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We Teach Driving Like Your Life Depends On It

Into the reader mailbag once again

September 27, 2016

By Steve Wallace
Times Colonist, September 23rd 2016

A reader suggests more drivers need to be aware of the benefits of “zipper” merging at traffic bottlenecks.

After last week’s column, readers really outdid themselves with friendly-fire feedback. Here is the abbreviated version.

Michael thinks the geriatric delay in moving on the fresh green solid traffic light is due to the illegal and improper use of cellphones, rather than a simple senior’s moment. He is probably correct, the exception being the Oak Bay Balk!

Mark is upset and frustrated with the pedestrian-crossing flashing red hand, which has a countdown feature. The system often does not allow for a right turn by delaying pedestrians on a solid green traffic light. Drivers wishing to make the right turn on the green light are frozen by constant pedestrian traffic for the whole green light cycle. Surely, we have the technology to solve this problem. Vancouver does it.

Roy was told by his passenger that he need not pull over and stop when an engaged emergency vehicle approached from behind, and the lane to his left was unoccupied. This is not true. All vehicles must pull to the closest side of the road and fully stop to allow for emergency staff. Only when there is a median dividing the oncoming flow of traffic are drivers exempt.

Dick has a great suggestion. The airplane symbol, which guides drivers to the airport by following the direction the plane symbol is pointing, should be duplicated for ferry-terminal destinations. These ferry directional signs painted on the road, as well as overhead, would allow drivers to choose lanes well ahead of time, so as not to miss the destination. Vancouver, he says, should copy Victoria in reducing the confusion when heading to the ferry terminals.

Karin knows how to “zipper” merge. The problem she has is with other drivers who have no idea that it is the suggested (and most efficient and equitable) way to react to an upcoming bottleneck. The highways ministry is, as of late, placing large video-type signs well ahead of the zipper-merge alternating point, telling drivers to merge late, at the source of the convergence of highway lanes. Merging before that point only causes a situation where an excessively long single lane encumbers cross traffic at intersections.

It is much better to have two short lanes of merging traffic, rather than one inordinately long mule train at intersections. Drivers merging at the source are not lane cheaters, but rather efficient, educated commuters. There are exceptions to the rule, but not many.

It is time for the transportation authority to ease the stress of every flagger on Vancouver Island who has been the victim of abuse because of this misunderstanding. Advance late-merge signs, encouraging what every other civilized city in the world is doing properly, should be erected. Ron believes the first sign should say construction ahead, and the second sign, about 100 metres from the merge point, could encourage the zipper action. Good advice.

Keith had some compassion for flaggers who had to endure the unwanted displays of displeasure toward late mergers. He also claimed that one long line is better than two short ones on major highways with no intersections. He is probably correct in noting this exception to the rule. If flagging companies were given the latitude of setting up the warning directional signs, to better warn drivers of the proper procedure in various circumstances, we would all be better off. He would also like to see flaggers treated with more respect.

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