If you’ve commuted for any length of time in any big city, perhaps you too have noticed that it’s possible to predict with a fair degree of accuracy the driving habits of others by the model of the car they drive.
The fact is, certain types of cars seem to attract certain types of personalities, for some of which the word “jerk” is the most appropriate descriptive word to use.
At the risk of offending our friends in Western Europe, it has to be said that, of all cars, BMWs just seem to bring out the worst in people (although Audis are gaining traction fast).
The 300 and 500 models are particularly bad, probably because they are the lower-priced models (if you consider $45,00 to $60,000 low) most likely to be within the reach of what we would have called yuppies in the 1980s (I’ve already mentioned what we call them now).
They are almost invariably in their late 20s or early 30s. You’ve seen them. These are the ones tailgating you if you’re not doing at least 20 miles an hour over the speed limit. These are the ones using the carpool lanes with only themselves in the car, sipping espresso and looking at their smartphones, while they listen for the sound of their radar detector.
Paradoxically, the more expensive 700-model BMWs are usually driven by older people with beautiful road manners. If you can afford these models, you don’t have anything to prove, especially to those snotty kids driving the 300s, although you’ll want to keep an eye on them because they are after your job.
Older Cadillac and Lincoln sedans are usually driven in a slow, stately manner, a throwback to the times when they were considered symbols of success. The people driving them are very polite and seldom under the age of 60.
On the other hand, they are also the ones most likely to have a World War II vintage 50-millimeter cannon installed under the front grill, which they use late at night with their headlights off to secretly hunt BMWs.
We don’t even need to talk about muscle cars from the 1960s. Simply plug your ears and stay out of their way.
Sports cars are a curious mixture. Porsches are in some ways as aggressive in their driving habits as a BMW, but somehow in a non-offensive way. You just get the feeling they have to drive fast because that’s the only way the car will run properly and besides, they’re having fun.
Corvette drivers are an eclectic mixture. They are just as likely to be driven by a 70-year-old as by an 18-year-old. Sort of a sports-car-aficionado melting pot. Frequently, they are some of the best drivers on the road, probably because they know people are expecting just the opposite, especially police officers.
Watch out for Z cars; these people are saving for a BMW and using their 370ZX to practice in the meantime.
Any Italian sports car with an “i” in the name will be an enigma. You’ll seldom see the drivers because the windows are usually tinted.
If you do catch a glimpse, they will have dark hair and be somewhat foreign-looking. You’ll never see anything but their profile because they won’t look anywhere but straight ahead.
On the plus side, they don’t tailgate, although I suspect this is probably because they don’t want their car contaminated by being too close to yours. You somehow get the feeling that what they really want is to have 10-foot poles mounted on all four sides of their car.
This brings us to the final, although growing smaller over time, category: late model, mid-priced, mid-sized sedans. People driving these are the automotive salt of the earth.
They will be practical, cost-conscious, the sort who will stop to aid other motorists in trouble. If you ever find out one of these is owned by a teenage boy, copy the license number down quickly because you’ll want him to date your teenage daughter.
The words “horn” and “tailgate” aren’t in these drivers’ vocabularies. They feel guilty driving the carpool lane with three riders because they still have room for one more.
In short, these are the type of people you want as your next-door neighbors, with one exception: those who have a license plate frame that reads “My other car is a BMW.”