Courtesy On the Road

November 05

Many people’s stress levels stem from their commute to work. Whether it’s by public transit, car or awesome helicopter. Each offers challenges, frustrations, irritations and dangers.

It is interesting to note, however, the difference in behaviour between people and people in cars. The change is incredible. What one person does when driving one seldom sees when people perambulate in their bipedal form.

What is also interesting is that people are quite open and confident in their approaches to each environment.  For example, no-one that I’ve met has openly admitted to the acceptability of cutting to the front of a line.

This is simply not done. However, when one looks at traffic behaviour, opinions begin to differ. Take merging onto a highway for example. One group will attempt to merge well before the end of the onramp, waiting until someone lets them in.

Others, however, have openly stated that one has the entire length of the onramp, and it is expected that one will enter at the last possible moment. Trying to merge sooner is silly and not taking proper advantage of the options available.

What is typical of this latter group is that they tend to be indignant unless they are let in where they choose, when they choose (at the last minute) and will often force their way in with little regard for other drivers. Sometimes signalling is optional and seen as unnecessary because it’s apparently clear that they are now merging and others should simply realise this and let it happen.

This last-minute people also do not tolerate people trying to merge partway through the on-ramp and will circumnavigate them, going on the shoulder, to get to the front of the line.

What people do not appear to understand is that by forcing oneself into traffic is one of the main reasons that it comes to a crawl. The European one-at-a-time philosophy (one car from the main lane lets one car merge in) is lost on drivers, at least in cities like Toronto and Montreal. Everyone tries to jam in last minute, often forcing their way into a lane, forcing through traffic to stop to accommodate them.

The worst offenders are those who are already on the highway, spot an onramp, jump onto it to get ahead a few car spaces (I see this every day on the DVD/404).

These drivers ensure that traffic will slow down. The same reason why highways with large changes in negative elevation come to a crawl.  When one person doing 100km/h brakes, the person behind them, in a reflexive action to make sure they are safe, brakes a little more. So the second person ends up going at 95km/h, the person behind them 90km/h and so on until it’s bumper-to-bumper for no reason other than  arguably bad reactions.

Although some people claim that it’s ok to force oneself into a lane at the last moment, I hold that it’s not. Just as it’s not acceptable to do so in a regular line-up. Often bad traffic does not have so much to do with insufficient number of lanes but bad manners. I sincerely believe this.

Next time you’re in a car with someone who doesn’t signal, forces their way into a lane or does something untowards, let them know it’s not ok. The same way you’d let them not to butt in to a line-up.


Posted by on November 5, 2010 in Cars

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