Yield Signs vs. Stop Signs

I realize this is a difficult topic for some–telling the difference between shapes and color patterns–but it’s important that everyone knows the very important distinction between what a yield means and what a stop means.  So, let’s begin.

This is a stop sign:

Please note its octagonal shape. An “octagon” is a shape that has 8 sides connected by 135° angles. The octagon is red with a white border and white letters that read STOP.  You may also see the word “STOP” painted onto the ground next to the stop sign. You have to stop here no matter what. Educate yourself on intersections with stop signs here.

This is a yield sign:

Note the shape. This is a triangle. It only has 3 sides, and all the angles must add up to 180°. The colors are similar here. There is a white outline, followed a red section, and then there’s a white triangle in the middle, and then the word “YIELD” written in red. You only have to stop at a yield sign if it is not safe to continue from that point. One of the definitions of yield is  “to give way to or become succeeded by someone or something else.” In essence, you don’t have the right of way at a yield sign. You are surrendering your self-importance and letting someone else go first. This could mean waiting for a long line of cars to pass and then continuing behind those vehicles, and/or someone coming at a perpendicular angle to where the yield sign is. Yields are common in roundabouts (that’s a whole other mess in itself), and you’re not supposed to stop before entering a roundabout unless it is unsafe to do so. Basically, if you’re going to hit/nearly hit someone, or get hit/nearly hit by someone, you should probably stop for a moment. (You don’t even have to do a real stop at yields! You can keep rolling like so many people do at stop signs anyway.)

In the instance I experienced yesterday, I was on an off ramp, heading towards a main road. The road was separated by a median, so you could only go one way when you get off. There is a yield sign at the end of this off-ramp, and there is rarely a need to stop. However, this jerk decided to go about 20 mph on the off-ramp (sure it was a curve, but come on), and then proceeded to STOP at a YIELD sign when NO ONE was coming. Like, full on stop. They then decided to inch forward a little and continue moving at the speed of continental drift until I passed them sort of angrily. This stuff also happens ALL the time at roundabouts and drives me nuts. The point of a roundabout is to reduce traffic congestion. If it’s safe, enter the roundabout. If there’s someone about to drive past you, wait. Some roundabouts are set up HORRENDOUSLY, but we’ll save that for another discussion.

“You keep saying, ‘when it’s safe to do so,’ but how do I know when it’s safe!?” You may be asking with a slight panic setting in.

The simple answer: You plan ahead.

You should never be tunnel visioned while driving, but we’ve all been guilty of that. We need to break that habit, though. When approaching a yield sign, look around you. In the case of the off-ramp, I look onto the road a couple times as soon as I can see it, and then plan what speed I need to be at (similar to merging). If there’s no way in hell I’m going to get on the road because of heavy traffic, I’ll slow down, yield to the cars with the right-of-way, and then continue when I get a chance. When coming to other yield signs, make sure you look both ways and all that stuff BEFORE getting there so you know if you have to stop or not. It’s pretty simple.

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Parking

I do apologize that it’s been practically a month since the last post.  I’ll try and be better about that.

Anywho, today, parking is on the agenda.  After witnessing this:

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(at a Walmart, no less), witnessing the mass of people at my apartment complex that park just like this idiot, and witnessing a Bently in an airport parking lot completely destroy the front bumper parking like this, I’ve decided to try and educate people about how to park.

There is absolutely no reason to “bump the curb” with your front tires unless you have one of those huge trucks for men with little penises.

I’m assuming the “bump method” was invented to make sure that the vehicle one is driving is parked completely in the selected parking space.  This appears to be an unnecessary measure taken by those who have no idea how large or small their car is.

Why this method doesn’t always work:

For parking, and everything in life really, you need to know your car.  How long is your car?  What is your car’s ground clearance? Does your car mean anything to you?

It is also necessary to evaluate your own skill set.  Am I able to see and measure distance accurately? Am I able to place my car where I want it?

By answering these questions, you will be able to determine whether you can just park like a normal person.  Parking space lengths vary by location, but this where the “can I see and measure distance accurately” comes into play.  My car, at 11′ 11.9″ long, happily fits in those compact parking spaces.  Your hypothetical 2009 Yukon, with a length measuring 16′, does not get to use a compact parking space.  Your car is, in no sense of the word, compact.

