"On The Road Again"
By Capt. Fred Davis
Published: Saturday, December 2, 2017

I believe we have outgrown our highway driving space.

In the past, I’ve provided columns about our roads, and how we use them. My opinion will not cause a change, but because mine is an opinion column, I will deliver it.

It’s inevitable that without changes, our roads will continue to experience severe accidents that result in serious injuries and deaths. The roads are overloaded and drivers ignore the laws that provide a measure of protection.

Most drivers believe they are exclusive as they move along and they can drive any way they choose. Most drivers are also keenly aware the chances of being ticketed are slim no matter how they drive. I’m not in any way complaining about our law enforcement departments — local, county or state. Their job of patrolling the roads, that are so overloaded, is just not possible.

I just traveled 1,300 miles, through seven states and witnessed two severe accidents that caused lengthy, miles-long backups. I also saw about a dozen minor fender-benders, with cars pulled off to the shoulders. The number of times I was passed on the right is incalculable. It's obvious few drivers are even aware it is illegal to pass on the right.

Most of the drivers speeding by don’t care whether it’s against the law — they are in their zone of “me only” and focused upon their destinations. Common sense is seldom applied because it would require having respect for others sharing the road.

A few years ago, roads were crowded during times workers were traveling to work and again as they headed home. Because they recognized how crowded their routes had become, many savvy drivers chose to join carpools. They saved fuel costs and wear and tear on their vehicles. You would often see designated areas where people could park their cars and meet the chosen driver.

Perhaps because of the “me only” mentality that has become so prevalent in today’s society, when you travel in heavy traffic, seldom will you see more than one person in a car. As gas prices rose, many thought the carpooling practice would return but saving money seems to be secondary to saving time.

As I see it, something has to change, especially on the interstates. Increasing the speed limits in many areas has had little effect, everyone just drives even faster. At posted speeds of 70, cars are rushing along at 80. Seven states have increased legal limits to 80 and on Highway 130 in Texas, you can cruise along at 85. In those states that have actually increased the limits to 80, cars drive 90 miles an hour. There is little chance of controlling a car at that speed in traffic.

The fact there are more big trucks on the roads has contributed to the accident rates. