Kremmling " The rules of the road may be changing
July 1, 2008
There have always been rules that governed the way we drive on the road. Given the number of us who are bustling back and forth from who knows where to who really cares, there has to be some sort of uniform system or mayhem would quickly ensue.
The system includes the well-known rules that govern things like where we drive, how fast we drive, how and when to pass and about signs and signals. There are some rules which govern less obvious situations.
For instance, there is a speed limit to observe when there is no limit posted. When two vehicles meet on a steep mountain road and there is no room to pass, the vehicle going uphill has the right of way. I have always assumed that is in place because it is far more dangerous to back a vehicle downhill than it is to back a vehicle uphill.
When two vehicles meet at an uncontrolled intersection, the vehicle to the right has the right of way. The same thing applies when two vehicles meet at the same time at a four-way stop. For some reason, there seems to be a lot of confusion over this rule. With more frequency I find myself at these types of intersections, waving and gesticulating and then creeping forward with caution.
In addition, there are some unwritten rules for driving. Some of those unwritten rules reflect local knowledge about road conditions and traffic patterns. For example, I have lived in places where you knew when you could cut a corner short and when you needed to give a wide berth for possible oncoming cars.
It isn’t explicitly stated, but each lane of a multi-lane highway has a purpose. The far left lane is often called the passing lane. It is to be supposed to be used by fast-moving traffic as a way to get around slower-moving traffic. I think the original highway designers assumed (hoped) this lane would be for vehicles traveling at the posted speed limit and they would use this lane to pass vehicles which couldn’t or wouldn’t travel at speed limit. We all know this lane is often used by people who are well past the “cushion of five miles per hour” which we all assume exists. I think we all know that traveling the speed limit in that lane will put you in somebody’s grill in short order.
The unwritten rule for traveling in the far left lane is that you better be willing to push your comfort level or be, effectively, a moving road block. If you need to pass a slower vehicle, it is often necessary to time your pass between the rapidly moving traffic in that lane. If you don’t, be prepared to have your back window filled by the glowering face of some time-stressed road banshee.
As the price of gas has spiraled upward, I have been watching for changes in behavior. The members of the mass media assumed that people would start changing their driving patterns at about $3.30 per gallon. Wrong. Gas is now over $4 a gallon and, as near as I can tell, people are driving just as much as ever.
The roadways seem to be just as full and I still see the majority of cars filled with only one or two people. I did hear that RTD in Denver has experienced an increase in ridership. I found it ironic that RTD personnel recently said the unexpected increase has caused them to rethink their rate structure. They are losing more money with more riders. The longer I think about that one, the less sense it makes. Reminds me of the following joke. If the government was placed in charge of the Sahara Desert, within six months there would be a sand shortage. Sorry, I digress.
On the positive side, I have picked up a couple of tips about driving to save fuel. There are the usual tips like driving a more fuel efficient car, combining errands and taking fewer trips, carpooling. We have become a society that must have its every demand satisfied, immediately. Thirst, run to the store for a coke. Bored, jump in the car and drive to the reservoir. Hungry, take a quick trip to the restaurant. Cut down on a few of those trips each week and you will: a) save money on fuel; b) save money on whatever you were going to buy; c) perhaps drop a few pounds by not eating those snacks you couldn’t live without; d) use that travel time for more esoteric pursuits like solving world hunger.
Observe your driving habits. We used to talk about not driving like a jackrabbit. Avoid the quick stops and the quick starts. In addition to saving fuel, you get bonus points for not jangling the nerves of your passengers. It was my observation this past weekend that some people apparently are taking this precept to the level of going through more yellow lights. Colorado is an “amber” state anyway. Yellow lights don’t mean caution. Apparently, they mean “hit the gas” so you don’t get stuck waiting at a light. For Coloradoans, waiting at an intersection has always been for other people. You know, people whose time isn’t as valuable as mine.
Now, I opine, waiting at a stop light means, for many people, idling away the money you could have used for a frosty, cold brew or a gallon of milk. I have taken to measuring these amber-lighters on the “There-is-NO-way” meter. As in, “There-is-NO-way” that car is going to try to make it through the intersection. If you scrunch your face up in a “brace yourself for the sound of a collision” you know you are at the outer limits of the “There-is-NO-way” zone. This past weekend, the most egregious example I saw was when the car BEHIND the “There-is-NO-way” car went through the intersection. And, he was pulling a U-Haul trailer. My wife, who speaks ill of no one, gave that one a “Wow!”
I tell you of these amber-light trespassers, not to recommend such behavior. I tell you so you will have your head on a swivel when you go through intersections. There may be a “There-is-NO-way” driver headed into an intersection near you in the very near future. As you find your comfort zone in the driving environment of today, watch for these changes in driving habits.
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