Driving in Nashville: Tips for Out of Towners

Tuesday morning as I drove to work, a car with Kentucky tags merged over in front of me and slowed down. The speed limit was 70, and Kentucky drove a whopping 60. Inspiration hit me. Out-of-state drivers may need a little help before heading to Music City, unless they want an ugly experience. Here are 10 rules to help tourists drive in Nashville.

Average interstate traffic in Nashville
Average interstate traffic in Nashville. Photo from news.tn.gov.

1. On a four-lane interstate, the left two lanes are called fast lanes. If the speed limit is 70, you should go 75 in the third and 80 in the fourth. These lanes are also passing lanes, and people use them to pass. Most times, we’re pretty good at this, so just let us do our thing and everyone wins.

2. Unless you are in a school zone, always go 5 miles over the speed limit. Nashvillians like to drive fast, so it’s necessary to keep up with the natural traffic flow. If you refuse, be prepared for hand gestures and horns.

3. Pay attention. Interstates 65, 40, and 24 run throughout the city and change and split along the way. Read signs and make sure you are on the right one.

4. Use your blinkers. If you’re changing lanes or turning, use your blinker and let others know which way you are going.

5. Get over immediately. When you see a lane end sign, try to get over. Do not drive to the end of the lane and expect people to let you over. They won’t. In fact, sometimes we enjoy making you wait. Southern hospitality does not exist when we’re in the car.

6. Be prepared to wait. You will come to long lines of traffic at red lights, off ramps, and on the interstate. Take a deep breath and relax. You’re going to be there awhile, and your plans are not more important than ours.

7. Avoid rush hour. Rush hour is Monday-Friday from 7-9 a.m. and 4-7 p.m., and most everyone commutes to work. Thousands of people live in surrounding counties and work in Nashville and vise versa, so rush hour can be painful. For example, I live in Nashville but work in Franklin (22 miles one way), so my average time to work is 35 minutes, and my average time home is 50 minutes.

8. Do a little research. Old Hickory Blvd. is so confusing it has its own Wikipedia entry. There are several sections of this road, and they do not connect. Know where you are, and pay attention to maps because several roads turn into something else. E.g. Nolensville Rd. turns into 4th Ave.

9. Know where to park and bring cash. Check your apps and ask for recommendations. And listen to them. Residents know the best places to park and the quickest walking routes, and not all lots are safe.

10. Follow the rules. Navigating Nashville isn’t too hard, but there are a few basics to keep in mind:

— Red means stop, green means go.

— Yield means stop when there is oncoming traffic.

— No right on red means exactly that.

Check out our Worst Drivers in Nashville list!

Nashville’s Top Worst Drivers

I am an expert on Nashville drivers. For the last nine years, I have driven on average 40 miles a day, most times more. Last year, I sat in traffic for almost six hours due to inclement weather to travel 20 miles. A few years ago, it took me four hours to get to work due to a wreck. I know Nashville’s traffic and driving habits.

What inspired me to do this list are years of observation and experience. There are common stereotypes that women and the elderly can’t drive, and those with sports cars drive reckless. I disagree. I find the stereotypes of poor drivers lie within the driver, and specifically with the car they drive. So, here’s my list of Nashville’s top worst drivers, and although there are always exceptions, I challenge you to pay attention to the following makes and models:

1995 Honda Accord
Photo: zuoda.com

Honda Accord – Like to go fast even though they have little power. They will cut you off and pass you just to be first.

Jeeps – Get out of the way.

Saturn cars – Oblivious drivers who think they are the only ones on the road.

Ford Mustang – The only sporty car on the list. Coincidence? No, these drivers have an ego so huge it barely fits in their car. They speed, cut you off, and think they are awesome.

2000 For Mustang Red
2000 Ford Mustang
Photo: americanmuscle.com

Tahoe, Suburban – Over compensation. These big vehicles take up lots of space, and the drivers don’t look when merging.

Ford F150, F250, big trucks – See above. I have one who likes to regularly honk at me because I won’t pull into oncoming traffic. We have exchanged hand signals several times.

Civics – The ones that are cheaply modified. These drivers want a reliable car that is cheap to mod, and they drive like they have a sports car. I cannot count how many Civic drivers have tried to race me.

Mini Van/Vans – Guaranteed to go at least 5 mph. under the speed limit. Notorious for getting into fast lanes and slowing everyone down. Be careful to pass though because they swerve, too.

Group of 2005 minivans in desert
2005 Minivans
Photo: autobytel.com

RVs – Too big to handle. People should have to take special classes to drive these. I was rear ended in a parking lot by one and almost killed on the interstate by another that was merging. Be very careful around these.

Pontiac GrandPrix – Speed and are impatient. Friday morning I had one pass me on my street to save him two seconds.

Dodge Strattus – Huge egos and reckless. They love to bully other drivers and start races.

Waste Management/Dump trucks – Will try to run you over and spray rocks. And they don’t care. Good luck reporting them because I have never seen a dump truck with a license plate.

Out-of-state drivers – There’s an unwritten rule in Nashville: Drive 5 mph. over the speed limit everywhere except for school zones. Out of towners are very slow and often drive in fast lanes under the speed limit. If you visit Nashville, be prepared to keep up!

Those are my picks! Do you have any model specific bad drivers in your area? Feel free to share in the comments below!