The part that makes me cringe when I see people using the bump method is that their front bumper is mangled by the curb–as seen in the picture above, where the front bumper is actually being bent up by the dirt bank.  This ruins the bumper and can actually rip the bumper off after enough times parking like that.  So, if you have any shred of compassion for your car or cannot afford to buy a new bumper, don’t park like that.  Ground clearance is super important when deciding if you can even attempt to use the bump method.  The hypothetical Yukon has a ground clearance of 9.1″.  I have yet to see a 9″ curb, so you are probably okay using the bump method with your giant-ass SUV.  My MINI, however, does not have significant ground clearance and the bumper will not go over the curb at all. Let’s look at a more popular car–the terrible handling Toyota Camry.  The 2012 LE version has a ground clearance of 6.1″.  The average vertical curb in the US in 6″; therefore,  there is very little room for error.  Tires too low on pressure? scrrrraaaaape.  Curb not measured properly and is a little too high? scrrrrraaaaaape.  Car’s front is a little low? scrrrrraaaaaaape.

It’s much easier and safer to just know how big your car is, how big the space you’re pulling into is, and how far forward you need to pull in before your butt is out of the driving aisle. No need to go any further.  This may require some practice.  Pull into a space.  Estimate how far you need to go, and then get out and see where you are.  Or if you have a nice friend, you can practice parking in a space, and they can watch and signal you when you are in the space.  Remember your bearings for the next time you park somewhere.  A good spacial memory can’t hurt either.

Large trucks, go ahead and use the bump method.  In fact, park over the curb.  I’m tired of your giant hitches sticking out into the aisle and creating a hazard.

Or if you just don’t give a shit, go ahead and bump the curb with your new Nissan Altima (with a ground clearance of just 5.4″).  I’ll just make fun of you and pass terrible judgement on you.

The importance of signalling

I have alluded to this issue at various times throughout previous posts, but I suppose it’s time to address the issue directly.

Signalling is very super duper important.  It is an effective way to communicate with vehicles around you, and you should be communicating.  Whether it is your turn signals, flashing your high beams, or an *appropriate* hand gesture, communication is integral to a conducive driving environment.

As I have said before, driving is a group activity.  A group cannot function if there is no communication within the group.  Fact of life.  

Now, it may seem obvious what I am about to explain, but I’m sure you all have seen these atrocities occur over and over again.

Turn signals:

  1. When changing lanes:  It is important to signal when changing lanes.  Not only to avoid an unnecessary police pursuit, but also to make sure you don’t die or kill someone else while trying to get into another lane.  Try to signal at least 3 or 4 second before you actually change lanes so that the people around you have time to notice your desire and react accordingly.
    What happens if you don’t signal:  Someone else may try to go into the same lane that you want to go into, but since you didn’t signal, they have no idea, and there could be a collision; you are ticketed; you piss everyone off and look like a douche.
  2. When making a turn:  This really should be the most obvious, but where problems occur here tend to be in timing.  When do you start signalling?  If there are a lot of entryways/driveways/streets before where you actually want to turn, begin signalling after you have passed the entryway/driveway/street that immediately precedes your turn.  That way, there won’t be any confusion for the people trying to turn out of the entryways/driveways/streets you are passing. At a stop sign, it is essential to signal to tell everyone else at the intersection where you want to go so that they can plan their maneuvers accordingly.
    What happens if you don’t signal or signal too early: Someone trying to turn out of where you’re turning into could lose an opportunity to pull onto the road; if signalling too early, the people making an exit may think you’re turning into their exit point and pull onto the road in front of you;  at a stop sign, you just piss people off by either running into them when they make a maneuver that they think is safe because they are under the assumption that you are not turning, or they lose their turn to go because they were waiting for you to do something that you weren’t actually intending to do.  It also confuses the people driving behind you when you randomly decide to slow down and don’t signal that you are intending to make a turn.
  3. Don’t forget to turn off your turn signal:  If you leave your turn signal on after you performed the intended maneuver, you can cause all kinds of confusion and frustration to the drivers around you.  The problems in #2 apply to this.  Also, if you leave the signal on while on the highway, you’re confusing everyone around you when they create a gap for you to get over (because that is what you are telling you want to do) and you do not take advantage of it.  You will also be laughed by everyone around you once they’ve noticed you left it on.
Either flashing high beams or using appropriate hand gestures:
  1. While at a stop sign:  I would suggest you just follow the first come, first move rule, but if you are lost or for some other reason unable to move come your turn, or you arrived at the same time and you want to be nice and let the other person go first (and they are directly across from you), go ahead and flash the high beams.  You may also use a wave to signal to people that they may go before you.
  2. Pedestrians:  If you are stuck awkwardly staring at a pedestrian waiting for them to grow a pair and cross the road, go ahead and wave them on to let them know you will not run them over despite the fact that you have already come to a complete stop.  Flashing your high beams can also work if you are far enough away from the crosswalk.
  3. When you see another MINI: Here is where I reveal that I drive a MINI.  If you see another MINI driver, flash your high beams or wave.  It is a sign of community to greet a fellow MINI driver… and if you don’t flash back or wave, you make the other driver really depressed.
Generally high beams only:
  1. When you have passed a cop:  I never pick up on this hint, but flashing high beams can also serve as a warning to other driver that there are police in the area and to slow down.  However this had been made “illegal” in some areas, so be careful.
  2. On the highway:  Flash your high beams to signal to a vehicle ahead of you that they can go ahead and make their intended maneuver.  If you have created a gap but the people are hesitant, let them know you are being nice by flashing your high beams, signalling that they are safe to go.
Now, go make friends on the road!

