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.

 

 

 

Driving 101: Impatiently Distracted Drivers

driving101adriving101

I have mentioned this before in previous posts about driving in Nashville.  The two main issues I see going on with drivers are:  (1) They are impatient and (2) They are distracted.

First, let me talk about distracted driving.  My daughter was recently rear ended by another driver on an exit ramp when the driver stated she looked down to see what her son was watching on YouTube.   An example of the serious issue of distracted driving.  In 2014, 3,179 people were killed and 431,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers.  The distractions are texting, using the phone, eating/drinking, talking to passengers, grooming, reading (yeah, I’ve seen this one and couldn’t believe it), using navigation systems, watching a video, adjusting audio devices in the car (oops, I’m guilty of this one).

Let’s face it, driving is boring.  But, when we are in the driver’s seat, we need to do one thing:  drive.  It only takes a glance away from the road to have an accident.  Five seconds is the average time your eyes are off the road while texting.  I have also noticed that talking on the phone is so very distracting even if your eyeballs are physically looking at the road.  People tend to slow down, drift into other lanes and ignore using turn signals.

Avoid distracted driving.  Pay attention to the road and the traffic conditions around you.  No one should text and drive.

Second, there is an epidemic of impatient drivers.  There is one apartment complex we pass on our commute to work where people really do not want to wait on us to pass by.  They will either roll out in front of us, causing us to brake or begin their roll before we pass by them.  People do not want to stop or wait for any reason.  If you are going too slow, they will try to push you out of their way.    If you are trying to turn, drivers behind you don’t want to slow down at all.  They want to keep their same speed regardless how sharp you need to make a turn.  It is disappointing to see people so impatient simply because they are in a rush.  It is just ridiculous how aggressive people can be.  Honking the horn doesn’t help matters.    I find it very irritating when pulling over for emergency vehicles and once they have passed, other drivers pass by too as if I didn’t need to get back on the road myself.

Impatient drivers will do some crazy and risky things on the highways.  If they are going to miss a turn or exit some will take unnecessary chances instead of going to the next exit or taking an alternate route to get to their destination.

We all have somewhere to be.  Let’s just dial it down a notch and get there safely.

 

 

 

Driving 101: Changing Lanes

lanes

Some days on the commute to or from work, I feel like I’m a slow driver in a NASCAR race.  Other drivers race past me and move in and out of lanes as if there were a checkered flag at the end.  Turn signals are optional.  Hey – they know where they are going!  That’s all that matters right?

No.  This isn’t a NASCAR race or any other kind of race.  This is highway driving.

Okay, Nashvillans, here are the official rules for changing lanes:

When changing lanes, the MOST important thing is to make sure there is clear gap in the traffic.  Then move safely and smoothly into the center of the desired lane, while maintaining your space in the flow of traffic so that no other vehicle is forced to slow down, speed up, or change lanes to avoid collision.

Okay, I know I lost most of the Music City drivers there.

When you change lanes, follow these steps:

  1. Turn on your signal.  (It’s usually located on the left side of the steering wheel)
  2. Check your mirrors.  (That shiny thing on the side of the car)
  3. Check your blind spot by looking over your shoulder. (Look up the definition of a blind spot)
  4. If it is safe, change lanes. (Remember, there’s no checkered flag at the end)
  5. Turn off your signal after completing the lane change.  (Or leave it on until you get to Florida)

Other things about changing lanes:

  • On a four-lane road where two lanes travel in one direction and two other lanes travel in the opposite direction, the right lane is designed to be the primary driving lane and the left lane is to be used for passing.
  • ALL drivers should surrender the left lane to approaching emergency vehicles.
  • Although it’s not illegal to change lanes in an intersection, it is potentially dangerous and should be avoided if possible.  (Yes, I got busted on this one recently.)

One of the most hazardous issues on the highways are when drivers decide to change lanes at the last possible moment.  This shows a lack of awareness by the driver.  Be in the lane you are supposed to be in well in advance to avoid this erratic lane change.  If you miss your turn, just get off at the next exit or change your route.  With the technology we have now, there is no reason to freak out that you will miss your one and only chance to make your move.

