Driving 101: What Does The Flashing Lights Mean?

traffic
Confusion With Flashing Traffic Lights

I was rolling along West End Avenue on my commute home from downtown Nashville last week when I saw a traffic obstacle ahead.  It was a flashing yellow light.  Apparently the traffic light was out which defaulted it to a flashing yellow light for the main road and a flashing red light for the side streets at the intersection.  And how did Nashvillans handle it?

Like a four-way stop.

No, no, no.  Not correct.  It made that intersection more dangerous than it needed to be.

According to the driving rules from the Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV), the rules for these lights are:

  • A flashing RED light means to come to a complete stop and then only proceed when you can.
  • A flashing YELLOW light means to proceed with caution.

It is not treated as a four-way stop unless everyone has a flashing RED light.  Then – and only then – do you treat it like a four-way stop.

What happened?  This intersection was made hazardous by people who do not know – or care – about the correct traffic rule.  If you are stuck at the flashing red light on the side streets – too bad.  You will have to figure out a way to proceed.  More than likely, drivers should turn right and navigate an alternate route instead of turning left or driving across.

The traffic light confusion created a huge traffic jam since the West End traffic started stopping at the flashing yellow light.  Yeah, I was fussing.  I proceeded with caution but nearly got sideswiped by a driver from the side street who was irritated that I didn’t let them go.  Hey, driver – go look at the driver’s manual.  It’s not difficult.  In fact, Google it on your smart phone while you are driving.  You’re texting anyway.

Here are the rules for flashing lights:

  • FLASHING RED LIGHT – Stop, yield the right-of-way and proceed when it is safe.
  • FLASHING YELLOW LIGHT – Drive with caution.
  • STEADY RED ARROW – Do not turn until green light goes on.  A right or left turn is not permitted at a red arrow.
  • STEADY YELLOW LIGHT – Light is changing from green to red.  Be prepared to stop.  (No, it doesn’t mean accelerate OR to slam on the brakes)
  • STEADY GREEN LIGHT – Our favorite light.  Go, but yield the right-of-way to other traffic and pedestrians (and the illegally walking pedestrians) at the intersections as required by law.

So, I proceeded with caution at the intersection last week obeying the flashing yellow light but had a near miss in the process.  I wish people would learn the rules.  It’s crazy to drive and follow the rules when others ignore them and then fuss/honk/flip your off when they are in the wrong.

Okay, I get it.  You are late for something.  Vanderbilt is playing a basketball game.  Whatever the reason you still need to know what the lights mean.

To clarify again – a YELLOW FLASHING LIGHT means that you must proceed with caution and NOT come to a complete stop.

Advertisements

Driving 101: Knuckleheads On Ice

Jan14-driving-in-snow-and-iceDriving under normal conditions is stressful enough but when you throw in the occasional snow and ice we get here in Nashville for the few days in the winter, it won’t surprise you why our Northern neighbors poke fun at us.  We simply don’t know how to drive in the wintry conditions like they do.  I spent a year in Greenland driving a huge mail truck every day but that was over 100 years ago (actually 40) and I don’t consider myself an expert on how to drive in the snow/ice when it occurs.  I don’t really think anyone is an “expert” because that would require someone behind the wheel with at least a dash of common sense.  When you live in Nashville (or most any Southern cities) you see the knuckleheads on ice – and I’m not talking about an ice skating show at Bridgestone Arena.

The main thing I see is that drivers refuse to be cautious.  If their wheels are turning, they think it’s good to proceed as normal – which is scary to begin with.  ice on the roads is no one’s friend and is very unforgiving regardless of what kind of vehicle you are driving.

I dare say that there are guys driving four-wheel drive trucks who incorrectly assume they can drive on anything since but what they underestimate is that when they hit icy patches that all four wheels can slide just as easily.

So what are the proper tips for driving in snow/ice conditions?

