Just to reiterate….
In addition to that previous post, perhaps some etiquette should be established. If you are the one backing up, and you see that someone is awfully close to driving past you, you wait. You do not have the goddamn right of way. This happened twice yesterday—people just backing up and pretending I don’t exist.
As the person backing out the space, you have to wait for the person about to drive behind you/person you’re about to hit to pass, unless they signal to you that they are going to wait for you. So just pull back into your spot if you’re a little too far out of the space or simply stop backing up if you haven’t moved very far.
It’s pretty simple: If you see another car approaching your vehicle as you are backing up, press on the breaks and stop. Wait until that vehicle has passed and then resume your reverse motion.
Studded snow tires
Studded snow tires, for those who live in warmer climates, are tires with little metal studs in the tread which provide plenty of extra traction in heavy snow and ice situations. These tires are handy for people who live in mountainous areas or other areas that receive significant snowfall and/or ice. Studded snow tires should be put on somewhere around the first heavy snowfall of the season and should be removed when the roads are generally cleared of snow.
Having snow tires on at the end of April in 80 degree weather is just fucking stupid, ruins the road, and decreases the life of your tire!!!!
A lot of people in my city of residence still have their studded tires on. This RUINS the road. You’re banging metal picks into asphalt at over 65 miles per hour…. what do you think that’s going to do to the road?! If someone hits you with a bunch of metal studs at 60 miles an hour, you’re probably not going to look or feel very good afterwards. Then our roads get worse and everyone complains, and then we have to go through construction and repaving. No one likes road construction. So take off your goddamn studded snow tires already. Jeez.
How to turn on the turn signal
Since it appears that a vast majority of drivers fail to use their turn signals, I figured I would take this time to help those drivers find the mechanism which turns the turn signal on and off.
The turn signal indicator stalk is always, and I mean ALWAYS, on the left side of the steering column, just behind the steering wheel. This even holds true in right-hand drive cars! If you have more than one stick protruding from your steering column, the one that turns on your signal often has the controls for the windshield wiper on it as well. Just in case you are having difficulty locating the lever in your car, refer to the following pictures:
How to use this excellent piece of engineering genius is very simple. If you wish to go to the right, you simply push the stick upwards. If you wish to go to the left, you simply push the stick downwards. If you are having a hard time remembering which is which, just think of this neat little trick: If you hold a finger out and turn the wheel to the right, your finger will hit the turn signal indicator from underneath, pushing it upwards. Likewise, if you hold a finger out and turn the wheel to the left, your finger will hit the turn signal indicator from above, pushing it downwards. You don’t even have to move it very far! You only need to push the stalk up maybe an inch (possibly 2 at the most), which isn’t much trouble at all.
Turning off your signal, which is just as important, is done by returning the stalk to its original position. Most cars automatically turn off the signal when you return the wheel to “straight” if you move the wheel far enough in the direction you have indicated you will turn. However, when changing lanes, the signal does not automatically turn off, so it is your responsibility to return the stalk to where it started.
Lastly, the turn signal indicator is not very far away from your hands if you drive with a “9 and 3” hand position. It is also not very far away in a “10 and 2” or an “8 and 4” hand position. And, really, it’s not very difficult to reach even if you’re one of those idiots that drives with your wrist at the 12:00 position. While the actual distance between the wheel and the far end of the turn signal indicator varies by make and model, it is usually within a finger’s length of the steering wheel (see below) so that you can keep your hand on the steering wheel at all times.
If you are still having problems figuring out how to turn on your signals, go out to your car and play around until you have figured it out. And once you know how to turn on your signals, APPLY THIS KNOWLEDGE IN REAL LIFE!
Make sure you look before backing up. Anywhere. Anytime.
