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We Teach Driving Like Your Life Depends On It

You have questions? We have answers

May 20, 2011

By Steve Wallace, Times Colonist May 20, 2011

Always wait until the last minute to merge lanes at construction sites -it gets everyone through faster.

There have been several requests for additional information concerning topics of recent columns.

Dianne wanted to know how to best use the overdrive gear, particularly as it pertains to towing a trailer with her motor home.

The key motivation in equipping automatic transmission vehicles with an overdrive gear was to get better mileage from each fill-up at the gas station.

Governments all over the industrialized world had set stringent targets for manufacturers to meet. The overdrive mechanism increased mileage, especially while cruising on the highway.

Every certified mechanic to whom I have spoken says the same thing: Consult the owner’s manual. They all, upon further questioning, recommend not using overdrive on hills. It is better to manually shift to a lower gear, well before the uphill or downhill grade. This will ease the wear and tear factor on the transmission. The downhill situation is more about maintaining control of the trailer. Because there is much less resistance in overdrive, there is a greater tendency to reach high speeds on a steep downhill grade. Panic or severe braking will cause a loss of control, commonly referred to as jackknifing. Always take the advice of veteran truckers. Namely, whichever gear allows you to comfortably reach the top of a severe incline, should be the gear you use to descend. I am no mechanic and I do not drive big rigs, but I also know good advice when I hear it. Kimberley asked about the proper time to execute a merge into one lane, from a two-lane situation, upon seeing a construction sign that warns of the lane closure ahead.

Canadians just do not get it! All too often drivers will merge immediately at the first sight of the notice of lane closure. This premature lane change practice creates one long line of traffic, which causes unnecessary congestion and gridlock. The proper procedure is to wait until the last possible opportunity to execute the merge.

Vehicles in this situation should alternate at the point of the merge. Many drivers who merge late are thought to be cheating their way into the through lane. Nothing could be further from the truth. What these educated drivers are really doing is alleviating stress on the traffic system by utilizing both lanes fully, prior to the merge. Two lanes of traffic are shorter than one long line of early mergers.

Rick wanted additional information about pedestrian crosswalks.

Legal crosswalks are at the end of each block, marked or unmarked. Solid line crosswalks are at those intersections with a legal requirement to stop (red streetlight or stop sign).

Intermittent or zebra broken line vertical crosswalks are at intersections where no legal duty to stop exists, except when this type of crosswalk is occupied or intended to be used by a pedestrian. Drivers are required to yield to pedestrians even when the “Don’t walk” sign is displayed. Drivers are not permitted to pass a vehicle which is stopped and yielding to pedestrians in the crosswalk. The crosswalks can be painted or be identified by other marking, such as coloured paving stones etc. The natural path a pedestrian would take, at the outer edge of any unmarked road, is where drivers must yield to a person crossing the street. A stop sign tells a driver what to do, but seldom where to stop. Drivers must stop prior to the natural path of pedestrians, marked or unmarked, across the driver’s path at intersections.

Keep the questions coming and I will do my best to answer them all.

The topic of pedestrians mixing with vehicle traffic is a touchy one. Because of the size and weight difference, pedestrians always come off worse in a crash.

For that reason, the courts have been very much on the side of pedestrians when it comes to making judgments.

Steve Wallace is a member of the College of Teachers and the owner of Wallace Driving School on Vancouver Island and the B.C. Interior.
stevedwallace@shaw.ca
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