  1. Before you get on the road, make sure you clear off any snow or ice on your vehicle.  Don’t just jump in your vehicle and take off.  Accumulation of snow and ice can not only obstruct your views but could also be a hazard for other drivers when it falls off of your vehicle.  It’s annoying when you get an unwelcomed snow shower from another vehicle.
  2. As you approach a hill, allow your car’s momentum to take you up instead of pressing on your gas.  Then when you reach the top of the hill, reduce your speed and descend slowly.  The main thing is not to panic.
  3. When you start to skid do NOT steer into the direction of the skid but gently steer into the direction you want to go without slamming on the brakes.  I think we have been told (or confused) for years that we are suppose to steer the wrong way.  If you steer INTO the direction of skid then you will most certainly end up in the ditch.
  4. Allow extra space between you and other vehicles.  This is NOT the time for tailgating (as if there is any time for it).
  5. Gently apply your brakes before you have to come to a stop.  Don’t be the person who immediately applies the brakes at the stop line.  It won’t hurt to start braking early.

The key ingredient to driving in winter conditions on the roadways is CAUTION.  Keep in mind that these are not the normal driving conditions in the South.  It doesn’t hurt to use more caution than normal when driving in snow and/or ice.  In watching the reports on local news, law enforcement repeatedly say that the main reason for accidents during snow/ice is speed.  Drivers are driving too fast for the conditions.  There is no shame for driving slow.  If people are impatient they can go around you.

I hate to say this but drivers around here tend to have that NASCAR mentality on the roads but it isn’t a race and no one is going to win a points competition.  Have you seen NASCAR race on ice?  No, I can’t say that you have.  The highways are roads that lead to our jobs, our homes and our families.  It’s not illegal to be cautious.  Besides, it’s only 2-3 days of the year.  Can’t we just make allowances for this and make it safe for everyone?  Let’s be cautious and not knuckleheads on ice.

Driving 101: No Need For Speed

speedingI saw a story on Good Morning America this week where Dodge announced the release of a new car with an 850 Horsepower engine. Why is there a need for this? Robin Roberts asked this question of Michael Strahan who said that while he wouldn’t use all of the 850 Horsepower, he just liked to know he had that power.

Wow. What an endorsement for testosterone levels everywhere.

There have been three times in the last week where I have been driving and encountered drivers whizzing past me as if they were filming a scene for a “Fast and Furious” movie. One wrong move and there would have been a serious accident.

Why is it necessary to go as fast as you possibly can? Drivers are so impatient. They don’t want to be slowed down – even if you are going the speed limit. Have you ever been almost pushed by the car behind you because they wanted to go faster?

I looked down at the speedometer on our Honda CRV and wondered why it is possible that I could go 140 miles per hour. When would I need this and why can cars go this fast?

The reasoning behind this is that our vehicles need the power to accelerate to highway speeds in a reasonable amount of time such as going from 0-60 mph in about eight seconds which requires an engine to be powerful enough to do this. It is also necessary to dead with winds, steep hills and sharp curves.

But the power of the engine and the fact that the speedometer shows you can go 140 mph does not mean you should. Most cars are not designed to sustain those tops speeds for any lengthy period of time.

In the United States, speeding was the main factor in 112,580 deaths between 2005-2014 and the numbers are on the rise.  When you throw in distracted or impaired driving with speeding, chances of injury or death on the roads increase.  Let me tell you something you probably already know, people are doing whatever they want to do when driving so whether it is eating, drinking or texting, speeding only make things worse.  Drivers do not think of speeding the same as they think about other hazardous driving behaviors.  They just have to get wherever they are going FAST.

Speeding is a form of aggressive driving.  No doubt you will see it today when you are on the roads.   So what are the rules for speed limits?

The speed limit, unless otherwise posted, is 25 mph is school zones, business, or residential districts; 35 mph in certain low density business and residential districts; 50 mph on all other highways and 65 mph on state highways.  Refer to your state’s rules on these limits.  So what about that passing lane?  Isn’t it the same speed limit for any lane?  Not necessary.   In some areas, such as Colorado and Kentucky, vehicles in the left lane are required to yield to faster traffic only if the speed limit is above 65 mph.  Again, check your local rules on this one.

If you are in the passing (a.k.a. “fast lane”) please allow the slower vehicle the opportunity to change lanes safely.  Sure, there will be drivers who will stay in the lane regardless but most people will want to move out of the way.

If you are living in Nashville, Interstates 40, 24 and 65 are not official NASCAR tracks.  Believe it or not, speed limits are posted.  It isn’t a race to get home, to work or to a Blake Shelton concert.  Relax.  Stop speeding and make sure everyone gets where they are going safely.