So, yesterday I went to Einstein Bagels, looking to indulge in a delicious breakfast sandwich. I was behind this god awful Camry with chrome 22’s and super low profile tires. As we were moseying through the parking lot, the woman driving the Camry decided she wanted a parking space that happened to be behind her—where I was. So, the woman proceeded to back up. Quickly. I honked my horn. She did not brake. I slammed the horn, for about 5 to 6 seconds, and about 6” away from my car, she finally realized I was there and stopped. How one doesn’t stop immediately at the sound of a car horn so close him/her is beyond me. But the lesson learned from this is do not back up without looking behind you! Better yet, don’t back up in areas where this can cause an accident, e.g., at a stop light. If you’re too far out in the intersection, that’s just too damn bad.
This really should be common sense…
The shoulder/bike lane is not a turn lane. You can actually be ticketed for driving in a bike lane and/or on the shoulder. Turn lanes are almost always signaled by a dashed line. This may be one of those “patience is a virtue” situations.
Why San Francisco (and pretty much any major city) sucks.
So, I was in San Francisco last week for a Car and Driver event, and I was painfully reminded how much city driving sucks. It’s the horrific combination of hundreds of thousands of cars attempting to travel on 4 lane roads, stop lights every 50 meters, and pedestrians out the wazoo. Not to mention tolls to enter and exit the city and the catastrophe that happens when you realize you need to make a left instead of a right and you have to attempt to get across 5 lanes of bumper to bumper traffic or risk getting lost.
And honestly, there isn’t a way to fix it. Yes, people using public transportation, walking, or walking to public transportation might help, but only minimally. Perhaps I’ll have another post on why public transportation doesn’t work. I digress.
- If you happen to find yourself in a big-city-driving situation, never ever ever be in a hurry. Make sure you leave LOTS of time to get where you’re going because there will most likely be a traffic jam, a crash, a long line at a toll, or some other disaster that will cause you to lose precious minutes of your life sitting in your car trying to find a decent radio station to listen to and moving at the blistering speed of 5 miles per hour.
- You should also know where the hell you’re going. Having a GPS system can only help so much. If it doesn’t direct you very well, then you’ll end up getting on some other freeway that you didn’t want to be on and you’ll end up lost and in a bad part of the city. If you have paper directions, include the maps. If you have a navigator with you, make sure that communication is clear so that everyone can keep their cool and not ruin the day by being pissed at each other.
- The native city driver is an aggressive one. Watch out for them.
- I would like to argue that health in cities is bad not from air pollution, but rather it is caused by the stress of driving in such a shitty environment.
Yet some people absolutely love cities, and that’s all fine and dandy for them. I am not a member of that cult, and I’m sure many others aren’t as well. And sadly, many of the city-haters must drive in a city at some point. Maybe there is a way to fix the horrible congestion on bridges in and out of cities. I think that solution is probably driving at 2 in the morning, but that’s not very practical. It’s just the nature of the beast. I think here’s another place where the “Keep Calm and Drive On” picture could go…..
There have been a lot of problems with cyclists recently in my city of residence. This week, I actually saw someone who had been hit by a car (probably because they didn’t stop at the intersection). Though this blog is about cars, bicycles and cars apparently don’t mix on the road the way they should. I would personally put 90% of the blame on the cyclists, but automobile drivers can be dicks too. Let’s go over some ground rules for each:
- You MUST stop at stop signs and red lights. You do not ever get the right of way unless you follow rule #2:
- You cannot use a crosswalk while on your bike. You must dismount and walk across. This is written in about every traffic manual.
- Stay as far the fuck over as you possibly can. Some towns have bike lanes, others don’t. Even when in the bike lane, please be sure to ride as far to the right as you safely can. It freaks people out when you drive on the line dividing the driving and bike lanes.
- Also on that note, you are not going as fast as the rest of the traffic and sometimes it is physically impossible for you to go as fast as cars—don’t ride in the middle of the road.
- Did I mention you have to stop at red lights and stop signs yet? You must follow all traffic laws that cars do if you’re going to ride on the road. You are not special because you are on a bike.
