Driving in Arkansas is an activity that seems designed to send me into transports of fury. Traffic lights on the main roads favor the side streets, often turning red to allow drivers on Tiny Street to turn onto Four-lane Drive even when no one is there to take advantage of them. All of the slow drivers from six states congregate on I – 540 in the left lane. The police in Johnson have nothing better to do than finance their shiny cruisers by writing tickets. Enough already.
Here are a few driving tips and requests. Bear in mind that they are based on my libertarian and lead-footed style.
1. The left lane is for drivers. If you are using your vehicle for talking on the telephone, sightseeing, dawdling, or otherwise not attending to getting from point A to point B expeditiously, get out of my way. Every day on 540, I get stuck at the back end of a dozen or more cars with one oblivious shlump going fifty-five miles per hour at the front. I can’t pass on the right, thanks to the inevitable semi in the right lane.
The speed limit on much of 540 is seventy. It’s fifty or forty on many of the state highways. Those are too low (more on that later), but speed limits really ought to be opening bids anyway. If you can’t go at least that speed, the left lane isn’t for you. In fact, if you can’t go my speed, get over. Don’t slide over from the right lane unless you’ve checked to see that I’m not coming up in the left. If you must pass someone, get in, get done, and get out. If you see me approaching, move over, or speed up.
2. On-ramps are for accelerating. I’m tired of having to whip around someone who’s barely clearing fifty miles an hour on an on-ramp. By all means, never use your brakes.
If you aren’t up to the speed of traffic by the end of the ramp, you don’t belong on the road in question. Step on the gas, and get into the flow. You don’t deserve five miles of empty road to merge.
3. Turning lanes are for slowing down. On roads such as Hwy. 412 that have four lanes and a turning lane, what is the problem with drivers who drop twenty miles an hour in the left lane hundreds of yards before getting into the turning lane?
In most cases, pull into the turning lane, then slow down. Yes, there may be another driver coming from the other direction, but that’s why we look ahead to see what’s going on in front of us.
4. Cell phones are a menace. Too often, I see some blithely unaware driver carrying on some chipper conversation on a cell phone. This person doesn’t know that I’m nearby and doesn’t care.
The simple fact is that you’re not all that important. As semiologist Umberto Eco wrote in an essay on the subject, important people have secretaries to take their calls. Wannabes have cell phones. If in addition to being small-time, you can’t manage two activities at the same time, pick one, and wait on doing the other.
5. Green means go; red means stop. As I mentioned above, the traffic lights around here are designed to impede the flow of traffic on the main roads. Major intersections exist to cause congestion. Nevertheless, people who blaze through long after the light turns red are just making a mess for all of us.
When the light turns red, you stop. When it turns green, you go. Yellow is there to help with the former. This isn’t hard.
6. Intersections are not behind the line. When I drive to work, I often get caught in the turning lane trying to make a left turn by people sitting in the intersection. I have the right of way, but they decided to drift on through and got stuck when the traffic in front of them didn’t clear.
If you can’t get through the intersection before the light turns, don’t get into it in the first place.
7. It’s right of way, not being polite. On a two-lane road, I want to make a left-hand turn. The driver in the other lane comes to a full stop to let me do this, many times stopping traffic. What is wrong with this person?
Don’t be polite. Don’t feel sorry for me. Follow the rules of right of way. Those rules exist to keep traffic moving. I don’t object to letting someone in when doing so won’t impede the flow, but otherwise, save civility for the dinner table.
Those are a few driving suggestions. They are not adapted to your driving skill, so use them wisely. I do have one other request: Petition your elected representatives to make speed limits rational. This means unlimited on the Interstate and much higher elsewhere.
Yes, I do mean that. If you’re afraid of risk, perhaps you ought to operate your vehicle only within the safety of your garage. Roads are not merely a convenient way to get where we’re going. They can be a place to test ourselves in a culture that increasingly values safety over living. And speaking of safety, I know how fast I’m able to drive under given conditions. Speed limits are too often about paying for bureaucrats anyway.
Now you have some basic points of my driver’s education course, and here’s your green light. Go!