Serves you right!
The other day I’m driving to work and I’m driving on a residential street that is pretty wide and has a double yellow line down the middle. As I approach an intersection I see a pickup truck (an early to mid ’90s Dodge Ram 2500) decide to make a U-turn in the middle of the street. Since the truck was pretty long, he had to make a K-turn. He was totally blocking the other lane and was about to reverse into my lane. I had zero fks to give that morning and decided to stay my course. I won. I figured if I hit him, I would say that he was making an illegal U-turn and sue the pants off for injuries. I mean, come on!
There was a church nearby that he could have driven into to make the turn around without blocking traffic. He could have also waited patiently for traffic to die down before attempting the illegal U-turn. But no, he decided he needed to make a U-turn NOW! Like I said, I just had zero fks to give and a $1500 beater with airbags. I have nothing to lose. Come at me bro.
Slippery when wet
It rained the other night as I left work. I wasn’t expecting it to rain, but I figured it would be fun to play with the Volvo. I didn’t think the tires were that bad, but it seemed like it would break loose every time I got on the gas. It’s amazing how that little 4-cylinder can overpower the traction so easily. I did a few benign fishtailing around some corners as I went home, but nothing too crazy until I got onto the MoPac frontage road.
It’s very oddly designed intersection as it’s a T-intersection that goes under MoPac, but as it approaches the southbound frontage road, it curves slightly to the right so making that left turn is roughly a 100 degree change in direction. I usually just cut the corner to keep the racing line so I don’t lose too much speed. Yeah, too much Forza Motorsports or Gran Turismo does that to the brain. Unfortunately, unlike a video game, driving your car recklessly has much higher consequences.
As I approach the turn like I’ve done a hundred times before, I start drifting as I hit the apex of the turn. I think I might have lifted my foot off the throttle and it induced lift-off oversteer causing the rear end to come loose. In a video game, I’d let go of the gas and drift around. This is no video game. Having only owned front-wheel-drive cars since I got my license I’ve learned that punching the gas usually straightens out the car if the rear end comes loose. Bad mistake!
I instinctively punch the gas pedal and boy did that make things worse! As soon as I touched the pedal, the whole car just spun like a top! I only remember a blur of the car spinning 360 degrees around like it was on a turntable and coming to a stop facing the wrong way of the one-way frontage road. I was now staring at the grille of the Escalade that was previously behind me. Suffice to say I think everyone in this situation felt a bit awkward.
It took me a couple seconds (which felt more like minutes) to realize WTF just happened because it happened so damn fast and unexpectedly. I was also partially in awe that the little Volvo managed to do a stunt like that. I’m surprised that traffic in the other left-turn lane just kept going after seeing a car spin 540 degrees in two lanes of traffic! I’m probably sure that the person driving the Escalade was glad they didn’t get wiped out by a beater Volvo that looks like the many uninsured beaters roaming the city (don’t worry, I’m insured). I definitely drove a little more carefully the rest of the way home!
It’s amazing the technological advances in safety that have made cars safer because my other car has traction control and electronic stability control which prevents the car from spinning (it’s also front-wheel-drive so it’s less likely to spin out like this in a turn). On the other hand, because the newer technology shields the driver from danger, he won’t know what the true dangers are out there. I immediately knew the roads were slick when driving the Volvo because it spun the tires fairly easily so I knew I could get into trouble. With my other car I would drive the wet roads as aggressively as I normally do on dry roads because of the safety features. It’s funny how technology makes us safer, but act more foolish because of the hidden dangers.
Is the British roundabout conquering the US?
So drivers in the US can’t get used to roundabouts because roundabouts require them to think. Sounds about right. There is a major intersection that I have to deal with every day to and from work. Traffic is always backed up at this intersection. I’ve often wondered if it would be better if this intersection was changed to a roundabout. Then I realized if people can’t figure out how to merge onto the freeway smoothly then how the hell are they going to handle a roundabout. It’s too bad because I love roundabouts given that a highway junction back home was converted from a traffic light to a roundabout almost a decade ago and the congestion was dramatically reduced afterwards.
The article made an interesting point about the difference between a traffic circle and a roundabout. In a traffic circle, the traffic going into the circle has the right-of-way and in a roundabout the traffic already in the circle has the right-of-way. I don’t understand why traffic going into the circle would ever have the right of way, but I can see why that method is unpopular. I guess that’s why roundabout are not too commonplace in the US since most traffic circles are in the northeast and there are more people in the northeast to sway the bias. Again, it’s too bad because I think roundabouts are genius traffic controllers (unless we’re taking about a Turbo Roundabout which everyone back home hates and I can’t blame them because it’s such a fustercluck).