- Do not honk at cyclists as you pass them.
- Give them enough room when you pass, but try not to go into the opposite lane to pass them.
- Do not use bike lanes as turn lanes. This is actually illegal in some states, and you can be ticketed for this.
- Watch out for cyclists when making turns.
If you haven’t noticed, my biggest pet peeve is when cyclists just blow right through stop signs. That is incredibly dangerous for them and fucking scary for all the cars at the intersection. If you ride a bike, for whatever reason, please make sure you are following the laws just like the cars have to. Don’t complain about drivers not sharing the road when you aren’t playing by the rules either.
Old people should not drive.
So, the other day when my significant other and I were heading home from a hike, we encountered an old person that clearly did not know how to drive. When coming to a stop a light, this woman, in her 70’s perhaps, did not come to a complete stop until about 1/4 car length after the big bold line that marks where the intersection starts. In doing so, this woman blocked one of the turn lanes for people turning left coming from the opposite direction. We thought we were in the clear since we were getting on the highway and the woman was two lanes over. However, when the light turned green, the woman decided that she was in the wrong lane, and drove through two lanes of traffic to get in front of us to get on the freeway. We waited behind her and then she decided to go two miles per hour through the light and up the on ramp, so we passed her and another vehicle that was failing to merge at an appropriate speed.
Old people are just as, if not more, of a hazard than new drivers or people texting and driving. One of my friends’ father was killed because some old person drove right into him while he was driving his motorcycle.
If you cannot (a) see, (b) walk, (c) have full control of all voluntary muscles, or (d) if you have slow reflexes, YOU SHOULD NOT BE DRIVING!!!!!!!!
There should be a law in place that requires people to pass a reflex test. Someone who is unable to make a quick decision to stop or make a turn to avoid a child in the middle of the road is just as dangerous as someone who is texting/talking while driving and not paying attention. Why is nothing being done about this?
Naturally, old people will not want to give up their driving privileges because they want to be independent and have been driving for their entire lives, and there are, honestly, very understandable reasons. However, plenty of people want to talk on their phones while they drive and text their friends while they drive, but that doesn’t mean they get to. There are all these ads for drinking and driving and smoking weed and then driving and how it reduces reaction time. Old age reduces reaction time as well. And the prevention campaign for getting old is going to be hilarious, though.
I’m not saying there’s any particular age when you can’t drive anymore. The reaction test should administered to EVERYONE and if you don’t pass then you don’t get your license/license renewed. Simple as that.
The importance of signalling.
I have alluded to this issue at various times throughout previous posts, but I suppose it’s time to address the issue directly.
Signalling is very super duper important. It is an effective way to communicate with vehicles around you, and you should be communicating. Whether it is your turn signals, flashing your high beams, or an *appropriate* hand gesture, communication is integral to a conducive driving environment.
As I have said before, driving is a group activity. A group cannot function if there is no communication within the group. Fact of life.
Now, it may seem obvious what I am about to explain, but I’m sure you all have seen these atrocities occur over and over again.
- When changing lanes: It is important to signal when changing lanes. Not only to avoid an unnecessary police pursuit, but also to make sure you don’t die or kill someone else while trying to get into another lane. Try to signal at least 3 or 4 second before you actually change lanes so that the people around you have time to notice your desire and react accordingly.
What happens if you don’t signal: Someone else may try to go into the same lane that you want to go into, but since you didn’t signal, they have no idea, and there could be a collision; you are ticketed; you piss everyone off and look like a douche.
- When making a turn: This really should be the most obvious, but where problems occur here tend to be in timing. When do you start signalling? If there are a lot of entryways/driveways/streets before where you actually want to turn, begin signalling after you have passed the entryway/driveway/street that immediately precedes your turn. That way, there won’t be any confusion for the people trying to turn out of the entryways/driveways/streets you are passing. At a stop sign, it is essential to signal to tell everyone else at the intersection where you want to go so that they can plan their maneuvers accordingly.