 

 

Driving 101: Just Drive!

Businessman using mobile phoneI will soon be on the commute home.  It’s always an adventure.  You never know what’s going through the minds of the drivers in Nashville, Tennessee.  People tend to do whatever they feel like doing.  Forget about traffic lights, turn signals and lanes on the road.  If they can do it, they will.  Never assume anything out there.

Recently we encountered a driver that was driving erratic as we were on the ramp to enter I-40.  My wife looked over (since I was driving) and noticed the driver was all into texting.  The driver was looking down at their phone and texting.  It must have been important.

It seems too many drivers are focused on other things than driving.  If you are behind the wheel, you’re ONLY job is to drive.  Nothing else.  Drive the vehicle.

Distracted driving is a huge problem today.  Distracted driving is the act of driving while engaged in other activities which take the driver’s attention away from the act of driving.  Although distracted driving has been a problem before, the problem became more of a problem with the invention of smartphones (which makes drivers dumb).  According to the United States Department of Transportation, text messaging while driving creates a crash risk 23 times higher than driving while not distracted.

Our daughter was rear ended on the exit ramp when another driver admitted that she was looking at her child showing her a YouTube video.  When she looked up, it was too late to avoid impact.  Fortunately, our daughter wasn’t seriously injured but it has been a very difficult time dealing with something that wasn’t her fault.

Distracted driving includes activities such as:

  • Eating
  • Looking after children
  • Texting
  • Talking on the phone
  • Talking to a passenger
  • Watching videos
  • Rubbernecking
  • Reading

While on the subject of drivers talking on the phone – who are these people talking to?  Why is it necessary to have to talk to people on the phone?

Think about it…we enter a vehicle made of steel, plastic and rubber and accelerate up to 70 miles per hour.  Shouldn’t we be more concerned about doing that act safely rather than eating a cheeseburger or texting a poop emoji to someone?

When I road the bus in Tampa, one day I looked over and saw a driver with the newspaper completely opened and reading it while he was driving.  Wow.  How stupid have we become?

My wife commented this morning that she saw someone with headphones on while driving.  So, now we have a driver who will be deaf to anything happening on the road but will make sure he can hear his Blake Shelton song.

I found this poll very interesting.  According to a HealthDay poll of adults who admitted to being distracted:

  • 86% were eating or drinking while driving
  • 41% were adjusting their GPS device
  • 37% were texting
  • 36% were using a map (yeah, that surprised me too)
  • 24% were browsing the Internet
  • 20% were combing or styling their hair
  • 14% were applying makeup  (I think that number has to be higher on the morning commute)

Folks, can we just simply drive the car?  That’s not asking too much.

Driving 101: It’s An Ambulance You Idiot!

ems

Okay, the headline here may be a bit severe but I’m quoting myself just about every time I am driving and pull over for an emergency vehicle to pass by.  Almost every single time there will be at least one goober that will drive on and refuse to yield.  Why is this a thing?  Isn’t this one of those basic rules you learn in driving?

Still, it happens every time.

What’s worse it that even when people behind you pull over and wait, they will immediately return and try to use it as an opportunity to pass.  We’re all stopped for the same reason here.  It is not an excuse to pass.

So what are the rules?

When the siren approaches you from behind you:

  • Slow down and be alert of the traffic around you
  • Don’t panic
  • Steer your vehicle over to the right to make a path for the emergency vehicle
  • Wait for the emergency vehicle to pass before you pull back into traffic.

When the siren approaches from the front:

  • Slow down and be alert of the traffic around you
  • Don’t panic
  • In general, you still want to pull to the side of the road
  • Wait for the emergency vehicle to pass before you pull back into traffic.

There are also times when you are simply stuck in “no man’s land” and can’t pull over to the right.  Make your best judgment and either stay still for the emergency vehicle to go around you or help open a path for the emergency vehicle.  It’s sometimes difficult to think quickly when you are stuck but use your best judgment.

So what about the interstate?

Drivers should yield the right-of-way and shall immediately drive to a position parallel to and as close as possible to the right-hand edge or curb of the roadway.  Most of the time, just freeing up the far left lane won’t require you to stop but always yield the emergency vehicle.

