Category Archives: Driving Frustrations

The wisdom of George Carlin

Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac? — George Carlin (courtesy of Refdesk’s Thought of the Day).

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Left turns

When making a left turn at a traffic light, you should NOT stay put at the white stop line when the light turns green. You should instead proceed fully into the intersection while you wait for a lull in oncoming traffic that will let you safely complete your turn.

This is a fundamental driving rule that most of us were taught when we first got our learner’s permits at age 16. Pulling into the intersection promotes safety and efficiency in at least three ways: First, drivers behind you who want to proceed straight ahead can more easily get past you if you are in the intersection. Second, drivers behind you who are also waiting to turn left have a better chance of completing their turns before the traffic light turns red. If, in contrast, you sit at the stop line while you wait for an opening in oncoming traffic, you might not be able to turn at all, forcing you and those behind you to wait for yet another signal cycle. Or, if you’re more aggressive, you may try to make a last-minute turn from the stop line, risking a collision with drivers on the cross street who get a quick jump on their green light.  Third (and related to points one and two), by properly entering the intersection, you minimize the risk that you will be the victim of a road-rage assault by a driver frustrated by your ineptitude.

You need not be concerned about the light turning yellow or even red while you are in the intersection. You can lawfully complete your turn even after the light has turned red. Don’t believe me? Take a look at this article from the Tacoma News Tribune:

According to the Washington State Patrol, it’s completely legal to pull out into the intersection and wait for a clearing to turn left. You don’t have to wait at the stop line.

“If you have a green light, go ahead and get your position in the intersection,” said State Patrol spokesman trooper Guy Gill.

You can take your left when it’s safe, Gill said, even as the light turns from yellow to red.

If you’re eager to read more about this burning issue, take a look at this discussion on The Straight Dope.

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Speed bumps

I’m willing to concede that speed bumps can serve a legitimate purpose in some settings — perhaps even in parking lots — to deter recklessly fast driving and thereby to protect pedestrians and other drivers. But there is a difference between soft speed humps, which are more than adequate to serve the purpose, and harsh, obnoxious, jarring speed lumps, which are tough on a car’s shock absorbers and even tougher on my otherwise sunny disposition. If I had my way, those annoying lumps would be banned. Every mall that has installed them would be forced to rip them out and issue a public apology for having installed them in the first place.

But here’s what bothers me even more than the damned lumps. As a matter of principle, I drive over the lumps at a slow but steady pace; I refuse to treat them as a kind of subversive stop sign. But far too many others find the lumps — and even the humps — just too frightening to drive over. They feel the need to slow to 2 miles per hour as they approach the lump or hump, thereby forcing everyone behind them (and I’m almost always one of those behind them) to slow to the same ridiculous pace. It is bad enough that we must put up with the needless proliferation of humps and lumps in parking lots and other settings. Must we also accept the infuriating timidity of those who cannot bring themselves to drive over them at a rate of at least 5 miles an hour?

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Driving under the speed limit

Most drivers (at least here in California) tend to exceed the posted speed limit by five or ten miles an hour, perhaps more on a freeway. I confess that I become agitated when I find myself on a no-passing road behind a driver who sticks precisely to the speed limit. I recognize, however, that I have no legitimate basis for complaint, so I practice deep breathing and swallow my frustration.

By contrast, I cannot keep my blood pressure from spiking when I’m stuck behind someone who insists on driving at a rate of, say, 25 MPH in a 35 MPH zone. Even if I’m not in a hurry, I consider this passive-aggressive driving behavior to be utterly unacceptable. Oh, I know — maybe it’s a tourist eager to take in the view or a cautious elderly driver with failing eyesight or deteriorating reflexes. I don’t care. Let the tourist pull over and enjoy the view from the sidewalk, or at least allow those being held up to pass. As for the senior citizen or any other fearful driver, my view is simple: if you’re too timid to drive at the speed limit, you’re too timid to drive.

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