The other day I was heading back to work and I came across a dude in a Jeep. He was doing 40 MPH in the left lane on a 60 MPH highway. I was coming up behind him doing the speed limit. So I slow down to 40 too because I don’t want to overtake him on the right since I have to make a left turn into work soon. Well, I see this guy get into the left turn lane and I’m thinking he’s going to make a left into the car repair shop next door to my work since he got into the center turn lane real early. So I don’t bother speeding up because I’m going to make a left turn. Well, apparently this guy is turning into the same parking lot as my work so I couldn’t get into the left turn lane. If you’re going to make a left turn, get into the turn lane at the appropriate time! I can’t anticipate that you’re going to overshoot a valid left to make a left farther up the road! Get your brakes checked if you can’t slow down fast enough!
Merge, stop, and turn
This morning I was behind a Jeep Grand Cherokee, a typical mommy-mobile in suburbia. I was driving in the middle lane and I see her merge into my lane from the right. She drives straight for a little bit while slowing down. The light ahead was green so the move puzzled me. Then she proceeded to get into the left-most lane (which becomes a left turn lane and also has a green light). Now, why would anyone do a move like that? Wouldn’t it be more efficient to merge left twice (or once through two lanes if you’re ballsy), then slow down (optional) instead of merge left, slow down, and merge left again? Seriously, I have to question why merging is such a task for drivers here!
SUVs make good barn doors, but crappy windows.
From the files of people who misjudge the size of their vehicles: the left-lane blocker. You know who they are. They’re the ones that block your view of traffic coming from the left when you’re trying to make a right-hand turn. And 9 times out of 10, the left-lane blocker is a truck or SUV. It’s almost never a sensible sedan. I don’t understand why they need to edge out past the stop line as they certainly have the best view of the traffic coming from the left and the right. What’s even more annoying is the ones that edge up as you are edging up! It becomes this arms race of who can edge out into the intersection before being hit! You’re edging up because you can’t see around the Canyonero, but why are they edging up? They have absolutely no reason to! I’d like to slap them in the face for such an idiotic, selfish move.
I’ve mentioned before that Texas has these unique U-turn lanes for the frontage roads. This special U-turn lane is usually found going under the highway at an intersection with a frontage road. Apparently these are called a “Texas U-turn” or a “Texas Turnaround.” Here is an image I borrowed from Wikipedia that demonstrates the idea:
Use a Texas Turnaround to get to zee choppah!
When I first visited Texas I thought it was really clever that you don’t need to make two lefts to get to the other side of the highway. After living here for a while I realize it’s sometimes not much more convenient than two left turns. The lane for the entrance to the turnaround is a short lane that only opens up close to the intersection. In other words, a through lane normally does not turn into a Texas Turnaround. It gets annoying as people pile up in the normal left turn lane and block the entrance into the turnaround. There’s nothing you can do about it but to sit and silently rage. *sigh*
From the Texas driver's handbook: left turn only!
The center turn lane is used to make left turns only. It has earned the nickname the “suicide lane” because traffic can enter from either direction into one lane and become a game of chicken if the move was ill-timed. To make matters worse people love to use it as a merge lane. I used to use it as a merge lane as well and even saw police officers make the same move. Then one day I was told it was not a legal move and I stopped doing it. It wasn’t a big deal as it wasn’t a very common occurrence.
Then I moved to Texas and everyone uses the center turn lane as merge lane. I was told it was a legal move here so I didn’t question it. Now it’s time to change over my driver’s license and I skimmed the driver’s handbook and lo-and-behold the graphic above: the center turn lane should only be used as a left turn lane only.
Now I’m not against getting into the lane and stopping before merging, but it seems like people get into the center turn lane from a side street and keep moving. If you are stopped, I can plan my move to make a left turn. If you’re moving, I have a shorter distance to stop before making a left turn, especially if you’re speeding up to the same speed as traffic! Now if I’m approaching from the opposite lane, you may get into my path if I’m making a left turn in front of you. Let’s play a game of chicken, shall we?
I have actually seen the aftermath of a head-on collision in a suicide lane. An F-150 vs. a Contour. It wasn’t pretty, but I think the people survived. It blocked off both left lanes of traffic so everyone had to bottleneck into the right lanes. You’d think someone would stop before barreling head-on into each other! This is why it’s important to pay attention while driving!