Tag Archives: Driving

Don’t Drive Like an Idiot!!!

Don’t Drive Like an Idiot!!!

I’ve complained about this before, but I’m hoping that my message here will get spread around a little more now that my tiny blog is linked to facebook. Every time I get in the car, I narrowly avoid getting creamed by people who don’t know how to drive – and I think part of it comes from not knowing why they should be following certain rules, or why those rules exist. Let me start with the text, then follow with the semi-nifty graphics.

1. USE YOUR TURN SIGNAL!!! The law here in NJ is that you signal at least 100 feet before turning or changing lanes. The purpose of your signal is to let other drivers know what you are about to do. The turn signal is not a reminder to yourself of what you’re going to do, and it’s useless if you wait to use it until you’ve already started to move. If you are changing lanes and you signal well before doing so, drivers in that lane will know not to speed up (one would hope) or honk their horns to let you know they’re there (in case you don’t see them in your blind spot.) If you are turning, people behind you won’t run up your tail, not knowing why you’re slowing down, and you’ll also save someone who’s waiting for a break in traffic a lot of irritation (how many times have you lost an opportunity to turn into a break in traffic because you didn’t know a driver was turning until more traffic started coming?) Nobody can read your mind! Signal! It’s one of your car’s most important safety features!

2. TURN ON YOUR HEADLIGHTS!!! We have a useless law here, wipers on/headlights on. People ignore it because they don’t understand why. They figure that they can see just fine, so they don’t need their headlights. IT’S NOT ABOUT THE DRIVER BEING ABLE TO SEE! Sorry for so many caps, but yes, I’m screaming in my head as I type this. The human eye loses up to 20% of its ability to detect motion in dim light, which means that it’s more difficult for other drivers to see you if you don’t have your headlights on. If it’s dawn, dusk, raining, snowing, foggy, anything other than full daylight, you can be tooling along and be completely invisible to another driver until it’s too late to avoid an accident. If you don’t have your headlights on, it’s your fault, not the other driver’s, because YOU ARE INVISIBLE!

3. PARK HEAD-IN!!! This has more to do with pulling out of the parking space than pulling into it. You see, when you back out of a parking space, your reverse lights turn on. Pedestrians and other drivers will see those lights and know that you are about to move out into the driving lanes. They will be able to avoid hitting you or being hit by you. They have no such warning if you are parked facing out. As a corollary, if you are driving in a parking lot and see the reverse lights on a parked car, yield. The driver can’t really see until his windows are past the cabs of the cars to either side of him, so you can see him well before he can see you. Don’t drive on the left side and zip around him, that’s an a**hole move that endangers everyone around. And if you’re the one pulling out, do it slowly enough that other drivers and pedestrians have time to react.

4. DON’T CUT CORNERS WHEN YOU TURN LEFT!!! This one is practically de rigeur in Toms River, and I’m surprised there aren’t more accidents caused by it than there are. Cue semi-nifty graphics:
wrong way to turn

right way to turn

5. DON’T RUN THE LIGHT!!! Up north, people jump the green, which is a problem in and of itself. Down here, though, they don’t slow down for yellow – or sometimes, even red. That’s bad, but it’s worse when there are drivers caught in the intersection waiting to turn. To wit:
don't run the yellow 1

don't run the yellow 2

There are more – there are always more – but these are the most common, and most easily avoidable mistakes that people seem to make. I feel far more endangered from these than from most of the idiotic things people do on highways, because there’s so little time to react and so few ways to avoid drivers who do these things. So stop doing them. Right now. Just stop. Please.

Driving, in New Jersey, on Friday (especially).

Driving, in New Jersey, on Friday (especially).

Highway fatality rates in Monmouth and Ocean Counties are the highest in all of NJ. That’s because more people are driving to shore destinations, crowding the roads and perhaps just unfamiliar enough with the territory that they make stupid mistakes. They’re also driving less carefully because, dammit, they’re on vacation! Woohoo! While people might complain about the elderly drivers, and they are pretty awful down here, accidents involving or caused by young people are more numerous, and represent a larger percentage of that age group of drivers (i.e., more young people per 100 total young drivers are in accidents than old people per 100 old people. You knew that, I’m sure, but I just wanted to be clear.) You really see this on a Friday, Southbound on the Parkway. Sports cars driven by young men, and especially when they also carry similar-aged passengers, have little patience for the crowds and low speed, and do a lot of improper passing – across multiple lanes, on the shoulder, on the right, too close to the other vehicles – and I try to give them a wide berth. Easier said than done, of course. Older drivers, and again I see this almost always with men, and especially men driving business trucks or vans, seem to be highly likely to assume that no other vehicles could possibly be in the physical space that they want to move into, so they will change lanes regardless of whether it is safe to do so or not. The few who use their turn signals when they do this seem to think that putting on their signals compels other drivers to make room for them. Don’t bother honking, because they’ll ignore you or flip you the bird. Sometimes they’ll teach you a lesson by slowing down and boxing you in, if they can.

