Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Editorial Observations of Traffic Behavior

 Remember that one special day when you had to drive perfectly to impress the person sitting next to you?  Were you nervous given the person sitting next to you was responsible for evaluating your driving skills measured against a series of state and federal laws?  Remember when you first sat behind the steering wheel of two tons of steel?  Maybe your heart beat faster, maybe you were hyper-aware of everything as you slowly drove down the streets.  When did driving change from being cautious to complacent?   What happened to those days of being hyper-vigilant? How well do you remember your driving education?  Take the test and post the results.

Fast forward to today.  A stopped vehicle was bumped by the vehicle behind while at a stop sign.  As the drivers looked at the lack of damage to the vehicles, the legally stopped driver was blamed for stopping at a stop sign and told, “I thought you were going to keep rolling through the stop sign, no one ever stops here when turning”.  When did a the laws become self-regulated?  Actually, the stop sign law never changed and carries a $86.20-$98.80 minimum fine for not stopping.  Following are a few reminders from the 2015 Wisconsin Drivers Handbook.

Stop Signs

“A stop sign has eight sides and is red with white letters.  You must come to a full stop. You must wait until crossing vehicles and pedestrians have cleared your path. You can go only when it is safe to do so. If you cannot see traffic from your first stop, slowly move ahead and stop again before entering the intersection. Check for cross traffic and pedestrians before you go.”… also “Before you enter an intersection, look to both the left and right for approaching vehicles and/or crossing pedestrians. If stopped, look to both the left and right just before you start moving. Look across the intersection before you start to move to make sure the path is clear all the way through the intersection, and that you will not block it if you have to stop. Then look left again.”  A fully legal stop takes about 3.5 - 4 seconds to execute  if there is no other traffic present.

Crosswalks and Stop Lines

Crosswalks define the area where pedestrians may cross the roadway. Crosswalks can be at intersections or in the middle of the block. You must yield to pedestrians who are in or are about to enter a crosswalk (marked or unmarked). When required to stop because of a sign or signal, you must stop before the front of your vehicle reaches the stop line. If there is no marked stop line, stop before entering the marked crosswalk on the near side of the intersection. If there is no marked stop line nor a marked or unmarked crosswalk, stop at a point nearest the intersecting roadway where you have a clear view of approaching traffic, but before entering the intersection.

Speed Limits

When did speed limit become a suggestion rather than the law?  Speeding carries a minimum of $98.80 fine, as well as a possible reduction in the number of driving points on your license.  Recently our law enforcement pulled over a vehicle with several young men in it traveling 92 mph in a 35 mph zone.  The reason given for traveling that fast was they were on a 15 minute break and had to get to the fast food restaurant down the road.  Fast food does not equate to fast driving, but it could result in a $439 hamburger and loss of license. 
Another speeding concern is situated in a younger neighborhood where children are present.  If the residents could drive the speed and spare 18 seconds of time in their day, it would reduce the likelihood of surviving a collision with a serious injury or death by 3-5 times.  Parts of our bodies are not designed to survive an impact over 30 mph.


Final Reminder

Most of all we wanted to remind everyone driving to be more attentive.  Drive like you have the DMV evaluator right next to you.   Would you have passed your driving test if you had made a rolling stop, checked a text message, snacked on a burger, put on makeup, or chatted on your cell phone?  Be aware of your surroundings when driving.  Treat every road as if a child could come running out into the road.  Don’t fixate on waving to the person in the car approaching you. 

Remember you are in control of two tons of metal and plastic that could seriously injure or kill a person on the road or in your vehicle.  A vehicle can be a dangerous weapon.  Driving is a serious matter that does not accommodate complacency.  You are responsible for your safety, and those around you.  Just because there is not an officer to give you a ticket for disobeying a law, it does not mean the law does not apply to you.  Everyone can make a difference.