Op-ED By A. R. Bunch
Remember those first few weeks of lock down? When you did have to drive somewhere (hoping it was open) the roads were empty. It was eerie. As things open up and people get back to driving, and just about everyone has it seems, we’ve picked up some really bad habits. I want to cover the top three I’ve observed, the one everyone is talking about and two that haven’t had much press. Let’s start with one of the bad habits that isn’t getting much attention.
Bad Habit: Socially Distancing Cars
Notice how you can only fit 3 cars in a turn lane now. It seems people have embraced the six-foot, personal bubble thing a bit too much. Now they won’t pull their car up within six feet of the car in front of them.
The result is that many cars pile up in certain lanes while stopped at a red light and can’t even shift into the lane they’ll eventually need to be in because there isn’t room in that lane. Sometimes cars are so far back at a light in the left lane that you can’t get into the left turn lane because of the barrier.
The Good Habit
Official “stopping distance at a stoplight” guidelines go like this…
Come to a complete stop leaving about half a car length between you and the car in front of you. When the car behind has also come to a complete stop, pull forward until you can just see where the tires of the car in front of you meet the pavement, to make room for cars behind you.
Bad Habit: Not Pulling into the Intersection when Turning Left at a Greenlight
Ideally you have a green arrow indicating you have right of way for your left-hand turn, but oh so many intersections have only a green light for the left turn. This means you must yield to on-coming traffic. The place to wait for your turn is in the intersection.
The Good Habit
I know this can leave some people feeling vulnerable, but the truth is you can legally enter an intersection on a green light. I know that a lot of people whom we won’t name (Southern Californian’s) are running amber and even flat-out red lights, but the official idea is that they would see the amber light and stop, allowing you to exit the intersection left before the cars going perpendicular to you get their green light. There should be a good three second for you to exit the intersection which is a minor inconvenience to any cars that must wait for you.
The result of not having at least one car enter the intersection per green light is that the left turn lane doesn’t move at all. The poor driver who is four cars back and watching his third green light come and go without taking an inch of ground is going out of his/her mind. Which leads us to the bad driving habit that is getting some press coverage.
Bad Habit: Road Rage
Almost everyone has noticed that the other drivers are angry. In fact, some of us have caught ourselves being angry on the road. Let’s face it, we’re grieving. We virtually lost two years of our lives. Some of us got very sick or had loved ones who did. Others lost their businesses, had to let go of all their employees. Some folks are months behind on their mortgage and don’t really know how that’s going to turn out. And while trying to claw our way out of all this some of us are facing job uncertainty due to mandates. Trust in media and government is at an all time low.
It’s enough to deal with all these things sitting on your couch at home, but to focus on getting somewhere, on time, it’s automatic distracted driving. When I interview other drivers, they admit that they don’t “feel” like keeping all the laws. It doesn’t feel like everyone is held to the same standard and it’s pushing buttons for the rugged individualist American.
Then some bonehead won’t pull forward so you can get in the turn lane…well, let’s just say there’s a lot gesturing going on and it’s not okay.
These are tough times for everyone. We have to learn how to give each other a little grace. You are the pilot of your vehicle and if getting to point B is the goal, then an accident will keep you from your goal. It’s not enough to get there—you must get there safely. Being in control of your emotions will help you drive better.
But please, don’t forget to pull up to the car in front of you at a stop light, and to enter the intersection when turning left at the green light.