10 Jul 2017


Maryland Drivers: Reality or Stereotype?

Recently, WAMU reporter Martin Austermuhle shared via Twitter a thought-provoking email he’d received. A reader took exception to Austermuhle’s (and, frankly, a lot of local Twitter’s) derision of Maryland drivers. The reader, herself a Maryland resident (and driver), felt that complaining about Maryland drivers in DC was a racist act: singling out former residents of DC who have since moved to Prince George’s County and shaming them for driving in DC. Austermuhle went on to analyze what it meant to him to call out bad driving and what this epithet meant.

When I decided to share Austermule’s thread under THIH’s Twitter, I did so because our neighborhood is a very busy access and egress point for commuters who do not live in the District. We have several streets that see a heavy daily commuter flow:

  • The C Street corridor, a dangerous thoroughfare from the Anacostia River until it narrows down at 15th Street NE.  Charles Allen recently held a meeting to discuss the future of this busy road, and we eagerly await to hear more about this discussion.
  • The Maryland Avenue corridor, especially from 14th Street NE through Constitution Avenue. Although neighbors have advocated relentlessly for safety measures to be instituted since at least 2009 (and earlier), most of the traffic calming changes have been instituted in the past three years.
  • The Independence Avenue thoroughfare is many commuters’ main exit road into Maryland in the afternoons. The speed issues and traffic bottlenecks have been a source of frustration for the residents of #HillEast
  • Pennsylvania Avenue, especially starting at 11th Street SE. Residents around 15th Street SE have tried to petition the city for a red-light/speed camera at the intersection of Pennsylvania and 15th SE with no results.
  • 2nd Street NE at E and F Streets NE. The commuter flow in the southbound direction makes it unsafe for pedestrians to cross. The proximity to Stuart Hobson Middle School raises safety concerns for parents. This is also the case near Eliot-Hine Middle School (17th Street corridor) and near Eastern High School (Stadium/Armory Metro Station and 19th Street SE).

All of these streets hold a large amount of day traffic, but they are also resident thoroughfares. We all have to cross at least one of these intersections to take kids to school, to shop for groceries, to go to work, or to walk our pets.

Several readers weighed in on Twitter. Their opinions help draw attention to the fact that our neighborhood has to deal not just with a heavy flow of traffic, but also with a heavy dose of indifference from transit authorities. Our neighborhood is large and provides an access point to people who do not live in the District, but should residents handle this in what could be considered a xenophobic manner? Is calling out bad drivers or rude drivers as a whole, “Maryland Drivers” comic relief, or is it insulting? What about Virginia Drivers? Why do they not come with their own reputation, let alone their own Twitter account? (For those of you who haven’t seen it, the twitter account @MD_Driver_in_DC parodies some of the more egregious behaviors of non-District residents on a regular basis. 

We would love to hear more from you all: What are your experiences with commuter traffic? What kinds of solutions would you like to hear, or problems addressed? Do you agree or disagree with the points raised? Share with us!


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8 responses to “Maryland Drivers: Reality or Stereotype?”

  1. Meagan says:

    the intersection at 13th & North Carolina around lincoln park is terrible. I see people run that red light EVERY single day.

  2. Sean says:

    So let me get this straight. A few times a week I nearly get clipped by someone with MD plates running a red light downtown. When I’m at home I have to worry about crossing the street because the 25 mph speed limit is routinely read as 45-50 by a tremendous number of drivers who also ignore the presence of crosswalks. Most of them also have MD plates.
    And when this is pointed out we’re told not to because it’s racist? Even though the drivers of the cars in question are people of all races?
    It seems like if I say “Wow there are a lot of bad drivers from MD.” and someone else says “Those bad drivers are black.” they THEY are being racist. I never brought it up or even thought about it.

    • María Helena Carey says:

      That is an excellent point. Calling out poor driving should not become a racial issue at all, but just an issue of courteous, good driving vs. bad, rude driving. Thanks for weighing in!

  3. Cheryl Ingraham says:

    I’m a MD driver who was raised in DC (40 years before moving), and I learned to drive in DC. Let me just say there’s enough blame to go around. I still work in DC and drive (quite well) in DC frequently. While suburban people are not the best at navigating my city’s narrow streets or round-abouts (aka scary circles), DC pedestrians are some of THEEEEE WORST pedestrians on this side of the Mississippi. They walk against “Don’t Walk” signs, step out into traffic as if there’s a crosswalk, are constantly distracted or being pulled into distraction by their fur babies, or are so totally plugged into their device that they don’t hear your horn until their almost a speed bump. I have rented and owned property in DC. I get it; no one wants bad drivers on their streets, but DC drivers make their own messes all over the DMV. Laying on the horn before they hit the gas at a green light, crashing into the back of vehicles because they follow too closely (saw that in G’Town-both DC drivers), scratching up bumpers because they STILL can’t park. It’s all good. I’m sure the new residents are enjoying the camaraderie of lambasting Maryland drivers. But know this, most native and long-time Washingtonians feel the same way about you and your driving. Almost everyone here is from somewhere else. And stop with the racial angle. It’s really not that at all.

  4. Jen says:

    Drove home yesterday afternoon, stopped at 14th and C NE. Red light. Car behind me decided after stopping to move around me to the left, revv up and pass me and run the red light. Not yellow. Red. Light had been red for full stop. MD plates. This is what we deal with. BTW I was waiting at the light to turn and park since I live on 14th and C NE. This is what I mean by “MD Driver”. A MD tagged driver with full disregard for neighborhood safety as they race as fast as possible using our neighborhood surface streets to get out of DC and home. These drivers normally carry MD tags. I can’t even see the drivers most of the time they are driving so fast, just their tags.

    • Jen says:

      C st corridor fixes, I wonder if they will even work….

    • Jennifer says:

      Just watched that today on the corner of 11th and Maryland. The driver in front of me pulled around the driver in from of him/her and made a right on red. What??!!! And 12th ST SE is basically a drag race to Pennsylvania Ave, even though there is a school there. Abide by traffic laws and speed limits and consider pedestrian and kid safety – I don’t give a darn what plates your car has or what color you are.

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