Driving in Montana/Yellowstone

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Driving in Montana/Yellowstone

by: Radar Identified on
Tue Sep 22, 2009 3:07 am

Just got back from a trip out west, and I think I've got to re-rank the worst places to drive in North America:

1. Toronto & New York City (tied for worst)
2. Boston
3. Montreal
4. Yellowstone National Park
5. Memphis

Yellowstone National Park... beautiful scenery, lots of wildlife, thousands of unique and amazing geothermal features (WOW - the backcountry geysers were well worth the hike), and the worst driving in the west. Holy cow. What makes it particularly bad is the fact that, without fail, almost EVERYONE on the road is a tourist. When people go on vacation, they tend to leave their brains at home. (Case and point: Hwy 400 on a long summer weekend.)

In Yellowstone, there's large wildlife (elk, buffalo, bears) all over the place, so people stop in the middle of the highways to get photographs, usually without signalling or warning. Some roll along and take photographs while driving, :shock: and I had to drive onto the shoulder twice to avoid some oncoming nitwit who had both hands on his camera staring out the side window going 35 MPH. People saw things at the side of the road, slammed on the brakes and U-turned on blind curves. People went 25-30 MPH in 45 MPH zones, only speeding up in passing zones. Where there were multiple lanes (not often, most of the Park highways are one lane each way), people abruptly turned left or U-turned from the right lane without looking or right from the left lane. People were so in awe of the scenery, they'd drift over the centreline like drunken baboons. People waited until you were 15 feet from an intersection and then they'd pull out (Scarborough style) and drive 10-20 MPH under the speed limit. There were pullouts for slower traffic to pull in to (and signs to boot... "SLOWER TRAFFIC USE PULLOUTS"), but the slow drivers never used them, and in fact they'd often stop in the middle of the road about 200 feet PAST a pullout. :evil: No wonder Yellowstone has a dedicated tow & wrecking service. It wasn't just one particular place that was producing bad drivers, it was licence plates from all over that were driving badly. The only good drivers were the locals and the Park Rangers.

On top of that, the roads often are winding mountain highways, weather changes quickly and dramatically, and the wildlife has a tendency to suddenly jump onto the roads.

Beautiful place to visit. It's amazing. I'd recommend it to anyone. But pack your patience and reflexes and, most importantly, insurance when driving there. :shock:

Also... interesting note... Montana has a practice of placing white crosses where highway fatalities occur. I-90 (the Montanabahn) between Bozeman and Livingston, 75 MPH limit (used to be no limit), zero crosses. Plenty of distance, good sightlines, I was going over 90 MPH and had no problems. US 191, a two-lane highway between West Yellowstone and Bozeman, noted at least 55 crosses in an 80 mile stretch. A stark reminder that two-lane undivided highways really are the most dangerous roads.


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by: racer on
Wed Sep 23, 2009 12:20 am

Sound like worse than Toronto. There at least you expect to be cut off when there is a space for a vehicle to squeeze through. In Yellowstone, it seems, anyone can perform any maneuver in a perfectly random fashion, which is actually harder to prepare for.

BTW, I have always wanted to visit Yellowstone. I think now I'll leave my vehicle on the entry, while arming myself with a pump-action shotgun to shoot off any bear(s) I might encounter in the park though.
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by: Radar Identified on
Wed Sep 23, 2009 12:01 pm

It's well worth the trip! If you want to avoid the crowds and bad driving, best time to go is in late May. Most of the Park has re-opened for the summer by then, but the tourists are still few and far between. There's still some snow on the ground in parts but the daytime temperatures in May usually are around 20C.

You could easily spend a week just in the Park and still have much more to see.


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