Sunday, February 12, 2012

Stupid Lights and Traffic Circles

Since the dawn of time, men (and women) have been dealing with the right of way. I imagine at the start that the guy riding the T-Rex was given the right of way by anything or anyone else. The dude saddled on the Brontosaurus is a close second for people getting the heck out of the way.


Our major traffic situation is the crossing of two roads and the inevitable right of way that ensues. Regardless of the perceived size of the roads, some rules must be followed. Yield signs, typically employed, just don't work, because everyone believes that means the other driver.  Think I'm wrong, what happens when the power goes out and all the lights are flashing...nobody gets it!


So we started with the stop sign. It's a relatively simple concept that most people can't screw up. The problem is that stop signs aren't fair.  Some people get to go fast while others are forced to wait until nobody wants to go fast. It's just not fair. Often, I'm the guy who isn't getting to go and I've got some serious pent up impatience that I want to unleash on the nearest steering wheel. So everyone should get a stop sign, right? 


4-way stops are a ridiculous kluge that nobody can make go. Again, power outage and lights all flashing red. Does anybody know how this is supposed to work? I've heard you are supposed to yield to the car on the right, but what if there isn't anyone on the right? Should you wait for someone to show up? Is that like the SKIP card in UNO? (oh, God, it isn't like the REVERSE card, right?!?)


So, we want everyone to stop, but frankly too many people are too stupid to know when to go, so the technology arrived to solve this problem in the form of the stoplight. Red means stop, Green means go, and yellow means slow down because you're going to get a ticket if you run the light when it is red. To some people it means, speed up so you don't get caught in the intersection by the red light camera.



 Now, sometimes a road is just too big to have people stopping on it because other cars, bikes, or pedestrians need to cross it, so we invented the cloverleaf. The concept is simply that one road crosses over or under the other. On the non-stopping road, drivers move to the right lane and take an exit lane to "make a right" or pass that exit for the next where they loop around in a steady right hand turn until they've made a left and cross under or over the road they were on previously. This system is time tested and works faithfully on many interstates and beltways across this nation.

So, why must we try to be clever?

We've exceeded our ability to screw up a perfectly logical system.


Take traffic circles, as Henny Youngman would say...please.


Traffic Circles are the bane of our existence! They shouldn't be difficult, but so may people screw them up regularly. Our sense of aesthetics has taken a working intersection with a light and replaced it with a "pretty" manicured circle that is the equivalent of 4 Yield signs again. I've seen more people try to race me by jumping in the circle in front of me. I am not sure why this was necessary to make people believe they don't have to stop anymore and offer common courtesy to their fellow drivers. 


Please don't get me started on multi-lane circles, as the sign on the right indicates it SHOULD be simple, ha!  The problem is solely that people THINK they know how it works, so they don't *actually* read the sign.

Um, you're NOT that smart...ask your friends!



And to the Department of Highways in Virginia please understand that we are not amused, nor do we feel your traffic intellect exceeds those in neighboring states. Stop jacking up the cloverleaf! Drivers expect to slow down and move to the right in order to exit an interstate. Right is right and Left is wrong! Imagine our shock and horror after spending a few miles of our lives working our way into a spot in the right lane as we near an exit targets ONLY to find out that some traffic engineer (which sadly makes us think sanitation engineer) has decided we should exit from the left!!!!

Recently, our neighborhood has added a new shopping center and in their desire to not screw up traffic flow, the highway department has done exactly that. I went down a road that used to allow me to go straight or turn left after waiting at a light as well as an option to go right without waiting at that light. Imagine my shock and dismay when I now come to the same intersection and all 3 lanes must turn right AND must all wait for a green light for that pleasure. (Republican Conspiracy, you say? Not in Maryland...) 

Now, what must a guy do to get to turn left or go straight at that light?  

I'm glad you asked. It's simple, you turn right, go a block, wait at another light, turn left, then decide if you wanted to go left you go straight or if you wanted to go straight you go right... Simple?

Or you just avoid the intersection all together.



  1. I completely agree!  That intersection is entirely jacked up and getting worse everyday.  At first, people were so confused by the change that they actually read the signs and stayed in the correct lane for the "Michigan U" (Now we know which state to blame for that, don't we?).  But, now that drivers have had a few months to get used to the change, they are getting crafty with their lane choices. People who wanted to make the right and end up in the far left lane are now choosing the center lane (which was supposed to be for those choosing to go straight across the intersection) thus sending those who followed the sign looking over their shoulder for drivers in their preferred lane (and in their blind spot).  I can't even avoid the intersection, as all roads from work to home cross there.  The only thing I can say in the positive about it is that the old intersection had a lot of accidents which severely hindered traffic and I haven't heard of any accidents since they made the change.  Darn you, Michigan U and your ability to keep us all safe and confused!

  2. I agree with you on everything.

    I live in fear of traffic circles. There are many in DC and when I visit, I enter one and press the gas pedal down as far as it will go and grit my teeth. So does everyone else. Terrifying.

    Oddly, I find driving in NYC quite relaxing. I guess it's a matter of where one learned to drive. Great post!

  3. Meh.  Traffic circles are easy enough to figure out.  Well, smart traffic circles are easy enough to figure out.  Dumb traffic circles, like the ones with multiple lanes that only has the right lane exiting (meaning that you have to switch lanes to the left to avoid being forced off if you don't want the first right, then have to switch lanes again before the right you do want.  All while hoping the other cars also follow the posted signs, which never happens).  

    Now people, on almost every situation involving vehicles, are universally stupid.  Four way stops, flashing red light, and yields are all elementary in their simplicity.  But, people are stupid.  I, generally, take an extra half second to make an extra look because their stupidity could damage my car and me...  And I'd rather that not happen. 

  4. Do you come down often?
    We've been talking about a fun little road trip to Soho to visit the New York Ink people.
    My wife has driven in NYC as she was up 9 years ago in Brooklyn on a missions trip. I've been up via train twice and the rides in the cabs made me insane.

  5. Being that you know that intersection well, you live through that insanity every day.
    Oh, Awesome work on getting the URL in there!

  6. You have to be a smart driver in this area.

    Damage to you would bring about less Ramblings, and we can't live with less Ramblings!

  7. I hate what they have done to Route 3 up towards your way.  The fact that you have to head north in several location so that you can drive a block or two before you can make a u-turn to head south is beyond asinine, especially when before you could make an easy left turn when passing through the green light at the intersection.

  8. Ummmm, why in the world were traffic circles invented?  It looks and sounds confusing, no wonder people are confused, lol. I'm from Memphis and to my knowledge, and I've lived here most of my life, I've never seen one. As you can tell I don't get out of the city often either, ahem

  9. Glad that the stupidity has not come south then...




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