What happens if you don’t signal or signal too early: Someone trying to turn out of where you’re turning into could lose an opportunity to pull onto the road; if signalling too early, the people making an exit may think you’re turning into their exit point and pull onto the road in front of you; at a stop sign, you just piss people off by either running into them when they make a maneuver that they think is safe because they are under the assumption that you are not turning, or they lose their turn to go because they were waiting for you to do something that you weren’t actually intending to do. It also confuses the people driving behind you when you randomly decide to slow down and don’t signal that you are intending to make a turn.
- Don’t forget to turn off your turn signal: If you leave your turn signal on after you performed the intended maneuver, you can cause all kinds of confusion and frustration to the drivers around you. The problems in #2 apply to this. Also, if you leave the signal on while on the highway, you’re confusing everyone around you when they create a gap for you to get over (because that is what you are telling you want to do) and you do not take advantage of it. You will also be laughed by everyone around you once they’ve noticed you left it on.
- While at a stop sign: I would suggest you just follow the first come, first move rule, but if you are lost or for some other reason unable to move come your turn, or you arrived at the same time and you want to be nice and let the other person go first (and they are directly across from you), go ahead and flash the high beams. You may also use a wave to signal to people that they may go before you.
- Pedestrians: If you are stuck awkwardly staring at a pedestrian waiting for them to grow a pair and cross the road, go ahead and wave them on to let them know you will not run them over despite the fact that you have already come to a complete stop. Flashing your high beams can also work if you are far enough away from the crosswalk.
- When you see another MINI: Here is where I reveal that I drive a MINI. If you see another MINI driver, flash your high beams or wave. It is a sign of community to greet a fellow MINI driver… and if you don’t flash back or wave, you make the other driver really depressed.
- When you have passed a cop: I never pick up on this hint, but flashing high beams can also serve as a warning to other driver that there are police in the area and to slow down. However this had been made “illegal” in some areas.
- On the highway: Flash your high beams to signal to a vehicle ahead of you that they can go ahead and make their intended maneuver. If you have created a gap but the people are hesitant, let them know you are being nice by flashing your high beams, signalling that they are safe to go.
You can’t make everyone happy.
Perhaps this should be one of the fundamentals of driving… and perhaps a sentiment to live by.
Over the last few months of driving, I have found myself unable to get anywhere without becoming horribly upset with the journey. Slow people, fast people, pedestrians, people that don’t like to use their signals, people that don’t understand how signalling works, people that don’t check their mirrors when performing a maneuver, people that don’t understand the concept of a stop sign…. the list could go on and on. And I’m sure people would have their own complaints about my driving. But that’s where we reach the critical lesson. We’re all fucked. While I’m sitting in my car cursing out loud at the person failing to merge at highway speeds, they’re probably sitting in their car cursing me for coming up behind them so fast and blazing past them once I have the chance.
Perhaps I’m too impatient (understatement of the century) and/or perhaps other people have lost a few too many brain cells in their old age. Either way, no one is going to be happy while driving. Unless, of course, a) there is no one else on the road (the only place where true euphoria can be found), or b) everyone stops driving. I am not a proponent of the second option, and on further reflection, public transportation contains all of the same problems that exist on the road, just on a more personal level.
Everyone will still be complaining about how quickly they can reach their destinations—delays, train speed limits, bus speed limits, etc. People will also complain about their personal space being invaded, how slow the person in front of them is walking, people cutting them off while they’re trying to walk somewhere, people running into each other… pretty much any driving experience can be transferred to a walking experience.
Other modes of transportation also completely remove the freedom to go wherever you want, whenever you want. This is obviously a big issue.
Then I thought, Chauffeurs! Everyone should have to have a licensed chauffeur drive their cars! New job opportunities, you purchase the chauffeur with the car, they… live in a makeshift apartment in the buyer’s garage…. and stuff.
