You're in the yellow car in heavy traffic. The red car on your right is signalling a left turn. What do you do?
a) Stop. Avoid blocking the lane. Wave the red car through.
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Dr. Leon James
|Date: Thu, 16 Mar 2000 23:14:49 -1000
Subject: Right of Way Module Test
I stumbled onto your very interesting website and just thought I'd let you
know some of my thoughts regarding your right-of-way Module 1 test. These
scenarios are excellent. In my daily commute I encounter most of them every
In Question 1 we are asked how to deal with a car exiting a side street
wishing to make a left turn in heavy traffic as we approach his intersection
with stopped traffic ahead of us. I agree with your analysis to stop but not
wave him through for the reasons you stated. However, the scenario reminded
me of how often I have been that driver exiting the side street, or parking
lot, gas station etc. needing to make a RIGHT turn onto a major street.
Usually, even if the oncoming cars have to brake anyway for stopped traffic ahead of them, they will pull forward until they block my lane. Then, when
their light turns green they proceed. Invariably, another driver behind
them will see my plight and, with a green light ahead and anxious drivers
behind, they will stop and wave me in. Misplaced courtesy? In my mind yes.
Question 2 deals with the classic problem at a 2 or 4-way stop - who got
there first? It isn't always clear who got there first! After all you do
have to watch the road - it may be curvy or bumpy or who knows what. I think
it works better that a left turn should always yield. It takes the guess
work out of 2 and 4 - way stops.
Question 3 has to do with trusting another driver to obey a stop sign. Your
advice is to wait a few extra seconds to make sure the third driver stops. I
have never heard the quoted statistic that only 1/3 of drivers stop at stop
signs. If it is true, it must be because of stop situations where you are
the only car, or where drivers are so familiar with a particular intersection
(such as one close to your home) they fall into a routine where a precise stop is not executed but a clear sharing of right of way is. Many drivers
roll through in those situations. But 2 out of 3 blatant running of a stop?
I just haven't seen it. Besides, let's face it - we have to trust other
drivers. Often it is only a painted line on the road that separates us.
Question 4 I agree with and is good because it acknowledges the fact that
impeding traffic can cause problems. Aggressive drivers get most of the bad
press, but passive drivers cause their share of problems.
Question 5 involves an area of driving that I believe is a major cause of
stopped traffic on our freeways - merging. I always say that we as a culture
have problems merging as seen from divorce rates, racial intolerance,
religious intolerance etc. so why should traffic be any different. Anyway,
my observation of merging traffic is that too many drivers bail out of the
right hand lane when they see cars coming up the on-ramp. This causes an
exodus into the middle lane which then causes a chain reaction into the next
lane and so on. Often I see a car bail out because of a merging car only to
"bail" back in and take the very next exit! Usually cutting off the merging
driver in the process. I think that the reason drivers bail out is because
too many drivers do not accelerate rapidly to meet the prevailing speed of
the other freeway drivers. No one wants to slow down.
Passing a merging driver is not a cure-all in my mind either. A merging
driver is taught to accelerate up to freeway speed so passing them can create
a situation where they run out of on-ramp as you "cut them off." I used to
pass in this situation exclusively. But the last few years i've changed.
It's because I've had to use a freeway on-ramp which is located at the
bottom of a steep hill. Even if I floor my vehicle, going up that hill does
not allow me to reach freeway speed by the time my on-ramp peters out. It
really helps if an oncoming driver slows a little, not braking hard mind you,
to let me in. The alternative is merging cars passively entering the freeway
ready to brake as cars whiz by them.
You have a great web site!