5 Considerations About Driving in the Pacific Northwest

Every region in American boasts its own driving style: rural drivers in the Midwest take it slow and steady, while perpetually stressed dwellers of the Northeast can’t get anywhere fast enough. Even as millions of Americans immigrate to the Pacific Northwest for its hip atmosphere, the driving culture in Seattle, Portland, and other big Northwest cities remains stubbornly the same.

If you are following the exodus to the Pacific Northwest and will soon be in dire need of a vehicle, consider the following before simply jumping on the best deal.

1. Some Roads Are Steep and Curvy

Unlike the flat land of most cities in the country, the Pacific Northwest is marked by its mountainous terrain. Despite attempts to create straight, level roads, civil engineers and city planners simply had to work with what they got, which meant organizing towns around hills, rivers, rocks, and more. Thus, roads in the Pacific Northwest don’t exactly provide the smoothest of driving experiences.

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Though you likely won’t encounter the likes of Lombard Street in Portland or Seattle, you and your vehicle may face a fair share of steep climbs and sharp curves as the road accommodates the natural terrain. While most cars will be competent enough to see you through these driving feats, you likely don’t want to lose a fight with Newtonian forces on your daily drive to work. Thus, you should look for a vehicle with a powerful engine and low center of gravity to keep you always upright and moving forward.

2. Pedestrians Are Righteous

Dwellers of the Pacific Northwest are artsy, cool, and progressive — which often makes them feel enabled and entitled to fulfilling their own needs. As a positive, this means that many citizens eschew gasoline-powered vehicles in favor of more eco-friendly modes of travel, especially biking and walking that don’t require a public timetable. As a negative, this means Pacific Northwest cities are absolutely bursting with pedestrians and cyclists who always believe they have the right of way.

No driver wants to hit a pedestrian, but it seems utterly inevitable when everywhere you go they are disobeying the rules of the road. To keep you, your car, and any and all pedestrians safe, you should invest in a car with a fast and responsive break system. It is also of paramount importance to keep all of your car’s safety devices, including bumpers and airbags, in efficient working order.

3. Traffic Can Get Heavy in Big Cities

During rush hour, traffic is agonizingly slow. This universal truth is evidenced in every big city around the world, but the Pacific Northwest is particularly guilty, given that natural landmarks like tunnels and channels at times restrict important roads to a single lane.

If you work a job that has you commuting during regular rush hours (between 6 and 9 a.m. and 3 and 7 p.m.), you should expect to regularly become lodged in an interminable traffic jam. Unfortunately, there is no way that a more powerful vehicle or more advanced driving strategies will save you from this horrendous fate. The best course of action is to find a car that has a comfortable cabin and to bring along necessary entertainment for the potential hours of waiting you’ll endure on the road. Here are some of the most commonly sought cabin features for an enjoyable ride:


  • Cup holders, and plenty of them.
  • Adjustable cruise control.
  • Leather seats with lumbar support.
  • Seat heaters.
  • Touch infotainment system with satellite radio, navigation, and more.


4. Cars Go the Speed Limit

Some argue that it is the result of the amalgamation of immigrants’ disparate driving cultures, while others say that the laid-back atmosphere of the Pacific Northwest chills road rage. No matter the reason, drivers in Washington and Oregon tend to be overly cautious, driving the speed limit or slower and obeying any traffic law they’ve ever learned.

This is beneficial to migrants, who must only slightly tweak their previous driving style to adhere to go with the flow. Fortunately, because speed limits are calibrated for gas consumption as well as safety, this means that finding a car with excellent fuel efficiency shouldn’t necessarily be high on your list.

5. Drivers Still Have Trouble With Inclement Weather

You might think that drivers in the Pacific Northwest would become proficient at driving in rain, sleet, snow, and other forms of inclement weather — but you would be wrong. Any time the sky is not free from some type of precipitation, Pacific Northwestern drivers go absolutely nuts, straying from their typical safe driving style to create an erratic, frenzied mess on the roads.

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The lesson here is that you cannot neglect to purchase a car and accoutrements that will keep you safe in any weather conditions. Despite the expense, the all-weather tires are worth it in the Pacific Northwest, and four-wheel drive will also help prevent slipping and sliding when the roads get wet. The more in-control you are of your vehicle, the less you’ll have to worry about what other people are doing with theirs.

Written by Lewis Shaw

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