugly; out-of-state license plate. As with all Seattle driving, do not make eye contact and cut them off as slowly as possible. This way, you simultaneously do not see them and are not culpable for the accident you may cause.

6. Native Customs. “Traffic was terrible” is a local empty pleasantry, like “How are you?” and “I think you gave me herpes.”


If I cannot honk, then can I use impolite gestures to communicate my displeasure with the complete ineptitude of these morons?

Yes, but watch our lips. If it is the rainy season and car windows are up, you will make out the phrase “fucking Californian.” If it is August (summer) and the windows are down, you will make out and possibly hear, “Well ‘Namaste’ to you as well, Ms./Mr./Ze Impatientpants.”

What should I do if I am at a stop sign and do not have the right of way? I should wait until it’s clear, right?

INCORRECT. Wait until a vehicle is approaching, and then ease out reaaaally slowly in front of the oncoming traffic, so they have to slow down or stop. Bonus points for crossing double yellows or multiple lanes.

Bikes should be treated as vehicles, correct?

Yes, until they leave the road and start swerving around on sidewalks, only to return to the street depending on what the stoplights are doing. Then they should be treated as supporting arguments for mass public sterilization.

11 thoughts on “A Guide to the Gentle Art of Driving in Seattle, Washington

  1. Disappointed with the last para.
    That kind of behaviour certainly shouldn’t happen – IF modern roads were safe for cycling and if car drivers were less (you’ve just admitted it in the majority of the post) so unfocussed and self obsessed. That cycling behaviour tells me “she’s just completely lost her nerve because someone has just passed her so close she can feel a breeze, and/or yelled suddenly out the window to try and scare her off the road, and she’s gone “yeah na fuckit I can’t do this.”
    I promise NEVER to do that when… the car drivers stop trying to kill me.

  2. Helen, I live in Chicago, and bicyclists frequently hop onto sidewalks to avoid stop lights, stop signs, etc apparently under the impression that if they’re on the sidewalk and not the street they don’t count. Both car drivers and cyclists are deadly jerks who don’t seem to have a problem running pedestrians down and not stopping. I’ve been very nearly hit by both, including while on the sidewalk. There’s aggressive asshole drivers, and there’s aggressive asshole cyclists. If you personally don’t do that? Awesome! That’s really great! And I hope you have some sweet safe rides with nobody dooring you or bullying you or whatever. But that behavior totally happens and is not solely linked to bad drivers and unsafe roads.

  3. “Both car drivers and cyclists are deadly jerks”
    I understand both can give you quite a scare.
    But if you look at the injury and death statistics from your local purveyor of police stats, I think you will find the odds of your being killed or maimed by a motorised vehicle are vastly, vastly greater than those from a cyclist.
    Yet it’s cyclists who attract long comment threads of hate and revulsion whenever there’s an piece in the MSM about it.

  4. All my favorite behaviors in one post!

    I’m also a cyclist and I agree with all of you. Yup, all of you. iAsshole is completely correct that there are jerks that do that. I see it all the time and cringe! And wish they wouldn’t give us all such a bad name. But you’ll notice that only one small paragraph was given to the insane cyclist. Just be an assertive vehicle (yes, a bicycle is a vehicle) and rage behind your upheld finger when drivers pass you within an inch of your life.

    Mostly it’s our passive aggressive citizens getting a well deserved bad rap here. Drivers, pedestrians, cyclists.

    But then again, how many people do you know that were born and raised here?

  5. Hi everyone, thanks for commenting. I really have the most civil commenters, I don’t deserve you.

    TL;DR: I find Seattle drivers passive aggressive. :) Happy Monday.

  6. I biked in chicago while I lived there, I was doored twice and merged over once. It was goddamn thunderdome.

    I’ve lived here 10 years, and I still honk. It’s like automotive tourettes, I can’t help myself.

  7. Automotive tourette’s made me laugh. I still do it, too. It took me ten years to just stop saying hello to people on the street.

  8. I am such a liar. I also have about three posts in draft form but they all sound whiny so I don’t want to post any of them. must post again soon. Harrumph.

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