While this idea sounds cool… sort of… the logistics of that would be terrible. Plus, it’d be pretty hard to guarantee that those chauffeurs don’t eff things up just as badly as regular drivers do now. Ideally, they would be trained drivers that know their shit and all that. But, it’ll probably end up being like taxis where the drivers are crazy as hell and make driving seem more like a game of grand theft auto.
And they would probably have the problem of backseat drivers leaning forward and saying, “Um, excuse me, I do believe the speed limit is 65. It appears to me that you are going 68. Please slow down.” And probably people that don’t like taking turns at reasonable speeds… All that other nonsense.
That was a bit of a rant that may or may not have been on topic, depending on how you look at it. Anywho, driving should be a pleasurable experience—going places, seeing new things, feeling the wind on your hair, feeling the adrenaline flowing—but it seems as though this is a rare occurrence these days for many reasons (mainly stupid people, but I’ll pretend I’m not explicitly blaming any particular group).
Solutions? Get rid of all the stupid people, but I feel that may create a moral dilemma for some people. Other than that… nothing. People that care about driving and love to drive will probably care to better their driving and learn from their mistakes and generally attempt to approve the atmosphere on the roads. People that think of cars as a way to get from Point A to Point E, I, O, U, and sometimes Y, couldn’t care less about who’s turn it is at an unregulated intersection or using a slow vehicle turn out while traveling up a mountain pass. Aside from having highway patrol do something useful and pull over people acting like dicks (which, honestly, wouldn’t do anything other than generate income for the state), there is nothing that can be done within reason to improve conditions on roadways.
<images of doom and gloom go here. use your imagination.>
Who woulda thunk that there would be problems with off ramps? I suppose it’s not a major problem, but one that’s been popping up lately, so I decided I might put something out there.
It will be a simple post. Prepare yourself.
Off-ramps were created to allow ample time for the driver to slow down from highway speed upon exit from the highway. They should be used as such. You should not slow down while still on the highway!!!!!!!!!!!! (See below) It slows the flow of traffic and causes all kinds of problems.
Here we have a gray car preparing to exit. He or she is signalling, which is good. The problem here is that they are breaking while they are still on the highway, causing everyone else behind them to have to slam on their brakes and get stuck in a line. The light blue car and the white car in the lane are not going to this exit. Perhaps they are going to one shortly after or just merged and have not had a change to safely exit the lane. They are now held up by someone slowing down to 40 mph in a 65 to exit off this ramp. This will cause a huge line up of people and trucks traveling in the far right lane and bother everyone that would prefer to travel at highway speeds while traveling on the highway.
Lesson: Speed is good. Carry it into your off-ramp. They are engineered to allow 18-wheelers to have enough time to slow down from 65, so I sure hope you can slow down in time too.
How to handle intersections
Navigating through unregulated intersections (ones without lights) should really be as easy as counting to 4. Or 3 or 2, depending on how many stop signs there are. The rule with these kinds of intersections is that you get to proceed on a first-come, first-move basis. No. Cheating.
Naturally, there are exceptions, as there are with any situation. The following diagrams provide a visual representation of what to do in some sample situations.
(I’ve already discussed not pulling out in front of people, and those rules apply to here as well.)
We’ll start with a relatively simple scenario.
This kind of deal happens a lot at one particular intersection where I live. The brown-ish car is attempting to make a left-hand turn. The teal-ish car is attempting to make a right hand turn. Now, if this is one of those intersections where there’s never anyone on the road, then whatever, fight for who gets to go first, but the particular intersection where this happens all the time is plagued with heavy cross-traffic. Alas, the poor person trying to make a left will never get home if everyone turning right never lets them go.
