Literature is filled with bad drivers and devastating car accidents. And why not? They’re dangerous, dramatic, and make for good plot development. In honor of Book Lovers Day (which is today, if you didn’t know), here’s a list of terrible literary drivers that make for great reading, and luckily for us, are entirely fictional.
Raoul Duke — Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson
Thompson’s autobiographical character, Raoul Duke, is at the top of the list for a reason. While destroying 2 rental cars, a red Chevy convertible and a white Cadillac Coupe de Ville, Duke racks up an incredible number of driving offenses. But by some miracle he avoids getting even a single ticket. His offenses include: driving under the influence, speeding, reckless driving, driving on the sidewalk, abandoning his vehicle, and failing to stop for a police officer. And that’s just the short list.
T.S. Garp — The World According to Garp by John Irving
Remember when your high school English teacher taught you about foreshadowing? Well, T.S. Garp’s automotive habits are the perfect embodiment of this literary device: when pulling into his driveway at night, he enjoys the thrill of putting the car in neutral, killing the engine, turning the lights off, and rolling blindly to a halt on his up-slanted driveway.
One night, as Garp habitually (and dangerously) pulls up the driveway, he crashes into an unexpected visitor’s car. Garp’s crash is disastrous and entirely avoidable, which earns him a definite spot on our list of the worst drivers in literature.
Daisy Buchanan — The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Great Gatsby is full of terrible drivers, but the most deadly of them all is Daisy Buchanan, whose disastrous hit-and-run sets off a series of events that lead to (SPOILER ALERT!) Gatsby’s murder.
Sheesh. Talk about dangerous driving behavior. While hit-and-runs don’t always lead to the tragic murder of an eccentric millionaire, there are plenty of other reasons to avoid them. (Namely, the law — and human decency.)
Professor Welch — Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis
Amis’s classic novel is a must-read, not only for its examples of horrendous driving, but for its horrible … well, everything, really.
Jim Dixon behaves terribly throughout the novel, and true to the title, gets away with just about everything. His only punishment? He has to endure the alternately mind-numbing and terrifying behavior of his head of department, Professor Welch, not the least of which is his disgraceful driving habits. His general speed, coupled with his disregard for lane divisions (and his on-again-off-again relationship with curbs), terrifies Jim sufficiently enough to make him reconsider his career as a professor of history.
Charles Highway — The Rachel Papers by Martin Amis
In his 1973 novel, Kingsley Amis’s son Martin followed in his father’s footsteps by inventing a protagonist whose automotive inadequacies could rival Professor Welch’s. The ironically named Charles Highway, who has twice failed his drivers license test, takes the family car out to pick up his brother and narrowly avoids running over a pedestrian on the way. I guess you could say it runs in the family.
The Senator — Black Water by Joyce Carol Oates
Joyce Carol Oates’ novella centers on a car accident, in which Kelly Kelleher and her idol and would-be lover, The Senator, become trapped in a sinking car after The Senator drunkenly (do you see a trend here?) drives the car into a swamp. Though he’s able to free himself by climbing over Kelly and swimming to safety, she is left to a grim fate.
The Senator gets the worst driving award (maybe “award” isn’t the best word) for driving drunk, speeding, negligence, and abandoning his injured passenger. Really, Senator? Really?
While these drivers may be fictional, their driving habits aren’t that unrealistic or uncommon — especially when it comes to drunk driving.
In 2010, drunk driving accounted for 31 percent of fatal accidents, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. But even drunk drivers who don’t cause accidents face DUIs, which are humiliating, debilitating, and incredibly expensive. How expensive? Our insight breaks down the true cost of a DUI.