Wednesday November 9, 2005

You can learn to drive: part 4 (post-Wilma edition)

“Treat intersections without signals as 4-way stops,” is great advice for a day or two after an emergency, when people are happy just to be alive and able to spend 6 hours in line for a free bag of ice. Here we are on day 16 (right?), and in some areas lots and lots of intersections are still out, including some pretty big ones. The novelty of 4-way stopin’ (8-way when you count turning lanes) grows ever the more thin. We have some advice for police, and some advice for drivers.

First, thank you for pulling 12-hour shifts directing traffic. It doesn’t look like much fun, but it helps, and we appreciate it. Sometimes, though, it’s difficult to see you when we’re approaching, which causes us to slow down even when we don’t need to. Maybe something to indicate an officer is signaling at an intersection. And those temporary stop signs in the middle of the road? As long as you’re there signaling, maybe could we cover them with a garbage bag or something, ‘cause they’re contributing to the confusion.

OK, let’s talk here for a minute. You’re frustrated and angry, and you’re late for work. Follow these simple rules, but please do calm down – stress on the road is dangerous. About those 4-way stops:

  1. We don’t understand why a blinking red/yellow light is a 4-way stop, but so long as everyone else is treating it that way, we will, too.
  2. If you’re at a busy 4-way stop intersection (meaning there’s enough traffic that everyone has to stop anyway), your job is to try to get through it as fast as possible but without cheating.
  3. That means not waiting to make sure everyone else is standing completely still before you go. If it’s your turn, go already! Just go carefully, and be prepared to stop if someone else has a difference of opinion about who’s turn it was.
  4. If you’re on a street with 2 or three lanes going in each direction, and the guy next to you is starting across the intersection, go with him even if it’s not your turn.
  5. If people are going in the opposite direction, and there’s no one waiting to turn who would impact your lane, go!
  6. If you’re coming up on an empty intersection, and you have a blinking yellow light, do not stop ( [sigh] unless there’s a stop sign, we guess). As we see it, at that point the pre-hurricane laws are in effect, the guy with the blinking red has to stop, and you can drive right through that intersection, just slow down and be careful.
  7. If you’re on a major boulevard, and coming up on an intersection where nobody else going in your direction is stopping, slow down and proceed with caution, but do not stop. Chances are there’s a good reason they’re not stopping.
  8. Conversely, if you’re on a side street and getting onto (or crossing) a major intersection, be careful and treat it as a regular (not 4-way) stop, because there is a very good chance people on the bigger street will not be stopping.

Far and above the best thing you can do, though, if you work 9 – 5, is to ask your employer to let you do alternative hours: say, 10 – 6. Traffic is much much better an hour later. Also, check out Miami Traffic.

[Previously: Part 3]

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