So if you are on the road driving around downtown Nashville and you hear the siren, PULL OVER AND STOP.  If the emergency vehicle was coming to assist you wouldn’t you want people to yield?

Driving 101: Cars vs. Bicycles

cyclist

Recently, there was an incident where a driver hit a cyclist on the Natchez Trace Parkway and kept driving.  Fortunately, the cyclist was not seriously injured and the driver was arrested thanks to video of the incident which went viral.  This incident raised issues about drivers sharing the road with cyclists.

The rules are different depending on the area and various jurisdictions which govern cyclists using the roads.   In this incident, the Natchez Trace Parkway allows cyclists to use the full lane.  In other areas, there are designated bike lanes.

One of the things that irritated me this morning watching the news, they repeated the fact that cyclists should be treated just like another vehicle on the road.   I’m okay with that but the problem is that I have personally witnessed cyclists not acting like another vehicle on the road.  About 50 percent of the cyclists I have witnessed downtown do not obey the traffic laws.  I have seen them run red lights, make illegal lane changes or just totally drive reckless.  If they want to be treated like “any other vehicle on the road” then they need to obey the laws too.   So, don’t just come down on drivers as the culprit.  It works both ways on the road.

So what are the general rules about dealing with cyclists?

  • Drivers must not pass too closely.  Keep the appropriate distance.
  • Drives should look carefully and be alert for cyclists when turning or merging.  Do not pass a cyclist just before making a right turn.  Merge first, then turn.
  • Before passing a cyclist, wait until traffic is clear in the opposite lane. Give yourself more space to pass than you would another vehicle.  The minimum distance is at least three feet from the widest point of both the car and bicycle.
  • Tone down the rage.  Your vehicle is not match for a bicycle.

What cyclists should know:

  • Obey the traffic laws.  Red lights are for you too.
  • Stay in your bike lane unless you have to exit.
  • Map out a good, safe route.  Don’t just assume people will look out for you because they are supposed to.
  • Always be alert of the traffic flow, especially during rush hour traffic.
  • Always wear protective equipment and reflective clothing if riding at night.

When incidents like this happen, people always come down on the drivers.  Certainly, in this case, the driver was definitely the villain.  Just with another other traffic issues here in the Music City, it was yet another case of impatience.  You’re not going to find a lot of sympathy from drivers who get stuck behind a cyclist going 5 MPH.

The most important thing for both drivers and cyclists is to share the road.  We all want to get where we are going safely.  Stop being so damn impatient.  Just do what you are supposed to do and it will all work out.  Nobody wants to be involved in an accident regardless who’s at fault.  This isn’t a competition.

 

Driving 101: Turning Vehicles Ahead

driver

I have addressed the issue with impatient drivers in past blogs on Driving 101 and it is clearly evident when a vehicle is turning.  I see it in my own rearview mirror when I am turning and see the vehicle behind me barreling down on me.

It’s a common theme.   People do not want to stop.  They do not want you to impede them in any way so you’d better make that turn on two wheels.

We live in a “selfie” society where we have no patience in waiting on anything!  These days, almost everything can be accomplished with the push of a button, the click of an app, or the swipe of a card.  When one of these things slows us down we get frustrated.  Nowhere it shows more than behind the wheel.

If you are approaching a vehicle that is making a right turn, reduce your speed, safely change into another lane (if applicable) or safely pass the vehicle.   Do not assume what the vehicle is supposed to do.  Entrances to driveways or roads are not always obvious.

Also keep in mind that the vehicle ahead of you may also be yielding to pedestrians in a walk way.

The main thing is just to be patient.  It all comes down on us at some point when we have to make the turns too.  We want people to be patient with us so let’s make the practice for everyone.

If you are the one making a turn:

  • Begin decelerating and use your turn signal in advance of making the turn.
  • Yield to pedestrians who may be crossing your path.  Also be alert for any bicycle lanes.
  • Take the time necessary to make the turn.

In the complex where I live, there is no turn off lane so I have to slow down to make the turn.  I try to always give plenty of notice that I am turning so that the driver behind me can move to another lane.  Regardless of how much notice or how defensive I drive, there are many times when the driver will not slow down or change lanes.

People are going to turn.  Be patient.