BE A BETTER COMMUTER
By Sherry Stripling,
You know how to drive, but who let those other people behind the wheel? Every day we add another 379 vehicles to the road in this state. And how do we counter this madness? By driving with our knees. Whopper juice dribbles down one hand while we use the other to tap into our Palm Pilots for the bad news that we're late, late, late again.
But what if each of us did one thing to become a better commuter? What would that one thing be? We asked the car, bus and ferry experts, and here's what they said:
ON THE HIGHWAY LEAVING SPACE
Hate that guy on your bumper? You should. Driving too close is a major cause of collisions here. Occasionally, it rains here and then it's bam, bam, bam. For every minute we get delayed by that collision, it takes another six to 10 minutes to get traffic flowing again.
But the old rule of keeping one car length for every 10 miles of speed went out with no kissing on the first date. Leave yourself enough room to stop in a hurry. Unless the car is pulling into your space, you get a ticket whenever you run into the car ahead of you, plain and simple.
ON THE HIGHWAY LANE CHANGING
It's your lane. You're driving down it, you own it. If that woman wants in, she has to ask you with her blinker. Not one sweeping blinkety-blink motion, but a full 100 feet before she wants to move. Blink, please-let-me-in, blink, please-let-me-in.
Naturally, if she puts it that way, you'll speed up or slow down to let her in. Even though it's your lane, nice people share, right?
ON THE HIGHWAY CHECKING BLIND SPOTS
What kind of buffoon would drive along in your blind spot? The kind you're going to hit if you veer over (and it happens all the time on Seattle-area freeways).
ON THE HIGHWAY MERGING
You know how the other guy merges. He rolls down the access ramp and shoves his way in front of you at 2 mph or cuts you off at 110 mph. Either way, he's wrong. You have the right of way. It's his responsibility to match the prevailing speed and to yield. He needs to (see graphic, right):
A. slide in behind you, if you're there first.
(If traffic is heavy, and when isn't it?) ease up halfway down the ramp, spot an opening and then go for it. Of course, being the polite driver that you are, you'll pull over to the next lane, if it's clear, or adjust your speed to give the poor merger a break.
"People aggressively merge and other people don't allow them to merge, and that's where the conflict comes," Trooper Glen Tyrrell says, with an echo from Trooper Monica Hunter: "Merging should not be combat."
How'd you like to thumb your nose at people waiting in line for the ferries, especially that guy in the sports car with the wavy hair? Get in a van pool or car pool and be guaranteed a spot as long as you show up 10 minutes early.
Walkers, bicyclists and motorcyclists usually don't have a problem, either. Visit www.wsdot.wa.gov/ferries for details on that and other ferry tips.
Don't have any car-pool friends? No excuse. The matchmakers at the Rideshare will find you a buddy. Call 888-814-1300 (it has prompts for different counties) or visit RideshareOnline.com or call 206-625-4500 or toll free 800-427-8249 for King County; 800-562-8109 for Pierce (www.piercetransit.org) or 800-562-1375 in Snohomish (www.commtrans.org).
What's the best thing you can do for traffic besides get on a bus? Get off it and do your errands. Metro reports that most people still take the bus only to work or school. But you're not strapped into that thing, so why rush home to get in your car so you can go to the pharmacy? Be adventurous. Transfers are good for 90 minutes. The bus folks will help you plot out errand stops by calling 206-553-3000, or you can do it faster yourself by visiting tripplanner.metrokc.gov or transit.metrokc.gov.
You mean the dispatcher sounded annoyed when you reported an obscene gesture? Here's the 411 on when to call 911 in traffic:
Don't call 911 about the following things, which the Washington State Patrol says people actually did: to ask the day and the time, for directions, to ask how far from the curb you should park, to order a cheese pizza or to report someone getting too familiar with a sheep (unless the sheep's driving).
Reporters Mark Rahner and Bobbi Nodell contributed to this story.
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