As Taylor Swift continues the slow but steady release of her re-recordings with Red (Taylor’s Version), we’re able to collectively revisit some of her early work through the lens of her discography as a whole. In doing so, there are certain recurring themes or tropes that become apparent, like forbidden romances, colors representing emotions, and the worst driving imaginable. Anyone who’s either a Swiftie or a crossing guard is sure to have noticed just how often Taylor sings about these illegal traffic maneuvers. And after nine albums of this, it’s reached a point where I finally begin to understand why the gay antagonist in “Picture to Burn” didn’t let her drive his “stupid old pickup truck.”
That being said, when really examining these violations with a critical eye, it becomes apparent that most of them were actually committed by the men driving Taylor around. Amongst this “long list of ex-lovers,” there are some reckless drivers, some who make minor mistakes, and some whose licenses should be revoked. The trend has slowed down as of late, suggesting that Joe Alwyn is a very good, responsible driver, whose time behind the wheel is not interesting enough to sing about — thank God.
Here, we rank every traffic violation in Taylor Swift’s discography, considering factors like severity of the infraction, danger level, and importance to T. Swiftian canon. But much like the way traffic cops do their jobs, the reasoning is mostly arbitrary and made up.
15. “Our Song” (Taylor Swift)
“He’s got a one-hand feel on the steering wheel,
The other on my heart”
The first thing they teach you in driver’s ed is to keep your hands at ten and two, and yet here Taylor is driving around town with a boy who only has one hand on the wheel. Their “song” is going to be the sound of sirens if he doesn’t get his act together.
14. “Red” (Red)
“Loving him is like driving a new Maserati down a dead-end street,
Faster than the wind, passionate as sin, ending so suddenly”
Whether it be a new Maserati, or a pre-owned Toyota RAV4, it is never a good idea to take off full speed down a dead-end street. Particularly if it’s not even a cul-de-sac and you’ll have to do a three-point turn to get out. Now, to be fair, there’s some room for debate on just how fast she’s going since it depends on wind speed. The average wind speed in Taylor’s home state of Pennsylvania is 17.1 mph, the highest wind speed ever recorded on Earth is 253 mph, and the speed of “The Wind” by Cat Stevens is 115 BPM. So do with that what you will.
13. “State of Grace” (Red)
“I’m walking fast through the traffic lights”
Traffic lights, per their name, are famously designed for cars — not pedestrians. So Taylor has absolutely no business galavanting through traffic on foot like a regular Kelly Killoren Bensimon.
12. “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things” (Reputation)
“Feeling so Gatsby for that whole year”
Much like Taylor Swift’s discography, The Great Gatsby is also about terrible driving, which I assume is why she relates to it. I know this because I not only read The Great Gatsby in high school, but I also saw the Fergie-scored film adaptation. A cornerstone of both versions is vehicular manslaughter.
11. “betty” (Folklore)
“Kissin’ in my car again,
Stopped at a streetlight”
Folklore’s “betty,” “august,” and “cardigan” are a trilogy of songs about loitering told from three different perspectives. The bulk of this love triangle seems to boldly take place in parked cars. In “august” for example, Taylor sings, “Meet me behind the mall,” and I highly doubt that they were grabbing an Auntie Anne’s and hitting up a Macy’s One Day Sale. In “betty” and “cardigan,” they don’t even wait until they’re concealed behind the safety of a closed down DSW, instead opting for a spot under a streetlight of all places.
10. “Cornelia Street” (Lover)
“But then you called, showed your hand,
I turned around before I hit the tunnel”
Given that this song is about a street in one of Taylor’s favorite lyrical neighborhoods, the West Village, it’s fair to assume that the tunnel in question is the Holland Tunnel. Those surrounding roads are a nightmare, so I’m nearly certain that this would have to be an illegal U-turn — which I think is a fair leap to make given her history of vehicular crime. That being said, this might just be the most understandable violation given the choice was between Joe Alwyn and Jersey City.