Off-ramps

Who woulda thunk that there would be problems with off-ramps?  I suppose it’s not a major problem, but one that’s been popping up lately, so I decided I might put something out there.

It will be a simple post.  Prepare yourself.

Off-ramps were created to allow ample time for the driver to slow down from highway speed upon exit from the highway.  They should be used as such.  You should not slow down while still on the highway!!!!!!!!!!!! (See below)  It slows the flow of traffic and causes all kinds of problems.

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Here we have a gray car preparing to exit.  He or she is signalling, which is good.  The problem here is that they are breaking while they are still on the highway, causing everyone else behind them to have to slam on their brakes and get stuck in a line.  The light blue car and the white car in the lane are not going to this exit.  Perhaps they are going to one shortly after or just merged and have not had a change to safely change lanes.  They are now held up by someone slowing down to 40 mph in a 65 mph zone to exit off this ramp.  This will cause a huge line up of people and trucks traveling in the far right lane and bother everyone that would prefer to travel at highway speeds while traveling on the highway.

Lesson:  Speed is good.  Carry it into your off-ramp.  They are engineered to allow 18-wheelers to have enough time to slow down from 65 mph, so I sure hope you can slow down in time too.

Don’t run red lights

Duh.

They’re red for a reason.  Because traffic in the other direction has the green light.  They will be moving and entering the intersection.  They have the right of way and probably will not stop for you.

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve seen at least 15 people flat-out run a red light.  These aren’t people that caught the last bit of the yellow light and went through, I’m talking about the light being red before they even entered the intersection… And in some cases, the other light turning green while they’re in the intersection.

I’ve also seen jerks in a left-turn lane with a long line of people going through the red light in a giant chain.  It’s inconsiderate to everyone else trying to get home that can’t because you’re blocking the intersection.

I’m sure some of the time people run red lights because they misjudge the length of the yellow light.  It can, in theory, be difficult to decide what to do with a yellow light.   Yes, the correct thing would be to slow down and stop if you’re within stopping distance of the line, but really, hardly anyone does that.  Each driver needs to have a predetermined place on the road where if they reach it before the light turns yellow, they can go through the light, but if they have not reached it when the light turns yellow, they should stop.  I usually make that point about where right-hand turn lanes start.  This should then prevent the little moment of hesitation the second the light turns, and prevent you from making the decision to run the yellow light and not get there in time.

Know Your Lanes

Today I witnessed a pretty bad case of road-rage that could have easily been avoided by people knowing the proper use of lanes.  This is always a problem on the highway, and I have to wonder how the hell people haven’t heard or figured out that lanes have a bit of an order to them.  Today, I will try to explain how everyone can get along on multi-lane roads.

Let’s start with a diagram, shall we?

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The left lane is the passing lane.  Note:  I am not calling it the “fast lane” for a reason.  Fast is relative.  You may think you’re going fast, when you really aren’t, which pisses off everyone behind you that wants to go faster.  It is not your job to block them to the speed limit–it makes everyone mad.

As for 3-lane highways, I tend to just leave the far right lane for super super slow vehicles/trucks and cars preparing to exit from the highway.

