The World According to Nick
My take on Software, Technology, Politics, and anything else I feel like talking about.
Friday, May 12, 2006

I Hate Driving in the Ghetto 

Part of a new conceptual series entitled "Being Controversial Gets You Noticed".

I live in the suburbs and I work downtown. In order to get from where I live to where I work and back, I have two basic choices. Choice one is take the freeway which is overcrowded, plagued with construction (thanks to the Marquette Interchange Project), and has enough bumper to bumper, stop and go traffic to remind me of the opening scenes of Office Space. Choice two is to drive through the ghetto and negotiate the maze of roads and try to remember which bridge got blown up last week and which one was just reopened. Being the Engineer that I am, I've tried both trying to find the optimal drive into work. Sometimes choice one is better, and sometimes its choice two. Choice two scares the shit out of me.

Before you stop reading and call me a racist... allow me to tell you why it doesn't scare me. It's not all the black people. I could care less. I don't have a fear of being shot (though maybe I should after writing this post). Carjackings don't worry me (do they happen in Milwaukee?). Plain and simple, I'm afraid I'm more likely to get into an accident driving through the ghetto than any other place. From purely anecdotal evidence alone, I am convinced that poor people are worse drivers than more affluent people.

Before you stop reading and call me a classist, allow me to explain why I don't think this. It's not because many poor people are black, and all black people are bad drivers. White poor people are bad drivers too. It's not because poor people are stupid, and stupid people are bad drivers or something like that. Plain and simple, poor people have crappier things, and don't care about their things as much.

If you drive a crappy car, full of dents and scratches... really... what's one more? If you don't care about that one more dent, then why go to the effort of checking your blind spot before changing lanes? I see more people turning left from the right lane, and turning right from the left lane in the ghetto than anywhere else. I see more crappy looking cars cutting people off with no fear, or driving in non-existent lanes near the curb in the ghetto than anywhere else.

I on the other hand have a nice car, without any dings or scratches, and I'd like to keep it that way thank you very much. Every time I drive through those areas, I wonder if this will be the day I get into an accident when I see that junker blow through a red light right in front of me. That's why I hate driving through the ghetto.


I have an additional theory. More affluent drivers have more opportunities to practice their driving with responsible role models and leanr good driving habits. Poverty-stricken areas, where large numbers of adults do not have a license, often provide fewer driving role models. Driver's ed is often restricted to the public school classroom, and then attendance may be spotty at best. Driver's ed is more than just which pedal is the gas and which is the brake. It's also about learning proper decision making. Who did you learn more about driving from? Your dad, or the poor teacher earning a little extra combat pay?

  Posted at May 12, 2006 2:15 PM by Blogger James Wigderson  
Coming from Boston, I'd have to disagree with the whole rich person/poor person driving thing.

Personal experience has actually caused me to fear the yuppie in the Prius checking their social justice portfolio yields on their cellphones while they should be be watching the road more than any poor person in a junker.

  Posted at May 13, 2006 2:36 PM by Blogger Be  
Be, I'll take you for a ride down Burleigh from 27th street west to Brookfield Road. When we pass 124th street I won't have to tell you. It'll be when you let go of the dashboard.

  Posted at May 14, 2006 1:25 AM by Blogger James Wigderson  
124th Street?! You consider east of 124th Street on Burleigh the ghetto? Now that's just pathetic.

  Posted at May 14, 2006 7:39 AM by Blogger Nick  
On Burleigh, I think 124th Street is a bit of a stretch too. I think maybe around 84th street would be the boundry.

If you want a challenge though, take North Ave from Holton Ave (1 mile east of I43) to Mayfair Mall. If you can make it without 3 near misses, you have had a good day.

There is a reason that insurance rates are significantly higher in the ghetto than they are outside the ghetto.

  Posted at May 14, 2006 8:56 AM by Anonymous Anonymous  
Jim I think you made a very important point about driving and role models. I learned how to operate a car in school, but I learned how to Drive from my family. Negotiation, defense, and preservation are very important aspects to owning and operating a vehicle.

This kind of goes back to another post Nick had regarding how the Family is your structure and reference point for everything.

Everyone knows I drive through the ghetto every single dingle day. The predictability of driving - as in the norms of driving and traffic flow - are not there. Most people don't have plates on their cars and don't have licenses. And some of them are frankly, high.

Driving through the ghetto CAN be done however it depends upon the time of day.

  Posted at May 14, 2006 11:22 PM by Blogger Phelony Jones  
I'll agree with Phelony... no predictability at all. Though I think 84th St. is still way off Clint. I'd say Sherman if I had to draw a line. Some might say 60th St... but I've never really considered the Hasidic Jewish community that lives between 60th and Sherman north of Burleigh to be exactly a bad area... do you?

  Posted at May 15, 2006 8:25 AM by Blogger Nick  
(60th-Sherman on Roosevelt is okay I's kind of a relative term, isn't it?)

  Posted at May 15, 2006 1:13 PM by Blogger Phelony Jones  
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Name: Nick
Home: Wauwatosa, WI, United States

I'm a Software Consultant in the Milwaukee area. Among various geeky pursuits, I'm also an amateur triathlete, and enjoy rock climbing. I also like to think I'm a political pundit.

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