Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Fred: Traffic Nazi

Headed to San Francisco again Sunday. The drive, as would be expected, brought out the traffic nazi in me. I've been trying to come up with a proposal for a new traffic law but not sure what to name it or just how it would be enforced. I guess I could call it the Asshole Merging Law.

It's been discussed either here or on Eric's blog before: One traffic lane comes to and end but a lot of drivers stay in the closing lane and run up to the lane closure, hoping to slip in and cut in front of everyone else.

You see it all time on northbound 101 in Willits, where the two lane turns into a one lane- the right lane being the one that ends. People stay in the right lane and race up to the front of the line figuring someone will let them slip in front of them.

Having experienced this yet again in the Santa Rosa area on Sunday, I decided it's time to make some of you assholes pay for such rude behavior. And, yes, I say you assholes because so many people seem to do it, I'm sure there are at least a few of among those of you reading this.

So here's what happened Sunday:

We're somewhere near the south end of Santa Rosa. Heck, maybe we're were in Rohnert Park. Traffic is moving pretty smoothly. Suddenly a sign on the right side of the road indicates the left lane closes in half a mile and vehicles should merge into the right lane.

I was in the middle lane and immediately slow down enough so there's maybe 40 yards between my truck and the car in front of me. The car behind me backed off a bit, too. There was more than enough room for a number of cars to merge into the right lane way ahead of the lane closure. But they don't.

I would guess maybe 40 cars passed by me on my left before we hit the end of their lane. None of them took advantage of the opening I left them. I did see a couple, though, pull in behind me in the spot the guy behind me opened. All the cars passing me headed straight up to the end of the lane before trying to squeeze their way into the right lane.

I'd like to see those of you that do that get a hefty ticket. Two to three hundred dollars per violation would be good for starters.

I realize you'd have to change a few things first to make this enforceable and effective. At the very least you'd have to extend the warning time for merges to probably at least a mile before the merge. You might also have to modify existing law or create a new law in regards how far apart cars can be as they come within a mile or two of a lane merge.

Then, there's enforcement itself. You couldn't have CHP cars pulling people over for waiting for the last minute to merge. That would exacerbate the situation. Cameras (I know. I know about red light camera problems) would have to be used, and you'd have to probably have to use more than just one.

The idea would be to show that a driver in the closing lane had ample opportunity to merge before, say, a quarter to an eighth of a mile before the closure. If the camera shows the car passing by an open space between cars- as I created Sunday- and keeps going to try to cut in front of everyone else, one camera records the license records the license number and another shows the position of the car in the line of traffic. The Asshole Merging driver gets a ticket in the mail a week or so later.

I'm sure there'll have to be some defenses for honest screw ups, like people from another state that don't know our traffic laws and might be overwhelmed by the traffic in places like Santa Rosa. We can work those out.

Wouldn't it be nice to see at least some of these rude and selfish people get their just rewards for their behavior?

Lots of work yet to be done on this so suggestions are welcome but, when we get it all ironed out and working, it should be something to make a lot of us happy.

And libertarianism be damned. If Assemblydude Chesbro wants to pick up this proposal and introduce it as a bill, he has my blessing. All I ask is that its unofficial title be Fred's Asshole Merging Law.


At 8:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Libertarianism be damned?? Have you lost yer mind now Fred?

At 9:18 AM, Blogger Fred said...

Not at all. Libertarianism be damned while I'm being the Traffic Nazi!

At 9:19 AM, Anonymous Mr. Nice said...

Hate to have to tell you this Fred, but what you described is already a traffic violation. Cops pulling people over for this does create a mess in SR.

My buddy did this when he was stupid enough not to take my super-secret, parallel-to-railroad route through Santa Rosa to avoid all highway traffic. He got 1 point on his dmv and a $140 fine. Was all hurt about it like the law was unfair.

As for libertarianism, if we had a toll road around that traffic nightmare called Santa Rosa, this wouldn't be a problem. The problem is inadequate, publicly-funded roads, not merging.

At 9:23 AM, Blogger Fred said...

No. The problem is with people that don't play well with others and think they deserve to be ahead of everyone else.

I don't know that I've ever seen anyone pulled over for waiting for the last minute to merge thus clogging up traffic.

At 9:33 AM, Blogger Rose said...

LOL, Mr. Nice.

And, Fred, this could all be solved with a supersonic raygun mounted on our dashboards. Vaporize the offenders.

At 9:58 AM, Blogger Fred said...

Vaporize the offenders.

I like what Eric Kirk said he did to that guy a year or two ago in Willits: He just wouldn't let the guy pull in front of him. That would really piss people off if the people that already merged wouldn't let the last minute mergers slip in, but it might also exacerbate the traffic jam in the long run.

At 7:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is nothing illegal about passing on the left in order to cut in front of everybody to merge into single lane. This looks like a solution in search of a problem because somebody has their panties in a bunch. I don't see the problem. It's more efficient to have cars pass up the line and cut in nearer the point where two lanes merge into one rather than have a bunch of cars stacked up single file for a mile.

At 8:19 PM, Blogger Fred said...

No it isn't. I hope you're the first one ticketed under my new law, asshole!

At 10:45 AM, Blogger beachcomber said...

Fred, Your law would HAVE to require a space be available. I say this because of the OTHER side of the asshole-ness you describe...the drivers who refuse to ALLOW a merge. We encountered this near Portland when a traffic accident required a merge. We were warned MILES in advance and had a helluva time getting someone to let us merge in. THAT should be a subsection of your law.

At 1:36 PM, Blogger Fred said...

Yep. As I pointed out, you'd have to include something about spacing between vehicles allowed when you're approaching a merge area.

At 5:57 PM, Anonymous RJ said...

I must be an asshole because I'd have to dissagree with your assessment.

Why would you want to artificially limit the number of vehicles that can move on a road? The point where one lane disappears effectively does that for you, why on earth would you want to move the bottleneck a mile or two up the road?

Early merging does nothing but reduces the capacity of the road by taking a lane away early. Those selfish assholes as you refer to them, who go by you in the lane that's still available, are doing everyone a favor. For evidence of this principle, just look at the state of Pennsylvania. Their transportation department discourages early merging through the use of traffic signals and found that encouraging on-time merging improved overall traffic flow by 15 percent. Why? Because they did not allow 'polite' drivers to prematurely remove the full capacity of the highway before the physical bottle neck did it. As with all flow dependent systems, it's more efficient to use the highway’s full capacity by going to the end of a lane before merging.

On-time merging also automatically promotes fairness. If the lanes are full all the way up to the physical bottleneck then there will be no opportunities for people to pass others legally, unless they do it illegally on the shoulder, which is when a violation actually occurs. By the way, it’s not illegal to travel down a lane to the physical merger point. People get tickets when they ride in the shoulder or cause a dangerous situation at the merge point by taking actions that put another driver in peril of a collision. The result of on-time merging is a zipper- like flow of cars from two lanes down to one.

When everyone is travelling at about the same speed at the merge point, it removes most opportunity for 'assholes' and naturally promotes a ‘one side, then the other side’ traffic flow attitude. If you leave 500 yards of wide open lane available due to early mergers, what do think people are going to do who otherwise are not assholes? Of course, they are going to use the lane that you left open for them, thank you very much for moving over. If you choose not to travel all the way down the open lane and take your turn at the merge point, that's your valid choice. But other people are not assholes just because they use an available lane until it's no longer available.

At 6:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

RJ's logic is airtight. It appears he's converted the real, should I say former assholes.


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