“North Dakota Nice” During a Traffic Accident

Our office is near a busy intersection in Fargo, and that means every so often we have the opportunity to do some rubbernecking and see a traffic accident unfold. That happened last week, and I keep finding myself thinking about that accident and the “North Dakota Nice” that I observed afterwards. First, the accident details: the accident appeared to have involved an older gentleman whose car was pulling a trailer and somehow ended up in a left-turn lane on the wrong side of the median, and two other vehicles (ironically, they were courtesy vehicles from two different auto dealers here in town).

While the cleanup was underway I noticed the “North Dakota Nice” traffic pattern … or what one of my coworkers called the zipper pattern. One lane of traffic could move forward with no obstructions, the other lane was blocked by the accident. Of course many people in the blocked lane didn’t notice the reason for their sudden stop until they were upon the accident. So the drivers in the free-moving lane of traffic would, without fail, work the zipper pattern: the person in front would let one person in from the blocked lane and then moves on, and the pattern repeats itself with the new leader at the front of the line. (It’s so much easier to see that traffic pattern in action than it is to write about it!) And with that pattern in play the traffic kept moving at a somewhat normal pace.

That’s part of what makes living in North Dakota such a pleasurable experience. I don’t know if courtesies like that are commonly extended in other parts of the country. I suppose they are, but it just seems like it would happen here in North Dakota more than other places.

What do you think? Do any of you out-of-staters care to comment?

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One Response to “North Dakota Nice” During a Traffic Accident

  1. Hey Dave,

    Thanks for sharing your experience. To give you a little east coast flavor, let me assure you that would NEVER happen in Baltimore. Cars would speed up in the accident lane and then cut over into the moving traffic. Others would follow and soon a second accident would happen. People would quickly exchange insurance information to avoid getting hit while on the shoulder or sidewalk. All the while ‘holiday hand signals’ would be exchanged.
    We still have a hard time figuring out traffic circles and merge signs in Maryland. But then again we’re not about to be hit with 30 below like ND!!! How much firewood do you guys go through up there?

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