Nashville, please be aware of what you are doing.  It is everyone’s responsibility to make safe lane changes.

 

 

 

Driving 101: Parking (Scratch-n-Dent Begins Here)

parking1

Parking lots.  One of the top anxious moments for a driver is to park in a parking lots.  Parking slots are either too small or drivers fail to park in them properly.

Earlier this week, my wife parked at Marathon Village where they have unlined parking but concrete headers to have some order in parking.  Some jerk face decided he was going to park so close to her that he barely had any room to open his door.  Why he didn’t park elsewhere is a mystery since there were many other spots available.   He looked at her then proceeded to get out of his vehicle and hits the passenger door of our car.  No response.  No “I’m Sorry”.  Nothing.

What is wrong with people?

Okay, back to parking.

The most common types of parking are:

  • Angle parking
  • Perpendicular Parking
  • Parallel Parking

angle

Angle Parking is where vehicles are designated to go ONE way.  I put “one” in all caps because so many drivers ignore the designated direction.  How many times have you played “chicken” in the Publix or Walmart parking lot with other drivers driving in the wrong direction?

perpendicular

Perpendicular Parking is similar to angle parking but is done in spaces marked in a 90-degree angle to the curb or building.

parallel-park-step-9

Parallel Parking (yes, the hairs on the back of my neck stand up too) is generally used next to a curb in the space between two parked cars.  It requires practice to master this maneuver.

When parking in any slot, center you vehicle in the middle of the space and turn your tires to face forward.  Re-adjust if necessary so that there is the same amount of space on both sides.  When you open your door, be mindful of your surroundings and make the effort to keep your car or yourself or your belongings from hitting the vehicle next to you.  It’s only common courtesy people!

For parking lots without lined slots, park a safe distance from the vehicles next to you.  If the slot is too small, do not try to squeeze in.  And, if there are other slots, park somewhere else!   Not rocket science here.

For further instructions on how to park your vehicle go to:  http://www.wikihow.com/Park-a-Car.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Driving 101: The Best Rule Of All

For the past several weeks, I have been written about various driving rules and laws that many people ignore.  I am not one that will say I am perfect in my driving habits.  I get impatient like everyone else and I will take shortcuts and get angry with other drivers.  While living in Nashville, I have found that most people out there basically will do whatever they want to do.  Forget the rules.  Ignore the fact that Nashville is supposed to be the “friendliest city in the United States” which I wonder if the ones who ranked it had to drive in the traffic.

Having been stuck in traffic, frustrated by those who disregard the right-of-way rules and impatience of others who do whatever they want, I can tell you that the best rule of all that should be followed can be summed up in this:

DO WHAT YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO DO

Simple.  The lines and signs are put on the roads for a reason.  Instruments are on our vehicles for a purpose in traveling on the public roadways.

  • Do what you are supposed to do…..USE YOUR TURN SIGNAL.
  • Do what you are supposed to do…..YIELD TO TRAFFIC WHEN YOU HAVE A YIELD SIGN.
  • Do what you are supposed to do…..TAKE YOUR TURN AT THE 4-WAY STOP.
  • Do what you are supposed to do…..YIELD TO PEDESTRIANS.
  • Do what you are supposed to do….PULL OVER AND STOP FOR EMERGENCY VEHICLES.
  • Do what you are supposed to do….STOP WHEN YOU HAVE THE RED LIGHT.
  • Do what you are supposed to do….SLOW DOWN WHEN IT IS RAINING.

I am sure there are others you can add to this list but these are the most common things I see everyday driving in and around the Music City.  I have lived in three cities over the past ten years and each one had their own issues.   In Macon, Georgia, drivers were notorious for tailgating,  in Tampa, Florida, they were impatient and in Nashville, they do whatever they want to do.    I guess it’s that country/renegade/rebel mentality.

I don’t know what’s happening with the “25-year plan” we heard about to improve traffic in Nashville but the fact is that Nashville is growing rapidly and the currently infrastructure for traffic is going to be a growing problem.   Instead of golf carts scampering around town or other non-standard forms of transportation, the city really needs a good plan for moving around the city.  There are too many cars and not enough space for them all.

In the meantime, drivers need to just simply do what they are supposed to do.