Common Sense DrivingBy Philip Dominguez Mercurio
This really amazes me sometimes.
I was driving down 101 in a region of the highway where traffic starts to decongest right after the 101-280 split. Traffic normally starts speeding up past the 65 mph speed limit after the junction but I happened to be a few cars behind a container truck.
As we started climbing the hill, the truck started slowing down, really slowing down. At first I thought we were approaching a traffic jam but from two lanes out I saw that truck was signaling his intention to turn right and amazing he did so at a whopping 5 mph. This truck veered off slowly in a 60 degree angle towards the exit, blocking traffic. You’d expect all the cars affected would be blaring their horns but seeing how audacious the act was, it wasn’t even worth it. This act went beyond regular traffic mishap into the realm of the unthinkable.
As the interstate system celebrates its 50th anniversary of connecting sea to shining sea, the country has come to the point of how to alleviate this overburdened system. Some roadways are deteriorating; L.A.-like congestions are now affecting all parts of the country and generally speaking, the amount of freeways have remained constants for many decades while the amount of automobiles have risen considerably. Governments have met this challenge head on by expanding mass transit systems, with an army of buses, trolleys and trains but even with the millions spent on alternative means of getting around, the public is still basically stuck -- in traffic.
Recently, for California at least, Governor Schwarzenegger has announced an enormous bond measure of $200 billion directed for transportation, specifically for our highways. Roadways will be wider, carpool lanes will be longer, on-ramps and off-ramps in need of major redesign will be overhauled and perhaps even a whole slew of new interstates within the state will be created.
Now, wait. As much as I like the sound of the new initiative, I think that solves only half the problem. The other half of the problem has nothing to do with the ailment of concrete on the road but with those sitting in the driver’s seat. What’s the use of increasing the number of lanes on the highways from 8 to 10 if a tractor-trailer whips around and blocks two lanes of the highway to get to an exit? No matter how many lanes you put up, people would still have to stop for this recklessness.
I suggest that if they really want to decrease traffic congestion, don’t just overhaul the roadway system -- overhaul the way driver’s licenses are dispensed as well. Knowing where the hazard light is in the car is great but I believe that our DMV instructors should place more emphasis on real world situations than what they’ve been testing now. How drivers merge onto freeways, change lanes at high speeds and read signs along the highway -- these are the qualities drivers must have in the 21st century.
Perhaps the most important quality an instructor should be looking for though is simply common sense. I have witnessed (and I’m sure some of you drivers have too) so many drivers at the last instant, would cut many cars in order to reach an exit or a splitting junction. Where’s the common sense in that? Driver’s handbooks and exams should emphasize that in situations where it’s too dangerous to get to a destination, one should continue in their present path until they find a route to return in the opposite direction to safely reach their destination. Not doing so may not only lead to accidents but would more likely, especially in situations where there is high traffic flow, lead to a surge of break lights turning into a traffic jam.
Having a society with drivers well-educated in driving protocol and with a firm grasp of common sense would greatly reduce the amount of congestion across the United States. Much of the infrastructure already in place on our interstate system should be able to handle the amount of traffic already on them but because of situations like the one explained above, they are unable to do so. All you need is one reckless move from one driver and the rush hour is screwed.
We could think throwing more concrete and asphalt at the problem would solve our congestion woes but as long as I end up stopped in the carpool lane of the tollbooth because a car doesn’t understand that people don’t have to pay during rush hour, I’m sure there will continue to be traffic for silly reasons for years to come.
See this article,"Common Sense Driving" in Philippine News. Click here.