This requires the cooperation of both the brown car and the teal car. Each driver must keep note of who arrived at the stop sign first. Each driver must also be aware of on-coming traffic in both lanes. The teal car needs to decide whether he/she is the only car of the two able to make the turn safely or not. By this I mean, if there is a long string of cars in the opposing lane and the nearest lane into which he/she is turning is completely open, then the teal car may go despite order of arrival; if both lanes are clear, then order of arrival wins out. It’s slightly complicated, which is why these kinds of intersections suck at rush hour—and why they cause so many problems in general.
Continuing on, the above scenario applies if one car is making a right turn and the opposite car is making a left tern. The diagram below shows an easier case where the brown and teal cars are not attempting to go into the same lane. With this situations it is SUPER DUPER IMPORTANT TO USE YOUR FRICKEN SIGNAL! A lot of problems at intersections and in life could be avoided by signalling. It is key to let the other person know what you want to do so they can plan accordingly and everyone can get to their desired destination intact.
Next, let’s talk about those pesky 4-way stop intersections. They really should not be as awful as everyone makes them. You proceed in a sequential order. If you get there at the same time as someone else, then you’re just being a jerk… or they’re being a jerk.. someone involved in that situation is being uncool. Slow down and let them stop first, or use the written rule which say that the person on the right goes first… which seems odd to me because a 4-way intersection is kind of like a circle and there isn’t just “one” person who is on the right and “right” is a matter of perspective… but I digress.
Anyway, at these intersections you keep track of who is going and in what order— ”1, 2, 3, 4”. Count out loud if you have to. I do when the intersection is exceptionally busy.
As you can see above, we have an example of a busy 4-way intersection. The number 1 car was the first to arrive and is currently making its way through the intersection. The second car to arrive (2), will proceed after 1 has either started or completed their move (depends on where car 2 is going. Assuming car 1 is going straight at this intersection, car 2 can begin to either go straight or make a right turn as soon as car 1 begins to make their move. If car 2 is making a left turn, they obviously have to wait.) Once car 3 has done their move, car 4 can go. After this, car “1a” will make their maneuver and the cycle continues over again. Always make sure that you are keeping track as to where other people are going and what order they are all arriving at the intersection.
Unfortunately, this whole “if you’re there first, go first” hits a bit of a snag when you reach a scenario like the one below:
1 is currently doing their thing through the intersection, and clearly 2 is second to move. Now, from the way this picture is drawn it appears that 3 is going to reach the stop line before 4 is. However, if 4 were closer to the line and does in fact reach in the intersection before 3 does, the green car would then be 3 and the blue car would be 4.
When in doubt, use hand signals. If you do use hand signals of some kind, don’t wait 5 minutes until everyone’s all confused before you use them.
And if other people are too thick to get the whole process of the intersection, take deep breaths, avoid any accidents, and continue on to your destination.
Also remember that driving is a group activity and you’re going to have to cooperate.
Don’t run red lights.
They’re red for a reason. Because traffic in the other direction has the green light. They will then be moving and entering the intersection. They have the right of way and probably will not stop for you.
Over the past couple of weeks I’ve seen at least 15 people flat-out run a red light. These aren’t people that caught the last bit of the yellow light went through, I’m talking about the light being red before they even entered the intersection… And in some cases, the other light turning green while they’re in the intersection.
I’ve also seen jerks in a left-turn lane with a long line of people going through the red light in a giant chain. It’s inconsiderate to everyone else trying to get home that can’t because you’re blocking the intersection.
I’m sure some of the time people run red lights because they misjudge the length of the yellow light. It can, in theory, be difficult to decide what to do with a yellow light. Yes, the correct thing would be to slow down and stop if you’re within stopping distance of the line, but really, hardly anyone does that. Each driver needs to have a predetermined place on the road where if they reach it before the light turns yellow, they can go through the light, but if they have not reached it when the light turns yellow, they should stop. I usually make that point about where right-hand turn lanes start. This should then prevent the little moment of hesitation the second the light turns, and prevent you from making the decision to run the yellow light and not get there in time.