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Thread: Rights - and Wrongs - of the road...

  1. #1
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Rights - and Wrongs - of the road...


    Just like being a "little bit pregnant," some of the things we do behind the wheel are always wrong -- no in-between, no excuse. They massively increase your chances of causing or being involved in an accident -- and hurting or killing yourself and other people.

    But for reasons having to do mostly with politics and secondarily, with ignorance, the focus of traffic safety enforcement is not locked, laser-like and implacably, on the always-dangerous, always wrong actions. In fact, to a great extent, driving habits that are objectively, genuinely, no-bones-about-it dangerous are typically ignored by the law -- at least until there's a wreck, at which point the offender can expect to be charged.

    But all those wrecks -- or at least, many of them -- could be avoided if the always-dangerous, always wrong actions were aggressively targeted by traffic cops. And if the driving public got some Straight Dope about what is -- and isn't -- "dangerous driving."

    The Always-Dangerous:

    * Tailgating -- Crowding the car ahead of you massively increases the chances you'll smash into him if he should suddenly brake. ABS and traction control don't trump physics. If you are too close, you will hit him. And it will be your fault. Always. Period. And there is no reason -- or excuse -- for tailgating. Not ever. Every driver should have the "three second rule" (When the vehicle ahead of you passes a fixed object such as a tree or telephone pole, slowly count "one one thousand, two one thousand, three one thousand." If you reach the object before completing the count, you're following too closely; double this in poor weather) hammered into his consciousness until it becomes an automatic reflex. And traffic laws should be changed to reflect the danger posed by tailgaters. If you tailgate and it leads to an accident, your license should be suspended for at least six months. Do it again and lose your license for a year. There's just no excuse for tailgating -- and it should not be tolerated.

    * Failure to use turn signals -- Like following too closely, failing to signal your intentions to other motorists is dangerous -- always. Period. No excuses -- ever. There's simply no valid reason not to use the -- and abundant reason to use them. Other drives are not psychic; they can't guess that you are planning on making a right turn -- or move into the next lane. Signaling is especially important for the safety of motorcyclists, bicyclists and pedestrians. If they are in your blind spot and you just assume no one's there -- and execute a maneuver without signaling first -- these folks will get no advance warning and will suffer the most if you strike them. And it will be your fault.

    * Impeding the flow of traffic -- Driving too slowly can be -- and usually is -- more dangerous than driving a little faster than the posted limit. In a high-density situation, with many others vehicles sharing the road, a dawdler creates what amounts to a rolling roadblock. Traffic snarls; motorists jockey for position -- the smooth flow of cars is interrupted. The dawdler -- usually an elderly or overly-timid driver -- is less culpable than the tailgater or the person who doesn't use his turn signals. They are simply uncomfortable driving faster than a certain speed. But that doesn't make doing 35 or 40 mph in a 55 mph zone any less safe -- for them or for other motorists. Elderly drivers -- and those who simply feel uncomfortable keeping up with traffic at reasonable, appropriate speeds -- would better serve themselves and others by turning in their keys and hitching a ride. When traffic cops spot a driver traveling substantially slower than the average, reasonable speed for that road -- with a conga line of irate fellow motorists stacked up behind him -- that driver should be pulled over and ticketed for impeding the flow of traffic. In extreme cases -- 20 mph or so below the posted limit/average traffic speed -- the offender should be required to take (and pass) a DMV-endorsed/supervised road test to check their basic ability to safely operate a motor vehicle.

    Now for some"technical fouls" -- stuff that's illegal, but not necessarily dangerous:

    Speeding -- This just means you were caught driving faster than the posted limit -- but it absolutely does not mean you were necessarily driving dangerously. Speed limits are often set too low -- deliberately, and in defiance of accepted traffic safety engineering principles -- mainly in order to make it easier to gin up money for local government via traffic tickets. If you have trouble believing this, consider the 55-mph National Maximum Speed Limit. For 20-plus years, it was the law of the land -- and routinely violated. And motorists routinely ticketed. But in 1995, the NMSL was repealed and most highway speed limits are now higher than 55 mph. What was "speeding" yesterday is perfectly legal today. But driving 65 or 70 mph didn't magically become safe because the law was changed. Driving at those speeds was just as safe prior to 1995 -- you just risked a ticket if you did. Driving faster than a number on a sign may be illegal, but it is by no means "unsafe" -- at least, not necessarily. Such offenses should therefore be taken far less seriously -- in the absence of other factors -- than always-dangerous actions like tailgating.

