Driving us crazy

Terri Buckner works, walks and drives in Chapel Hill. Here’s her take on Chapel Hill drivers learning the rules of the road:

At last week’s Chapel Hill Town Council meeting, a resident petitioned the town to remove 3-way stops on Umstead Drive. His request launched a discussion about how many drivers don’t know what to do when they get to a 3-way or 4-way stop sign intersection. For the record, the first one to the intersection goes first, and if two or more cars arrive simultaneously, the one on the driver’s right goes first. If they are approaching from opposite directions, the car turning left has to yield to the car going straight. The discussion ended with a recommendation that education be provided rather than removing the stop signs. With the education on cell phones and now 3-way stops, it appears as if the town is morphing into the local drivers’ education program, so I have a few more challenges for them to undertake.

Right on Red: I’m sure everyone reading this blog knows that right on red means stop at a red light, and if no vehicles (cars, trucks, motorcycles or bicycles) are coming straight through the intersection, then you can turn right. But there are those in the community who believe that it means no stop is required, or that if a car is coming straight through, that car must slow down for the vehicle turning right on red. Wrong and wrong. As a daily pedestrian on Manning Drive, I can assure you that some of these individuals also believe their right turn takes precedence over pedestrians in the crosswalk. Wrong again.

Left lane: The right lane is for straight-through traffic, and the left lane is for passing or left turns. In fact, some people call the left lane the passing lane. The ordinance, Chapter_20/GS_20-146.html, lists four reasons for driving in the left lane: 1) passing another vehicle going in the same direction, 2) an obstruction in the right lane, 3) the road has three lanes or 4) the road is one way. Unfortunately, many drivers are living with the delusion that the left lane is for slow, straight-through traffic. I’ve often wondered whether there is something about the left lane that makes some drivers feel safer. They will speed up to get over to the left lane and then slow down to a crawl.

I have a few more, but I’ll save them for later. Wanna add any driving topics of your own?
– Terri Buckner

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13 Comments

  1. George C

     /  January 23, 2013

    Terri,

    The reason many drivers on a divided, 4-lane highway (like I-40 or 440 or 540) like to stay in the left lane is that they only have one direction, their right side, that they have to worry about. And if they don’t intend to leave that lane for quite awhile they can just look straight ahead without worrying about anyone else. Don’t even have to look in the mirror if they don’t want to which it seems is usually the case.

    On the other hand, if you’re in the right hand lane you not only have to worry about what’s happening on your left side but what may enter the roadway from the right as well.

  2. Nancy

     /  January 23, 2013

    Is there a cultural prohibition in North Carolina against using your turn signal to indicate you are changing lanes? I seem to be the only one in these parts who does that. Maybe it’s Southerners’ impish pluck that gifts the rest of us with a life full of surprises. Or maybe it’s that their hands are occupied with their cell phones.

  3. Many

     /  January 23, 2013

    Nancy, I know you are not unaware of the fact that a many of the drivers that do not obey the rules or are discourteous are transplants to this area.

    I travel regularly to Washington DC, Atlanta and Boston. Driving is much more of an adventure in those areas, Recently, on RT 128 I was driving in the right hand lane, slightly above the speed limit, getting ready to exit, and was passed by someone in the breakdown lane doing at least 80.

    I am surprised that Terri did not lecture us on traffic circles, or on packs of bicycles that routinely disregard all forms of road manners while loudly complaining about automobile drivers ignoring their rights. These must be some of the topics Terri suggests are in a later posting.

  4. JWJ

     /  January 23, 2013

    “I know you are not unaware of the fact that a many of the drivers that do not obey the rules or are discourteous are transplants to this area. ”

    I am a 5-year transplant.

    Please prove your statement above. Cite some data on this. First please define “many”, is that greater than 50%, 40%??

    What is the definition of a “transplant” in terms of years in Chapel Hill, Triangle, and/or NC?

    By the way, I find that in a line of 5 folks at a red light, there will be at least one that will absolutely wait until the light turns green regardless of how clear the oncoming traffic is.

  5. Many

     /  January 23, 2013

    I rest my case

  6. Mark Marcoplos

     /  January 23, 2013

    And then there are the damn kids. Don’t get me started.

  7. Seriously.

    The speed limit is 35 on MLK. If someone is doing 35 to 40 in the left lane, because they are turning, why do you have a problem with it?

    As for stop signs, good luck getting people to stop at them. The people coming out of Northwoods seem to think that Stop signs don’t apply to them, because they didn’t want them.

    As for stopping for pedestrians, this is a fun one. I got rear-ended by an undocumented worker, unlicensed worker because I didn’t run over the 3 people crossing the street (they had a walk sign). She was upset with me for stopping.

    Then there is the women with the personalized plate who terrorizes the roadways by doing 5 miles below the speed limit.

