Highway to Hell – Take Two

A few years ago I wrote a fanfiction called Highway to Hell about road rage on a European highway. It described how the heroine was stuck behind a truck and had the hero of the story flashing his lights to get past her, much to her annoyance.

But this summer I drove 6400 kilometers in nine different US states and I realized how strange my story must have been to you Americans (at least if the traffic in your state is anything like the traffic I met). The highways we drove on were like a train ride: Everyone was going around the same speed and you were just cruising along. No one breathing down your neck and honking the horn to get past you and no one driving like snails and turtles, stopping all traffic. The traffic was nothing like my story – it was so nice and cozy that 6400 kilometers felt like a … well, vacation 🙂 .

BizarroViking

Yesterday I was driving home from Denmark, through Sweden, and let me tell you – the traffic in Sweden is nothing like a train ride. You are allowed to go 110 km/h or 120 km/h on the Swedish highways but people will be going at anything from 70 to 170. With two lanes it means you have to dodge the slow traffic in the inner lane (and sometimes in the outer lane because the bus going 80 *must* go past the bus going 70) and the blinking, honking fast travelers in the outer lane. So if my story Highway to Hell confused you when you read it, it`s unfortunately a correct description of how things are here. And if it scared you, you should probably think twice about driving on Swedish highways.

It`s not just in Sweden people drive like crazy but Swedes have been known to believe they are invincible in their so-very-safe Volvos. And they have a reason to feel safe because less people are killed in road accidents. Unfortunately, the people who are killed are now no longer sitting in their cars (they are safe there). It`s the pedestrians and the two-wheelers who are killed – probably by people driving safe cars, and driving too fast because they feel so safe.

So one could blame Volvo for making their cars too safe but really, that would be silly. Especially when Volvo makes cool adds like this one. I could forgive Volvo anything after I saw the add yesterda. It made me chuckle – but then I truly hate German techno 🙂

(Are you tired of German techno? Try some Swedish metal!)

Yes, I do prefer metal to techno!

T Yes, I do prefer metal to techno!

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6 responses to “Highway to Hell – Take Two

  • ReefChic7

    I liked that story. I have pretty decent road rage living in Cali, I can only imagine how it feel being in Sweden. Maybe I should come check it out? LOL

    • thyra10

      When I lived in California back when I was 18 I was told all these horrible stories about people being shot if they stopped for a red light. Apparently it had happened one time and then it became an urban myth that scared everyone driving around (and stopping for red lights). From what I`ve seen you guys are much calmer behind the wheel than what we are 🙂

      Come check it out! When I drive through Sweden alone I`ve noticed how driving past people can be a way of flirting. Several times I`ve had guys drive past me and then slowing down, forcing me to drive past them – and then they`ll drive past me again and start making some obscure signals. This can go on for ages and I`ve always wondered what their plans are. i mean, it`s not like we`ll ever talk or meet or anything. I suppose driving through Sweden can be fairly boring and this is a way to have fun?

  • Chocolate Crackle

    I remember a German class at school where we were talking about the bumper stickers that said, “Ich bremse für Tiere” – I brake for animals – and how we thought how pointless it was. The teacher then explained that if you’re going at 200km/h, following a car only a little way in front of you, and that driver suddenly brakes… it’s not a pretty ending, for anyone.

    There’s also an interesting concept used in risk engineering called risk hysterisis, which talks to what you’ve described above. The idea is that everyone has a comfortable level of risk, and if you change the environment to make things safer, people will take more risks, to maintain that level of risk they expect. You see that with things like town centre design, where planners get rid of roads and footpaths, with the idea that all traffic, including cars, needs to work at the same speed and with the same level of caution as pedestrians. There is evidence that it does work. The problems come about when you realise that people in general are absolutely diabolically bad at estimating risks.

    Is is common for advertising like that to be in English? I wonder if it would work out cheaper than doing specific Swedish/Norweigan/Danish versions – and also if there’s a backlash against using the wrong language in the other Scandinavian countries, even if everyone knows what the ad says…

    The only Swedish metal I’ve heard is Yngwie Malmsteen, although I think he could accurately claim to be American these days. But it’s very possible I have heard other Swedish metal and not realised it wasn’t him… I’ve developed the ability to tune it out thanks to my husband’s obsession. Funnily enough, of his two cousins in Germany, one is a techno artist (I’m sure there’s some new genre name for what he does, but I have no idea what it is) and the other is the lead singer in a metal band.

    • thyra10

      There was a tragic accident on the German highways a few years back. Some test drivers from Audi og BMW (can`t remember) were out trying a new car and since the German highways did not have speed limits, they drove at full speed, blinking at anyone who had the audacity to drive in the outer lane. Unfortunately a mother driving her two children was indeed driving in the outer lane and was so surprised by the cars that suddenly turned up from nowhere that she drove off the road in her attempt at getting to the inner lane. They were all killed and the test drivers didn`t even stop to check what had happened. Horrible!

      The German highways were awful back in the days when German drivers felt the unstoppable need to drive 200 km/h and damn anyone trying to slow them down. I remember driving from Hamburg to Nice in a very fast rented car and going 160 – which was my inner limit – and still having cars coming up behind me in a terrible speed. And the cars coming up behind you seem to expect you to just vanish. Even if you have cars in front of you and you really want to go faster too, the car behind you will honk and blink and almost drive into your trunk just to make sure you know you should move. And quickly. It doesn`t matter if that would mean you breaking hard to meet the slow pace of the inner lane – you should just GET OUT OF THE WAY. It`s awful! And it was so nice to drive around in the US where almost everyone kept to the same pace.

      It`s interesting what you say about levels of risk. It is a sad fact that as cars are getting safer, drivers are getting more reckless. It`s a good thing that car engineers have taken pedestrians into account and have tried to build the cars for their safety as well (soft fronts etc) but bad drivers can still kill people if they`re just careless enough. I witnessed a car accident just a few weeks ago here in my neighborhood – a drunk driver took down a bicyclist riding with her child. She didn`t stand a chance and will be in a wheelchair for the rest of her life, probably, just because that guy thought he could drive under the influence.

      Oh, commercials in English are VERY common – and most of them are produced here, this one as well. For some reason advertisers think English is “cooler” than our national languages. It`s a shame – it really is!

      Metal of all kinds is very common in Sweden and Norway. It`s actually a major export and we have a lot of tourists coming up from Italy and Spain to see their metal heroes – many of them have even learned our language to understand the lyrics better. We have all kinds of metal but it seems that the harder the better – black metal, death metal etc. I like metal which is partly the reason why I have to use hearing aids today – it`s loud!

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