If you are used to NJ highway driving, you’ll be profiling these drivers in your head in order to keep yourself safer. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, dontchaknow. Yesterday, though, the biggest threat was the four Harley riders from New York. You think you’re paying attention pretty well, and then these guys cut in and out of lanes, zipping along the lines that divide the lanes between you and the neighboring car with only inches to spare. Lanes are for suckers, signals are for wusses, and bumper to bumper traffic is a game to see if you can pass cars in the split second between the time the car in front of them moves and they put their foot on the gas. You can’t anticipate what they’re going to do, because they’re winging it, and you can’t keep out of their way because they might end up stuck, behind you again, and zip around you without warning and in a way that jeopardizes your safety. We get lots and lots of motorcycle accidents around here, because a lot of motorcyclists who ride like this enjoy coming to the beach. This summer, there were three fatalities in four days, and rarely does a whole week go by without one motorcycle vs. car in the papers. Someone always comments in the article, or writes a letter to the editor, that motorists need to be more conscious of cyclists and take care to treat them just like any other vehicle on the road. And yet. . .most of the reports involve accidents that were the fault of the motorcyclist. Hmmm. Occasionally, you’ll see a mention about motorcycle safety, but most of the time in real life, you can’t treat a motorcycle just like any other vehicle because the riders don’t drive the way other vehicles are required to. I do see riders who ride safely and courteously, but they seem to be the exception.

So, it was nerve-wracking, but I survived. It is, however, something to be avoided if at all possible, this Friday driving thing.

The Universe is Against Me!!

The Universe is Against Me!!

It’s just amazing. I had a lovely lunch with a friend yesterday. As usual, I planned a couple of other errands on the way back so I could make some more use of the long trip. I drove over to IKEA, because I’d spent the day before looking for a cart with wheels and large flat drawers to organize my beads and findings, and found nothing for less than three times the price of the IKEA Alex drawers. I got to the lines, which of course were all the way into the warehouse area, and picked the shortest one. Apparently it was short because the cashier was making mistakes on every single order and had to call a manager to resolve it with the screaming customers each time. Manohman. Had I gotten in the longest line, I’d have been out earlier.

My next stop was to check out the Han Ah Reum market in Edison, because Rigdefield Park and Cherry Hill were both way out of the way, and it would be nice to have something that was close to the middle of my usual Parkway route. Well. Of course I checked Google Maps first, and that was apparently a mistake. Take 514 and follow signs to the Raritan Convention center, it said. Mistake number one, because the signs for the Raritan Convention Center take you to. . .the Raritan Convention Center. I don’t know the roads, so I make this enormous loop to get back onto 440, because you can’t get back onto 514 West from the way you got off it. So, this time I don’t follow the convention center signs, and I stay on 514. For. Friggin’. Ever. They say “Turn right onto Old Post Road”. When I looked at the map, I thought it odd that there were two of them, and that Google was placing the market on the skinnier of the two. Wouldn’t they be more likely to have a store close to the highway? Well, who am I to argue with Google, eh? Well, 514 is really, really skinny at that end of Old Post Road, and it took about 5 or 6 light changes in a two block area to finally make that right. I drove all the way to the end, when there was no more Old Post Road, and there was no Han Ah Reum, either. I finally find myself at the intersection of Route 1, and I figure, the heck with it, I’ll take 1 to the Parkway and head home. Lo and Behold, I run into the OTHER Old Post Road, so I decided to check it out. Oooh! Signs in Korean! I must be on the right track! No luck, because the road turns residential. But. . .as I pass the giant Pep Boys, there’s a teeeeeeeny sign in Korean with soooooper tiny English letters saying “Han Ah Reum Market”. Getting back there requires crossing 1 again, turning around in a driveway, and waiting almost interminably for the light to change so I can cross back. The market is hidden in the corner behind Pep Boys, and it’s nowhere near as clean and well-stocked as the other stores I mentioned before. But. . .I got my kim chees, noodles, laver, and fish, so that was cool. Packed everything into the cooler and called hubby to let him know I was on my way home.

chitchatchitchat. Then he informs me that my new washer will not be delivered as promised because it arrived at distribution in a crushed box. Crushed box=crushed washing machine. No laundry until Tuesday, now, which means that after I drop Audrey off for band and before I start sanding the living room walls, I need to sort the laundry and take it to a laundromat. I can dry it here at home, but what a pain!

