How to be a Boston Driver

1) Ignore traffic rules. They are advisory and not binding, unless a cop wants to get technical.

2) Drive in the middle. You need to keep your options open. If a rare dotted line actually marks a boundary between lanes, straddle it.

3) Don’t look for street signs. They aren’t there. Only side streets have signs. And only some of those.

4) Be ready to dodge pedestrians. They don’t look and are dumb as geese, crossing anywhere they feel like it, in complete oblivity to danger.

5) Block intersections. Otherwise the cross traffic won’t stop for you.

6) Pull in front of moving traffic. There are no breaks. You have to make them for yourself.

7) Don’t signal. You might give something away.

8] Park anywhere. There aren’t enough spaces anyway.

9) Don’t expect road names to make sense. The “Mystic Valley Parkway”, for example, appears and disappears in many places all across Boston. And not just in Halloween season.

10) Expect construction delays and detours. It sometimes happens that all bridges and tunnels in Boston are closed at once, with no signage hinting toward alternatives.

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  1. lenvt’s avatar

    You also need to include – Drive on the shoulder

  2. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Good point. Forgot that one.

  3. mike dunn’s avatar

    lol – most of these would work for nyc too…

  4. Rod Begbie’s avatar

    There’s a great book, Wild in the Streets: The Boston Driver’s Handbook, which I bought when I first got a car in Boston.

    At first, I thought it was a joke. Then I realised that behind the humour was a real guide to what you can expect when driving.

    For example, my favourite diagram: The Boston Left-Turn. (Its guide to the intersection of Comm Ave and Harvard St in Allston is also essential reading!)

  5. Jim Thompson’s avatar

    The acoustic energy of your horn will push those other cars forward. Use it!

  6. dave’s avatar

    Great list. I would also include – Never make eye contact. With eye contact comes shared humanity and moral obligation, things to avoid at all cost.

  7. Russ Nelson’s avatar

    On my first visit to California, I was jaywalking, and stepped into the street, prepared to run for my life as one ordinarily does in Boston. Imagine my guilty surprise when every lane of traffic stopped for me!

  8. Matt Mendolera’s avatar

    This is perfect…I moved to Boston just over a year ago and got in 2 fender benders before my car was totalled…wish I had seen this list before then…

  9. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Matt, my sympathies. What I failed, on purpose, to convey is how truly frightening it can sometimes be to drive here. A friend at the Berkman center, when I said “Boston drivers are —” he interrupted: “—Bad. Not aggressive. Not fearless. Just bad.”

    Worse, one has to adapt.

  10. Keith Hopper’s avatar

    Don’t forget: When driving down a one-way street, make sure to stay right to avoid oncoming traffic.

    Personally, I think Boston drivers aren’t bad (full disclosure – I’m a life-long Boston driver). There is just different expected behavior and social norms (often which are callous and dangerous, admittedly). Most life-long Boston drivers would probably do great in a street circuit Formula 1 race, since they both require quick thinking, responsiveness, guts, and a little bit of self-centered, carefree bravado.

    I disagree with the “don’t signal” thing. That’s what they do in NY (the NY blind-swerve is a standard expressway move). In Boston, there is prodigious use of the signal, but it’s more of a “watch out, here I come, ready or not” last minute kind of thing. Almost like the signal justifies me cutting you off (“I told you I was coming!”).

  11. Chip’s avatar


    Daughter was smart, sold her perfectly good Honda Accord before moving to Boston …
    Then her dad was “kind enough” to drive the UHaul 24footer, with 12foot pup containing all of her and her roomates worldly goods from Mich/Ohio to Boston, and through Boston….

    Got lots of laughs form this post

    Also : roads in Boston were designed by Cows … cowpaths
    Look em up

    Police – lets’s get started about how there is a law about a cop at every construction site, paid even if they are at the local pub.

    How about “roundabouts”

    Keep up the good work(s)

  12. train horns’s avatar

    11. Blow your train horn, just in case the pedestrians are blocking you! (or just to scare the heck out of them)

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