Posted by: bkivey | 31 October 2010

Driving Me Crazy

When one first learns to operate a motor vehicle on public highways the mantra is ‘defensive driving’. Typically the new driver is taught to anticipate and plan rather than react. Of course, the majority of people who take these driving courses are teenagers; people who aren’t particularly good at anticipating consequences to start with and whose judgement behind the wheel is further compromised by the fact that they’re  behind the wheel.

For most folks the fullness of time brings wisdom and they learn not only to anticipate the foibles of their fellow drivers but to tolerate them within broad limits. For myself, there are two types of drivers that cause me to grit my teeth and think rude thoughts: the Slow Turner and the Good Samaritan.

It is a fact that for a body to maintain the same velocity when changing direction that body must accelerate. One need not know the physics or the math to know that this is true of a motor vehicle, and yet there are a number of drivers who start a turn at some constant rate of speed and then apparently maintain that same throttle setting throughout the turn, so that their car slows down as the turn progresses, causing those behind them to have to come to a stop as the anticipated smooth, contant-speed manuever fails to materialize. These folks are not as annoying as the Scout, who, even with a clear field of view, nudge their vehicle forward into the turn at a cautious pace, perhaps concerned that excessive lateral g-forces will void the warranties on their suspension and tires. People, by all that is holy, just TURN!

While the Slow Turners are annoying, they are not, in and of themselves, dangerous. The same cannot be said of the Good Samaritan. These are the folks who will wave you through the intersection at a 4-way stop or encourage you to perform some other manuever while they hold the right-of-way. They think that they’re doing you a favor, but what they’re really doing is sowing the seeds of confusion, and the body of traffic law is designed to reduce confusion and promote safe operation.

The worst offenders are those whose intent is to travel straight through an intersection but signal for you to go ahead and make your left-hand turn in front of them. The law is very clear about this: the non-turning party has the right-of-way. If the other person suddenly decides that they want to exercise the right-of-way while you’re half-way through your turn, and they hit you, it’s your fault. I’ve had incidents where I’ve had to take my hands off the wheel and fold my arms across my chest so that the person opposite, who thought they’d be nice and let me through, would actually follow the damn law.

Traffic laws exist so that complete strangers of varying ability can safely manuever two ton hunks of metal in close proximity to each other. While common sense and courtesy are often appreciated, knowing and following the law makes life easier and safer for everyone.

How To Tell When You’re Driving Too Slowly

In an incident witnessed this week, I’d say that when you’re passed by a bus-sized motorhome towing a car, you’re driving too slowly.

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