This all put me on the Parkway South at rush hour on a Friday. Even on the weekend after Labor Day, there was still Shore Traffic Volume. It was a very, very long afternoon, and a very, very long time in the car. And this has been a very, very long post, so I’m going to talk about driving in a different one. Suffice it to say, I had lunch, I got my drawers, and we had a yummy Korean dinner, but if everything took this long, I might move to the woods and live on nuts and berries.

Some Driving Stuff

Some Driving Stuff

I just got back from getting the van inspected at the Lakewood inspection station. It was actually a relatively pleasant experience. The wait wasn’t long, there was a clean customer waiting room (although I waited outside of it) and the facility itself was clean and well-staffed (with pleasant people, no less!) About an hour and a half including driving there and back. Not bad!

I didn’t feel like writing about the driving stuff on Saturday, but as long as I’m on the subject. . .

We were at a lovely wedding, and the drive up had been pretty uneventful and traffic wasn’t too bad. Part of the festivities were in an outdoor tent, so many of us were outdoors to experience the excitement of an old guy hitting a parked car and the curb hard enough to set off his air bag and total the front end. The best man, a friend and former neighbor of ours commented that it was perfect, because it’s not a party until the cops arrive. Heh.

Driving back wasn’t bad either, but it always seems that the type of people heading south on the Parkway in the evening are a completely different sort from the ones heading north in the daytime. You can almost count on the idiot type, too. He’s in his late 20s to mid 30s, and he’s driving a late model BMW, Lexus, or Mercedes. It’s clean and pristine, and you wonder how he keeps it that way, because he’s an accident waiting for a place to happen. The first one that night was a black Lexus, and this fellow was in such a hurry that passing on the right and cutting between cars with only inches to spare wasn’t enough. . .with five lanes open, he was passing people on the right shoulder. Well, money can’t buy happiness, but it sure can buy Stupid. The “passing on the right with inches to spare even though there was room to pass on the left” move was practiced by a three Lexus drivers and two Mercedes drivers that night. A VW, a Mazda, and a Chevy truck with blue headlights AND fog lights AND four other unnecessary lights on the front were all doing the thing where they tailgate you frighteningly closely, then drop way back when you pull over to let them pass, only to speed up when you pull back into their lane to pass slower drivers. The VW also, a couple of times, waited until I (and a couple of other drivers) pulled out of his way, then pulled in front of us in our new lanes and THEN slowed down. Hubby keeps telling me it would be incredibly expensive to have the police out patrolling for this stuff all the time, but I for one would rather see them doing that than sitting on the median or the shoulder watching numbers on a radar gun. Of course, it would also be nice if people drove as if they were not the only important ones on the road, but that’s too much to ask for.

Yesterday – Much Less Eventful.

Yesterday – Much Less Eventful.

Hubby was working from home, so I left him to supervise the contractor dudes (they don’t need it, but sometimes they ask questions before they do something. And you need to make sure there are cold beverages in the cooler for them. . .)

I had done a bunch of research on Ong’s Hat, thinking at first that it would be a really cool Weird NJ trip. As it turns out, there’s nothing there, unless you hike several miles through tick land, and even then not much. So instead we drove down Ong’s Hat road just to say we’d been. Afterwards, we did the tour of the old Burlington County Jail in Mount Holly. It was small, but worth the admission, and it was interesting. We didn’t experience any supernatural activity, as I’d expected but as Audrey had hoped. (it made her feel creepy though, so that’s good for something.) Then off to Grandma and Grandpa’s house, lunch at the restaurant above Han Ah Reum in Cherry Hill (very yummy! We’ll go back, for certain!) and pot and plant perusal at McNaughton’s Nursery. I sure wish I could keep a palm of any kind alive. They had a bunch of really interesting varieties, but I can’t see spending that much money on something I’ll kill in record time.

I’ve explored different routes between Audubon and Toms River on these trips. I found that Route 38 beats Route 70 hands down, but it doesn’t exist east of Route 206. At that point, it becomes 530, and since I know it later connects to 70 near Lakehurst, I thought I’d give it a try. Eh. Not so good an alternative. It takes you through “business district” Pemberton, which is depressingly ramshackle, and at several points where you’re on the straight part of a T instersection, you need to turn to stay on 530, rather than go straight – and you find this out after you went straight. I’d have to say it wasn’t much of a timesaver, and it wasn’t more scenic, either. But you never know if you don’t try.

