The comments on last week’s post on one of my pet peeves encouraged me to share another one: Behavior of drivers at stop signs and red lights.
Allow me to start with the general statement that a large percentage of stop signs and traffic lights are either unneeded or improperly installed. I’ll give you a few examples of what I’m talking about.
Many intersections with traffic lights need them at most for an hour or two each morning and evening during rush hour traffic. I’m talking about lights that stop traffic on major roads so that people can cross on little-traveled neighborhood roads. Such lights should be on timers so that they blink yellow for the main road and red for the side road 20 to 22 hours a day, allowing traffic to keep moving.
Other intersections have lights timed so that they’re green for a long time when there is little or no traffic coming, keeping traffic on the cross street waiting for no reason. These should be controlled by sensors, not timers.
It has become increasingly popular to install left turn lights. These can be handy at times, but only the busiest intersections should mark them “Left On Arrow Only.” The rest should allow you to turn left whenever there is a break in the traffic.
In my observation, a high percentage of stop signs are installed to impede the flow of traffic rather than for any safety reason. For instance, I live on a corner where a somewhat major neighborhood street crosses a court that goes nowhere. There are stop signs halting traffic on the major street, while the dozen or so cars that use the court each day can sail through unimpeded.
All of that said, we drivers could do a lot to make getting around in a city easier and more pleasant for one another. Here are a few suggestions to bear in mind when behind the wheel:
S T O P doesn’t spell park. Once you’ve come to a stop, take off. Don’t make everyone wait for you to wake up.
If it’s a three-way or four-way stop and you see someone approaching on the other street, don’t sit there and wait until after he has come to a stop before you go, making him delay his progress. As soon as you can tell he’s in the process of stopping, go. You could clear the intersection before he completes his stop.
Don’t take a nap at a red light, holding up people in cars behind you when the light turns green. Stay alert and take off as soon as it changes. Many lights are governed by sensors that think no one is there if they don’t sense movement, and if you don’t move promptly some of the cars behind you may not get through on this cycle.
If you’re in a right turn lane turning onto a multi-lane street, don’t wait for all lanes to be clear before you turn. Go as soon as the near lane is clear. You can merge left after you turn if you need to, but by going, you free the driver behind you to go.
As I told my daughter when she was learning to drive, the number one rule of courteous driving is “Get out of the way.” Consider the people behind you, and don’t make them wait unnecessarily.
What pet peeves bother you when you are driving?
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