    As for blaming transplants, that is horsehockey. People from this state drive like it is the Daytona 500 and have no idea how to merge onto a highway. Worse, while on the highway, they will reflexively get in the left lane whether there is a car passing them or not.

    As someone who lived in Washington, DC, I can honestly say that DC drivers are aggressive, but drive much better than NC drivers. Same was true in Boston. When I was puttering along, Boston drivers were very helpful with letting me know when the lights changed for example.

    However, the fact is that the reason people from this area think urban drivers are bad is because they make decisions too slow for congested roads. It kind of my reminds me of the Carlin joke: If someone is driving faster than you he is a “maniac” and slower he is a “moron.”

    As for cell phones, that is a funny one. the people who are worst with cell phones all have grey hair. Sorry, but you really don’t need to lean to the right to talk on the phone. It is a cell phone it has no cord.

    I understand your frustration though. I support the stop signs, everywhere. I also think driver education in NC is awful. We are entering the Johnston County season where kids drive into trees. We just had a death from two High School students racing trucks in Orange (even the pros can’t race trucks). As for the rules at stop signs. Seriously, they are kidding right?

    If you don’t know what to do at a stop sign, you should have to surrender your license. I drive several places where there are four-way and 3-way stops and in the last 14 years, as a transplant from VA, I can honestly say, even in NC, we figured it out. Better yet, I am willing to bet many children and bikers are still alive today, because it slows people down.

    Final note: Scooters. They should be banned from rural roads. Look, I am sorry (insert scooter driver’s name here) got that 3rd DUI, but really, take a bus.

  8. JWJ

     /  January 24, 2013

    “I rest my case” How can I withstand the withering logic & cleverness of that retort? Wow.

  9. A few final notes:

    As someone who now spends four days a month driving pretty much every urban street in the Triangle, some thoughts.

    People Chapel Hill and Durham usually stop for people in crosswalks with the exception of some Prius drivers at Weaver Street who consistently try to run me over (maybe I look homeless). Please note they are bald with grey hair. I am bald with salt and pepper (now) hair, so can we get some love for a bald brother?

    The Right turn on red thing is no joke. It’s not just the car turning, but the car behind you. I have almost been hit several times recently – I put one of those I break for people bumper stickers on my car. I did it hoping people will understand and not honk their horn. Also, when I do get hit, as will happen, I am looking forward to the accident photos and going to court to testify against the person who did it with those photos. “Hey, I warned you.”

    While it is easy to focus on the negative. I drive 130 miles on mostly local roads when I am running my route. I don’t think drivers are nearly as bad as you think.

    I am out for 8 hours on the roads, stopping and starting. Everyone makes the odd mistake, but the actual bad drivers stand out, because the majority actually do the right things.

    In the four days that I have been out this month, I can think of 1 positively awful driver who almost ran over me at a crosswalk – White SUV and the distracted old guy in the Prius who seems unaware or unable to read the sign about pedestrians.

    Other than that, I have had many more instances of good driving in the downtowns around here.

    Finally, a few notes about my native Virginian drivers (not from NOVA, but from the rest of the state). Make sure you wave at them when they are doing 55 on 40 in the Center Lane. And while NC drivers have no clue how to merge onto a highway. If you are behind a Virginia, just stay back. God only knows what they might do… and he’s not telling.

  10. From Connecticut, we export our mysterious attraction to wood

    http://westport.dailyvoice.com/police-fire/north-carolina-man-charged-2011-westport-accident

    From Carrboro http://www.ci.carrboro.nc.us/pd/BULLETIN/CurrentWeek/WEEKEND.pdf

    Note the violations are all ages with older people my age range (35-62) comprising most of the problems in Carrboro. Although speeding was mostly an under 30 affair this weekend.

    The bottom line: everyone makes mistakes while driving or as George Carlin observed: “I make errors, you make MISTAKES.”

    🙂

  11. Many

     /  January 24, 2013

    Stefkovich is from Cary. Guilt by association tells me he is obviously a transplant. Unfortunately for Cary the annexation joke is on them, they have been annexed by New Jersey.

    Beware the Prius pushers; they are entitled. I had a thought that driving is a lot like middle ages jousting, you go out and put your suit of armor on and battle for right of way.

    I agree that most people are just trying to get they stuff done and get home. They really aren’t such bad folks once you get to know them.

    Since everyone on this thread is trolling, I rest my case again 🙂

  12. James Barrett

     /  January 27, 2013

    Terri, I’m not a lawyer, but I believe the info you cite about driving in the left lane only applies to “highways” (which would mean only I40 for us?) It seems everything falls under “streets” (section d) which doesn’t indicate stay to the right (as long as you’re going speed limit per section e).

  13. Terri Buckner

     /  January 27, 2013

    The entry was supposed to be a joke based on the town council discussion of 4-way stops and driver education. Why do people get so serious on blog posts? That said, I do think pedestrian safety on Manning Drive is always in jeopardy.

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