Got home, and WHOA! we have lovely seamless gutters the exact same color of the trim, with the downspouts positioned along the vertical trim, so nicely done that I didn’t even notice they were there. Woohoo! It brought my attention to the weeds growing between the street and the curb. They looked yucky, the weather was cool, and it was still light out, so I used two of my least favorite power tools, the weed whacker and then the leaf blower, to clean it up. Much nicer. I’ll break out the Round-Up as new ones emerge. After the dumpster and all the construction stuff is gone, it’ll be time for a second dose of weed and feed on the lawn, compost distribution, and regular watering again. Then pictures of our fab new look.

NJ Drivers Need Some Clues

NJ Drivers Need Some Clues

And anger management, too. This happened yesterday, but I didn’t get around to blogging it. I was out and about running errands, and the local roads seemed particularly crowded, and idiocy abounded.

First, I was heading south on Hooper Ave., in the center lane, when I saw ambulance lights flashing. The people to the right pulled over, the people to the left drove up onto the grass median, and I pulled into the right lane. The guy behind me, who was directly in front of the ambulance, sloooowwwwllly pulled ahead until he’d gotten in front of all the cars that had pulled out of the way, and then finally let the ambulance go. Nice, mister. You’d better hope your soul brother or sister isn’t in front of you when you need to go to the emergency room in an ambulance.

So then I hit Route 37, looking for a store that had a good price on something I wanted to get. I get out to the place, and the only driveway I can see is clearly marked “one way, exit only”. I was already slowed down with my signal on, so I continued, thinking that the entrance must a a second driveway. No second driveway. I’m not speeding up, because I now want to get off on a side street to see if there’s a back entrance, and if not, there’s a u-turn at the light a couple hundred feet away. The dude behind me in the black Jaguar was none too happy about this, and he was making sure I knew it. (The light is red at this point, too, I should mention. . .) Honking, screaming, about to burst an anuerism for sure. Now I tend to see people who are driving slowly, slowing down at curb cuts and signs as probably being lost or looking for landmarks, and I drop back to give them room. It’s obvious to me that not only are they likely to see what they’re looking for and move suddenly, but also that they’re a little distracted already, trying to find an unfamiliar place, and you really don’t want to make it worse by trying to intimidate them. Mr. Jaguar apparently has a completely different take on this. He got in his final rampage at the u-turn. Around here, the jughandle is universal, but not consistent. You don’t know until the last minute if it’s going to be before the light, after the light, a dedicated turn, or a bunch of signs taking you through local roads. On top of that, most of them start as one lane and divide up into as many as four (sometimes five) and you don’t know until you’re almost all the way around if you have dedicated left or right lanes, or if they’re combined, etc. Logically, the cars moving from the single lanes would move into the dedicated lanes in order, but Mr. Jaguar is in high dudgeon by now, and drives up onto the grass to pass me on the left as I attempt to get into the straight/left lane. In case I haven’t figured out yet what an idiot he thinks I am, he stops next to me, partly on the grass, leans on the horn a half dozen times, then leans over the passenger seat to scream and gesticulate at me. (I really felt like blowing him a kiss at that point) I think he didn’t read my bumper sticker that says “Has Anger Solved Your Other Problems?”

Eventually, I get back around, figure out that to get to this store you have to enter the parking lot of the store next door and drive all the way through it – it’s not marked at all. It turned out to be not what I wanted, but that’s OK. At least now I knew how the jughandle was set up! I get back onto 37, and I’m in the left lane. There’s some traffic several hundred feet in front of me, not much behind, until a woman in a Volvo SUV comes right up on my tail. OK, no big deal, I pull to the center to let her pass. She does, but as soon as she’s a foot or two in front of me, she pulls into my lane. And slows down. A lot. Then cuts off someone in the right lane and comes almost to a stop, then dashes into the far right lane to exit. As I said, there was not much behind me at all, and the signs for the exit were not hard to see, but she had to be in the front. *sigh*

You know, I really do enjoy driving most of the time, but some days I wonder why. There are far too many people who seem to consider it a competitive sport.

Yeah, She Showed Me!

Yeah, She Showed Me!

I was off doing all kinds of errands today, and in between poking and prodding (medical tests, nothing unusual) and shopping, I decided to see if the CVS had an item that the KMart didn’t. I got stuck behind a very big, very slow truck on Hooper Avenue, and decided to pass it. On the left, signalling before pulling out, and again after pulling in front. Because the truck was so big, I hadn’t been able to see that there was another car in front of it, so I didn’t have too too much room to pull in between that one and the car I could see, and since the traffic in front of me was too slow and my turn came up before I could pass more than just the truck and the car in front of it, I pulled in front of the car I hadn’t seen and the one I did. Again, signalling before I did it, and with plenty of room to spare.

