An Unsolicited Rant

Bear with me, please. I feel the need to vent a bit. And yes, I know I’m beating a dead horse and, given the quality of my readers, probably preaching to the choir. Neither fact makes venting any less satisfying.

The number of drivers doing stupid things on a regular basis continues to climb. The thing is, most of those stupid things fall into one of two categories. Fix those, and we’ll eliminate hundreds, if not thousands of accidents a year.

First, stop crossing solid lines–yes, even solid white lines. Yes, I know it’s legal in some states and in some circumstances. It’s still a bad idea.

Solid white lines, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices show places where crossing is discouraged, i.e. where it’s unsafe, or outside normal driving practices.

That’s why you see solid white lines just before a freeway exit and just before an onramp merge: drivers are concentrating on merging into or disentangling from freeway traffic; adding another vehicle disrupts the smooth flow of cars and makes the process more complicated. You may need to cross the lines in an emergency, so there isn’t a firm prohibition against it–but a traffic jam is not an emergency*. Neither is missing your exit because you were checking something on your phone.

* Unless you’re driving a police car, fire truck, or ambulance. But in those cases, you’re exempt from normal driving standards anyway.

Seriously, people, if you’re trying to get off the freeway, don’t do it by crossing the solid lines, even to get out of a tie-up. You’re either blocking people trying to get onto the freeway or people trying to exit legally. Similarly, if you’re trying to get onto the freeway, don’t do it across the solid lines: they’re probably there because you don’t have enough of a sight line to be sure the lane is clear.

Second, stay close to the speed limit–ideally within five miles per hour–or the prevailing speed of traffic. The arguments against speeding have been made over and over. I’m tired of seeing them. You’re tired of seeing them. Consider them included by reference.

But traveling significantly slower than the speed limit is just as bad. You become an unexpected obstacle to other drivers. Anywhere that sight lines are reduced, you’ll trigger abrupt slowdowns that can avalanche, causing major traffic tie-ups, even if nobody gets into an accident.

Worse yet, you become a challenge to the sort of person who exceed the speed limit. They’re going to start playing the Slalom Game: whipping around you without slowing down, and coming as close to your front and rear bumpers as they can to show you just how insignificant they think you are.

Again, there are circumstances where you might need to slow down. Snow, heavy rain, or high winds, for example. The zombie apocalypse*. In the Berkeley/Oakland area, a protest moving onto the freeway**.

* Maybe. One school of thought says you should slow down to minimize the danger to others when your passenger turns into a zombie and goes for your throat. The other school says you should speed up to maximize your ability to flatten the zombies wandering through traffic. A full analysis is, of course, outside of the scope of this rant.

** Be careful not to confuse a peaceful protest with a zombie apocalypse! Hint: protesters rarely, if ever, eat human flesh during the protest. That said, however, if zombies are carrying protest signs, you’ll have to solve the ethical dilemma yourself.

Bluntly, if you don’t feel capable of driving at least fifty on the freeway, take city streets. If you can’t drive at least twenty-five on city streets, take a cab. And if you’re incapable of driving less than eighty anywhere, get out of the car and take public transportation.

Thank you. I feel better already.

4 thoughts on “An Unsolicited Rant

  1. Crossing a solid white line? How about crossing solid yellow lines on 2-lane highways? Because out here in the rural-boonies-of-nowhere people do it all the time. (It’s like a game of chicken, which is, I think, insulting to chickens. And, it’s how roads come to be called “Dead Man’s Curve.”)

    There aren’t many peaceful protests — or protests of any kind — out here. But, we do have cows who will cross roads and stop traffic. And, we do have tractors. Lots and lots of slow-moving tractors that all have to get from point A to point B on 55 MPH highways … almost always during “rush” hour.

    So, once I replaced “zombies” with “cows,” your urban rant rang true for me, too. (I’m not sure that cows eat human flesh, but one took down the fence to our yard this summer and ate all the lettuce in my garden, which I’m still steamed about. So, really, I don’t trust ’em.)


    • Maybe it’s different out there in your boonies; around here we’ve got physical barriers separating the different traffic directions instead of solid yellow lines, at least on the freeway. Doesn’t stop people from crossing, but it does cut down on the frequency. (More seriously, it seems like people have the opinion that lane stripes change from dotted to solid for aesthetic reasons having nothing to do with driving safety.)

      I’ll accept cows as a reasonable proxy for zombies–though the idea of human-eating cows carrying picket signs seems very “Far Side”-esque.

      Tractors. Hmm. I suppose Uber is a lousy replacement for driving your tractor from one field to another. Maybe a gentleman’s agreement to limit tractor relocation to times when weather conditions prevent all traffic from moving faster than 25? Maybe not. I should submit a research proposal to USDOT.


  2. Worse than solid line crossers? The endless numbers of illegitimate illiterates who don’t know what S-T-O-P spells. I’m not even talking about California stops; I hardly even see those any more. I’m talking about the nutcases who drive up to a stop sign, and go straight-on through it, never mind whether there are already cars waiting ninety degrees away. Not an occasional occurrence; a day does not go by when I don’t see that.

    This is an especially bad day for me on this count. I just found out that a good friend, a beautiful man and a prodigy of a ragtime pianist and composer, was stopped at a signed four-way intersection, and was rear-ended by a fool in a truck who never even slowed down WITH A CAR IN FRONT OF HIM AT A STOP SIGN. My friend is now in a hospital, in critical condition, in a medically-induced coma, as they hope he will one day wake up. Whatever punishment his vehicular assailant receives will not be sufficient.


    • Well, shit. Hardly an adequate response, I realize, but words fail me.

      All my sympathy, both to you and your friend’s family.

      There is no appropriate punishment for the assailant, no.


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