    Right on red -- Sometimes, the prohibition is there for good reason -- poor visibility, etc. But sometimes, laws against making a right on red are the result of over-caution and assume a very low level of competence for the typical motorist -- which may be justified. But a competent motorist may be perfectly able to judge the speed of oncoming traffic and safely make the turn. Often, there is no oncoming traffic whatever -- and making the turn is perfectly safe -- even if it is also perfectly illegal. This is another example of a gray area in traffic law; if you receive a ticket, you may have broken the law -- but you may also have done nothing intrinsically unsafe.

    The "California stop" -- Here, all you did was fail to come to a complete stop at an intersection with a "stop" sign before proceeding through the intersection. Always illegal, it's not always unsafe. Here's an example: In heavy snow, maintaining momentum can be crucial to avoid getting stuck; especially at the crest of a hill. If there's a stop sign at the top of the hill, it may be safer to creep through -- assuming your way is clear -- than to stop completely and risk getting stuck -- or worse, sliding back down the hill and possibly into another car. Another area of nuance -- one where judgment and the specific circumstances ought to be taken into account as much as the "violation" itself.

    There are more examples -- of both the "always wrong" move and the "technical foul" that may not be wrong in other than a legal sense. But the point is this: If we could change the system so that the focus of prevention and punishment (when warranted) was directed at the "always wrong" stuff, our roads would be a whole lot safer -- even if the price was a bit more benign neglect when it came to the technical fouls like "speeding."




  2. #2
    ColleenC1
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    Re: Rights - and Wrongs - of the road...

    The "California stop" -- Here, all you did was fail to come to a complete stop at an intersection with a "stop" sign before proceeding through the intersection. Always illegal, it's not always unsafe

    My kids, both of them, each got 2 tickets each of this indiscretion. The thing that made me upset and I said to my kids, when you were rolling through, didn't you have the brains to "LOOK" to see if a cop was close by to see you!

    I thought I had taught my kids that as long as they were NOT driving dangerously, they can get away with a few indiscreation but please make sure there is no cop watching you. They just love to give tickets to the youth!!!

  3. #3
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Rights - and Wrongs - of the road...

    "I thought I had taught my kids that as long as they were NOT driving dangerously, they can get away with a few indiscreation but please make sure there is no cop watching you. They just love to give tickets to the youth!!!"

    And everyone else, too!

    But you're right; the key thing is to be very watchful - and always sniff the air for the smell of bacon!



  4. #4
    TC
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    Re: Rights - and Wrongs - of the road...

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric
    "I thought I had taught my kids that as long as they were NOT driving dangerously, they can get away with a few indiscretion but please make sure there is no cop watching you. They just love to give tickets to the youth!!!"

    And everyone else, too!

    But you're right; the key thing is to be very watchful - and always sniff the air for the smell of bacon!
    You can't be looking out for cops all the time.
    Probably the safest way to drive is to think that there is a cop watching you.

  5. #5
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Rights - and Wrongs - of the road...

    "You can't be looking out for cops all the time.
    Probably the safest way to drive is to think that there is a cop watching you."

    Sure you can. It's all about "situational awareness."

    If one drove as though a cop was watching you all the time, you'd be nervous, hesitant, driving too slowly for conditions (because most posted limits are under-posted). Far from "safe" - you'd probably be more likely to have an accident than not.



  6. #6
    mrblanche
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    Re: Rights - and Wrongs - of the road...

    Quote Originally Posted by TC
    You can't be looking out for cops all the time.
    Probably the safest way to drive is to think that there is a cop watching you.
    One wag has said, "The best safety feature on a car is a rear-view mirror with a patrol car in it."


  7. #7
    gail
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    Re: Rights - and Wrongs - of the road...

    Quote Originally Posted by TC
    Quote Originally Posted by Eric
    "I thought I had taught my kids that as long as they were NOT driving dangerously, they can get away with a few indiscretion but please make sure there is no cop watching you. They just love to give tickets to the youth!!!"

    And everyone else, too!