9. “Fearless” (Fearless)
“I wanna stay right here in this passenger seat,
You put your eyes on me”
Taylor gets a lot of flack for writing songs about boys she dates, but doesn’t get nearly enough heat for distracting them while they’re trying to drive. This is just one of the many times that she prides herself on being more interesting for a driver to look at than the road.
8. “Style” (1989)
“Midnight, you come and pick me up, no headlights,
Long drive, could end in burning flames or paradise”
Thematically, 1989 is an album about Harry Styles being bad at driving. The first of many examples of this is here in his namesake song, where he picks Taylor up with no headlights on. Clearly an attempt to sneak around undetected, it’s actually just a surefire way to hit a deer — ESPECIALLY at midnight of all times. At least Taylor seems to know from the jump the dangers of getting in a car with Harry behind the wheel, understanding that the long drive could potentially end in burning flames.
7. “Cruel Summer” (Lover)
“So cut the headlights, summer’s a knife”
Well it looks like someone didn’t learn her lesson about driving in the dark. Here it sounds like she’s trying to corrupt former frozen yoghurt shop employee Joe Alwyn, instructing him to turn off their headlights to keep a low profile. Still, it’s nothing compared to the far worse crime of this song, which is that it didn’t get a music video.
6. “Breathe” (Fearless)
“Never wanted this, never wanna see you hurt,
Every little bump in the road I tried to swerve”
Roads have a lot of little bumps, and if you’re swerving at every single one you’re a danger to society and your driving is sure to give poor Colbie Caillat whiplash.
5. “Getaway Car” (Reputation)
“You were driving the getaway car,
We were flying but we’d never get far.”
I mean, what is there to say about this? Getaway cars very rarely are known for their safe, law-abiding driving. The song even references other crimes, like putting the money in the bag and stealing the keys (grand theft auto?), mentions of famed criminals Bonnie and Clyde (who tried to steal Moonlight’s Oscar), and worst of all saying “sorry” with a Canadian accent so it rhymes with “story.”
4. “Style” (1989)
“So it goes,
He can’t keep his wild eyes on the road”
Speaking of wild eyes, somebody tell Olivia Wilde to never get in the car with Harry — we still need her Kerri Strug biopic.
3. “Out of the Woods” (1989)
“Remember when you hit the brakes too soon?
Twenty stitches in a hospital room”
As any history buff knows, in December of 2014 Taylor Swift and Harry Styles went on a ski trip to Park City, Utah, with Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez. It was on this fateful trip that the One Direction singer and future Cats star got into a snowmobile accident, resulting in Harry getting 20 stitches on his chin. Taylor later told Rolling Stone that she saw her life flash before her eyes, which I can understand because if I were in an accident I would also see Taylor Swift’s life flash before my eyes. The incident is shrouded in mystery, with Taylor urging the witnesses not to tell anyone about it, so we may never know what it was that caused Harry Styles to brake too soon. Perhaps a stray Chelsea boot in need of a home.
2. “All You Had to Do Was Stay” (1989)
“All I know is that you drove us off the road”
Why did this woman continue to let Harry Styles drive her around? What kind of adrenaline-junkie death wish did she possess?
1. “All Too Well” (Red)
“You almost ran the red ’cause you were looking over at me”
Jake Gyllenhaal might as well have been using the scarf that Taylor left at Maggie Gyllenhaal’s house as a blindfold, because this man was NOT looking at the road. When one drives down a little town street, especially with the precious cargo of America’s songstress in the car, it is key to watch where you’re going. Skidding to a halt because you didn’t realize that the light had turned red (the TITULAR color)? Unacceptable, Donnie Darko. The “crumpled-up piece of paper” that he made Taylor feel like was probably a traffic summons. Along with the release of Red (Taylor’s Version), we’re also finally getting the mythical ten-minute version of this song, and I truly shudder to think about what other traffic crimes Jake Gyllenhaal will commit in those extra four minutes and 33 seconds.