So, the car I pulled in behind hit her brakes suddenly. No problem, I figure it’s one of those old ladies braking in advance of the traffic light. I drop back. She hits the gas, but I don’t need to rush up behind her, because the CVS is at the next light, and it’s red. So what if there are about ten car lengths in front of her? I see her check her rear-view and hit the brakes again. I take my time, as I approach, she starts braking, inching forward, braking, inching forward. . .but it isn’t until I put my signal on to turn into the CVS and she stops completely, blocking the entrance, that I realize she’s trying to teach me a lesson! Holy cow! This stupid, stupid woman is playing a game, with an 18-wheeler behind two other cars, because she’s got some kind of bug up her ass! (Not meaning me, of course. Heh.) I mean, really – I didn’t pull up on her tail, I didn’t cut her off, I don’t know where she got the idea that she should be trying to make me rear-end her. AFAIK, she must have just happened to be looking in her mirror at the same time as I pulled behind her and thought that I was some kind of maniac speed demon trying to push her off the road or something. So I slowed down, came to a full stop a couple of car lengths behind her, and waited patiently until the other drivers started pulling around and in front of her (the light had long since turned green) and she got tired of playing. Yep, she sure showed me how a SAFE and CAUTIOUS driver handles a vehicle. She should be a driving instructor. One day she’ll show people what happens to people who play games with angry drivers, instead of contented ladies enjoying a lovely day of knocking things off their to-do lists.

Today’s Adventure

Today’s Adventure

Started with waking Audrey up.  Even the dog had to jump on her and lick her all over three times.  I had googlemapped the directions to this school, but thank goodness I’d also looked at maps, because google (like anyone from outside of New Jersey) doesn’t understand jughandle turns.  I turned right where it was strictly forbidden (although why, I don’t know – but nobody was in the way, and no police were stationed looking out) and missed the (ahem) “left turn” because it was one of the super stooooopid NJ jughandles that comes before the light, and is marked with the towns it eventually leads to, rather than the much more helpful street name.  Fortunately, the next jughandle did have a street name, and it was one we knew from the map, so we were set.

The audition went well, from what she said, we’ll know later tonight if she made it.  From what I heard in the waiting/practice room, she was at least as good as, if not better than, many of the kids, so we shall see.

We decided later to head down to Borders in Eatontown after calling hubby to find out where the nearest Borders was.  On the way, we passed EMO medical center.  You can tell she’s her mother’s daughter – we both just started laughing and making jokes about waiting rooms filled with black-garbed kids with hair hiding one darkly lined eye all saying “NO!  I DON’T want to see the doctor!  Life is SUFFERING!  Don’t you GET it?” and bleeding all over the floor.

So we had a snack and bought books and CDs and headed home.  Laundry time.  Dinner out tonight.  Mmmm, sushi.

Traffic Lights

Traffic Lights

Down here, we have a lot of intersections where the traffic lights are on sensors rather than timers.  What this means is that in one or more directions, the light will stay red until it senses a car waiting for the green.  In theory, this is a pretty good idea.  In practice, though, it depends on the first person in line actually advancing far enough into the intersection to trigger the sensor, and that doesn’t always happen.  Coming out of Bey Lea Plaza onto Bay Avenue East, I’ve been stuck more than once behind someone who doesn’t get it, and gone through two or three light change cycles before someone turning West triggers it and we can finally go.  The same thing happened this morning at Indian Hill and Bay.  It was going on six minutes, and I was about to make an illegal and dangerous u-turn out of frustration.  Finally, though, someone came into the left turn lane and moved far enough to trigger it, so I was saved.  Sometimes I think that if people just knew about these sensors, they’d change their habits accordingly, but then I come back to reality.  Maybe that’ll be my next letter to the Ocean County Observer.

Time to Learn WordPress.

Time to Learn WordPress.

I was up visiting Gayle yesterday and today, and the blog had been attacked by yet another couple of spambots. Hubby has set up a wordpress account so we can play around and then move everything over. I’ll let everyone know when we’re switching.

Right now, my brain is a bit too fried to absorb too much information about the program. The drive home was long and stressful because of the rain. Why the heck are drivers so resistant to the idea of putting on their headlights when it’s raining? And for that matter, why are some drivers resistant to slowing down a bit when the roads are wet? Put those two together – the ones driving like they’re the only ones on a straight dry road, and the ones who are essentially invisible, and it makes for a really good adrenal gland workout. Idjits.