    But you're right; the key thing is to be very watchful - and always sniff the air for the smell of bacon!
    You can't be looking out for cops all the time.
    Probably the safest way to drive is to think that there is a cop watching you.
    BALONEY! Let a cop be anywhere around, and everyone starts driving like an old woman. Even the old women who were already driving 10/15mph below the posted speed limit will slow down. Drivers become confused as well. I have seen drivers in the left lane slow down to almost a stop, and here is the cop riding behind him -- probably trying to get to the donut shop and he can't get around the fool. Once I saw a cop turn on his lights and siren, but did the car move over -- oh no, he slowed down even more. It is beyond me as to why that cop didn't give the driver a ticket for impeding traffic.

    No sir, I would never drive so dangerously as most people do when a cop is around.

  8. #8
    TC
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    Re: Rights - and Wrongs - of the road...

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric
    "You can't be looking out for cops all the time.
    Probably the safest way to drive is to think that there is a cop watching you."

    Sure you can. It's all about "situational awareness."

    If one drove as though a cop was watching you all the time, you'd be nervous, hesitant, driving too slowly for conditions (because most posted limits are under-posted). Far from "safe" - you'd probably be more likely to have an accident than not.
    Should you be looking out for cops all the time then you can't be giving all your attention to your driving.

  9. #9
    TC
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    Re: Rights - and Wrongs - of the road...

    Quote Originally Posted by gail

    BALONEY! Let a cop be anywhere around, and everyone starts driving like an old woman. Even the old women who were already driving 10/15mph below the posted speed limit will slow down. Drivers become confused as well. I have seen drivers in the left lane slow down to almost a stop, and here is the cop riding behind him -- probably trying to get to the donut shop and he can't get around the fool. Once I saw a cop turn on his lights and siren, but did the car move over -- oh no, he slowed down even more. It is beyond me as to why that cop didn't give the driver a ticket for impeding traffic.

    No sir, I would never drive so dangerously as most people do when a cop is around.
    RUBBISH.
    People only behave like that because they can't drive very well in the first place.

  10. #10
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Rights - and Wrongs - of the road...

    "Should you be looking out for cops all the time then you can't be giving all your attention to your driving."

    Sure you can. Ask a pilot about the very similar "multi-tasking" that goes on in the cockpit.

    Well, maybe not all drivers can. But a good one can.

  11. #11
    ColleenC1
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    Re: Rights - and Wrongs - of the road...

    RUBBISH.
    People only behave like that because they can't drive very well in the first place.


    I don't know about RUBBISH but I do get scared and nervous! Don't know who that cop is driving the cop car! Might be dangerous!

    Years ago when I was in my 20's just had my son who was no more than 3 months old. I was taking my ex-husband over to a friends, they were leaving early in the morning to go to Montana I think, to go hunting. It was about 3:00a.m in the morning in San Diego, CA -- nobody was on the road, and I mean nobody. All of a sudden this cop car comes out of nowhere turns his lights on me to pull over. So I did, I got my registration and license (at that time you did not have to provide proof of Insurance) out, rolled down the window about a 1/2" and handed my information out the crack, the police officer asked me to lower my window and I said "No", when he asked me why I said Because anybody who pulls me over at 3:00 a.m. in the morning "when I have done nothing wrong scares me"

    He said he pulled me over because the light on my back license plate was out. I never unrolled my window but said to him "Wow, you must have had a pretty boring evening to pull me over for that." He let me go with a warning!
    During that time period though there was a rumor about a police officer pulling women over and the women disappearing. About 3 years later they finally got the guy, It was a Highway Patrolman!!!

  12. #12
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Rights - and Wrongs - of the road...

    Quote Originally Posted by TC
    Quote Originally Posted by gail

    BALONEY! Let a cop be anywhere around, and everyone starts driving like an old woman. Even the old women who were already driving 10/15mph below the posted speed limit will slow down. Drivers become confused as well. I have seen drivers in the left lane slow down to almost a stop, and here is the cop riding behind him -- probably trying to get to the donut shop and he can't get around the fool. Once I saw a cop turn on his lights and siren, but did the car move over -- oh no, he slowed down even more. It is beyond me as to why that cop didn't give the driver a ticket for impeding traffic.

    No sir, I would never drive so dangerously as most people do when a cop is around.
    RUBBISH.
    People only behave like that because they can't drive very well in the first place.
    Which is probably 30 percent or more of the people out there!

    Our often absurd traffic laws and enforcement only exacerbate matters.

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