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.