MOST IMPORTANT RULE!

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Always always always try to stay in the right lane.  There is really no shame in driving in the “slow lane”.  Remember, the left lane is for passing.  When possible, move back into the right lane after passing someone.  If you are not passing someone, you have no business being in that lane.

The following scenarios are in reference to highways.  Multiple lanes in city driving is a bit different because you have people preparing to turn every-which-way, so therefore it is more difficult to have a consistent lane pattern.  I wish that the left-lane-is-only-for-passing rule applied more strictly in those situations, but, life isn’t fair.

 

So let’s begin:

Exhibit A.

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Keeping in mind THE MOST IMPORTANT RULE, we’ll start on a two lane highway.  As you can see, there are two cars more or less side by side driving the same speed in front the of the red car, who wishes to drive at a higher speed.  First off, if you are the red car in this situation, DO NOT TAILGATE!  Unfortunately, tailgating seems to be the only way to get people to know that you want to pass because they just can’t stay in their respective lanes.  If you are the green car in this situation, be aware of your surroundings.  Are you driving the same speed as the car next to you for an extended period of time?  What brought you into the passing lane in the first place?  Realize that there is someone behind you.  What I do when I’m the green car in these situations is speed up in order to pass the black car.  To alert the person behind me that I intend to get out of their way, I’ll signal when I’ve passed about half the length of the car next to me.  And please, ALWAYS signal.

Where problems occur in these situations: One obvious issue is tailgating which is bound to happen if the black and green car continue to collaborate to hold up traffic.  The second major issue in this situation occurs when the green car finally passes the black car, but will not move into the right lane.  The person in the red car would be patiently waiting for the green car to get out of the way, and will end up even more frustrated when the car does not move.  Of course, it must be clear for the green car to move into the right lane.  If there were two or three or four or more cars lined up directly in front of the black car, there really isn’t much the green car can do, except go faster than those cars in the right lane to keep traffic moving.

This situation can easily be solved by staying in the right lane until you need to pass someone.  Two cars occupying different lanes and going the same speed is a GIANT no-no.  Trucks do this all the time in Pennsylvania and is one of the most ann… okay maybe not the MOST annoying thing… but it’s very aggravating to be stuck in that situation.

2.

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(The pink car should say 65 mph… not mpg, but that could technically work…)

Welcome to the scenario that I swear to god almost caused someone to get shot today.  Still keeping in mind THE MOST IMPORTANT RULE, this one is the most frequent and the most aggravating.  I repeat:  The left lane is for passing.  If you are not passing someone, get out of the lane.  In the situation today, I was behind a lifted truck who was behind a Subaru.  The truck was the red car in the diagram, and the Subaru was the white car.  The Subaru was driving at relatively the same speed as the people in the middle lane, maybe a couple mph faster.  The truck and I would have preferred to be going several mph over what the Subaru was doing.  However, despite ample opportunity, the Subaru would not go into the right lane.

I highly discourage passing in the right hand lane, but sometimes, those are really the only lanes open when they shouldn’t be (again, if people knew how lane assignments worked, this problem wouldn’t exist).  Anywho, traffic was relatively heavy, so there was no alternative to get around the slow moving Subaru.  Eventually, a very unsafe gap opened up, and the truck cut off the person in the right lane to get into that lane, and then severely cut off the Subaru to get back into the passing lane.  The Subaru had to brake hard, inappropriate hand gestures were exchanged, and then the Subaru decided to chase the truck, with both of them cutting off a ton of people in the process, for a good 5 to 7 minutes.  While watching it was slightly amusing, I couldn’t help but think how easily this situation could have been avoided (hence the post today).

Where problems occur in these situations: See the above story.  It causes people to start passing in the right lane, throwing hand signals everywhere, yelling at people from their cars.

The point of all this is simple:  If you are in the left lane and there is no one next to you, move into the adjacent lane.  If you are not passing someone, do not stay in the passing lane.  That’s really all that everyone needs to remember.  Everyone needs to train themselves to always need to be in the right lane/middle lane.  One should not cruise down the highway in the passing lane if there is a long stretch of open lane in the right lane.  Have I gotten my point across yet?  No?  FOR THE LOVE OF GOD STAY IN THE RIGHT LANE!!!!!  (Unless you’re passing someone, of course)