Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Let's not meet by accident...

Seems like I've sure been sitting on my butt driving for way too many hours this month...just one of those scheduling things I saw coming before October hit, but it doesn't change the fact that I don't feel as productive as I've been simply because there's not a lot I can accomplish while driving.

In my near-half century life, I've knighted myself a Road Warrior with all the miles I've driven. I watch cars around me intently, as defensive driving with acute alertness to all around you is key in staying safe.

However, coming back from the Tryon show I witnessed what I see a high percentage of the time, a situation that any observant soul could see coming without too much effort, yet a situation that someone's ignorance damn near causes pile-ups on a consistent basis. And it's committed regularly by young and old alike: Merging onto an interstate without yielding to traffic.

News flash if you didn't already know: when you merge from an on-ramp you YIELD to the traffic already on the interstate, NOT continue at speed side by side in a stupid game of chicken, getting uppity because the interstate traffic will not slow down to let you in. They're not supposed to. MERGERS should slow and wait for the next gap instead of forcing one.

In that same vein, mergers need to accelerate and get close to 'speed' so the merge can go more smoothly...even if you have to break a bit, at least you're not hitting a 60mph road at 35mph. I watched a couple in a nice new Volkswagon come down a ramp beside an 18-wheeler which could not move over...and the VW never slowed down, rode the merge lane out to the very end, still beside the truck (there WAS a space for them behind the truck), and the VW almost nailed a temporary road work sign before they came to a STOP, which is a kiss of death in heavy traffic like that.

I don't know who they were, but I was close enough to see that they looked like early retirees in fine health and appearance...pulling a classic bonehead maneuver I see daily. I call it the "Lost Art of the Merge"...I'll never understand the mentality of a merger that truly thinks traffic should yield to THEM coming onto the fray.

The other situation I ran into (just not literally) was someone who merged correctly...in the right lane were 3 camping trailer rigs, with no one in the left lane, and I was approaching them in that left lane with no one behind me. The Subaru wagon came down the ramp and did brake for the trailers...and when they merged behind the last one, at what I calculated to be around 40mph, they immediately continued merging into the outer left lane right in front of me, making me hit my brakes and lay on the horn, they were that close.

I can only assume he saw me, but who knows. After about 10 seconds the wagon hit the accelerator and took off like a rocket, passed the trailers, then settled back to 60 in the 65 zone and pitched a tent in the left lane. Riding in the left lane come hell or highwater is not illegal***(in fact, in NC it IS illegal...see following day's post), but it sure is inconsiderate and messes up traffic flow, not to mention a dangerous maneuver across lanes of traffic.

I was curious about a Top 10 list of causes of traffic accidents, of which there are several out there. The "faulty merge" was not on the list per se...here is what was on the list, basically:

Top 10 Causes of Auto Accidents

1. Cell phone use. Amen to that. Inconsistent speed is immediately evident, as well as weaving and not paying attention to signs, lights, and cars around them.

2. Fiddling with the radio/CD player. Eyes should stay on the road, not down to the itty bitty buttons on your dash because you don't like a particular song. God forbid you search for a station while you're on the cell phone and merging into traffic...

3. Eating in the car. A granola bar is do-able. Two-handing a Hardee's triple-decker Angus burger is for a rest area or parking lot only.

4. Rubbernecking. See this way too much, too...drivers just HAVE to look at a crash scene and see what all happened, driving far to slow and erratically, and troopers say get your @ss in gear, watch the road not the accident scene and keep traffic flowing. We're talking about crashes not on your side of the interstate...how many tie-ups have you been in, only to find out the accident is on the opposite side of the freeway?

5. Drinking and driving. Speaks for itself.

6. Drug use. If I were doing a Top 10 list I'd put this with #5, but who am I to tell AAA what to do...

7. Driver distraction. Your coke turns over. Billy just slapped Betsy in the back seat because she tried to grab the green crayon. Don't look away from traffic...pull over at the nearest safe area if you need to discipline or clean-up. It's very unsettling to pass a minivan with the driver turned TOTALLY around to the back seat, even if for a moment...

8. Speeding. If there is one thing I disdain it's arrogance, and speeders fill the bill. I suppose if you're out away from traffic and not impacting anyone, that's a choice you can make. But when in heavy traffic and you have the yahoos whipping at least 20mph above the speed limit, driving like they're part of a video game, I draw the line. They are dangerous and rude critters; while they do come in all ages and sizes, on my particular roads I see many out of staters that are 40-something in a tank of an SUV. Observation, only.

9. Recklessness. Kind of a nonspecific catch-all where the bad mergers could be placed. Basically any bad behavior is reckless, so it all fits in here. It is that sense of entitlement some surely feel when they're behind the steering wheel. In their doing what they want, regardless of the law, they cause others to wreck or make sudden maneuvers because of the surprise factor jerks cause popping up on someone from nowhere. One of my favorites is the tailgater that flashes their high beams at the car in front of them...

10. Shoddy road maintenance. Bad roads, potholes, poor reflective paint, etc. make for tougher than needed driving conditions. While some highway funds and projects have been boosted with the federal stimulus funds, many are neglected in an even bigger way. Highway 14 at the NC/SC state line is a classic example where NC has done a couple of repaving projects in recent years and SC hasn't touched their part of that road since the Spanish Inquisition.

Just remember the speed limit is not a suggestion, and keep it between the ditches. Godspeed to all y'all!


Rita said...

You hit on all my pet peeves! Great blog today. You might be interested to know that it IS illegal -- in NC and SC anyway -- to stay in the left lane indefinitely. It's called "traveling." Lanes other than the right lane are for passing only. One of the reasons there are fewer accidents on the Autobahn in Germany (where there is, or used to be, NO speed limit) is the drivers actually observe that common sense rule.

Bob Child said...

I was listening to "Charlotte Talks" on NPR a few months ago and a State Trooper, on air, said it wasn't against the law to ride in the left lane" which I didn't think was the case. Never checked beyond that. Regardless, left laners really make a muss of things, eh?!

Rita said...

Wowee, Bobaloo. If a State Trooper has it wrong, there's probably no hope. Check it out (page 51):


Bob Child said...

Leave it to you to get the official scoop! Now I really can't believe the trooper said what he did on-air! Thanks~!