Enjoy your drive in Iowa

Country Roads

Driving in Iowa can be a struggle for natives but even more difficult for motorists unfamiliar with Hawkeye State highway customs. With another tourism season already here, I have compiled a list of driving tips for our visitors.

The first thing a visitor needs to know about driving in Iowa is that many Iowans don’t use their turn signals. They just pull up to an intersection and turn. It’s as easy (and sometimes as frightening) as that! There are rumors of a movement to make turn signals optional equipment in Iowa so we can order our vehicles without them and save a little money.

Speaking of turns, on a four-lane street some Iowans prefer to make left turns from the far right hand lane. This saves the effort of merging into the turn lane and adds a bit of excitement to an otherwise monotonous experience. Iowans have also been known to make right hand turns from the far left lanes of four-lane streets. The same principles apply.

In Iowa, we don’t have speed limits; we have speed suggestions. Those expensive signs the DOT has erected along our roadways are apparently there just to break up what folks from mountain states think is a boring landscape. You will find that if you drive within a few miles per hour of the posted speed “limit,” you will either be sucked up in the turbulence of vehicles passing you or you will run over a motorist who is literally out to watch the corn grow.

There is one small problem with our speed suggestions: our law enforcement officials haven’t caught on to the concept yet. They’re still under the impression that those signs are to be taken literally and will issue citations if you exceed the suggestions. Don’t worry; you can win back the fine at one of Iowa’s many casinos.

As “situation ethics” permeates society, Iowa’s stop signs have taken on a new meaning, too. These days the fancy little red and white octagons apparently mean “slow down and yield if you have to or goose it and get across if you can.” A warning: as with our speed suggestions, most law officers still believe s-t-o-p spells stop.

Some Iowa motorists do stop for stop signs but play a little game in which they wait until the other guy gets real close and then pull out in front of him and drive slowly before turning off the road 20 seconds later. This is known as Iowan roulette and is believed to be the cause of anger control issues among some Iowa drivers.

Iowans have a sign language system by which motorists may communicate with one another. The most common sign is that of the index finger raised slightly from the steering wheel. When you see a native motorist do that, he or she is saying, “Hello!”

It is commonly known in these parts as the “farmer wave.”

In some cases, an Iowa driver will raise his entire hand from the steering wheel and, with the index finger extended, move it from left to right. This is a greeting used when the motorist knows you or thinks he knows you. It means, “Howdy!”

You may see an even warmer greeting on Iowa’s roadways. In this case, a motorist will extend all five fingers and wave the hand enthusiastically from left to right. It means, “Howdy! How the heck are you? How’s your wife and mama and kids? And how’s your dog? Man, it’s so good to see you. Stop by for coffee some time!”

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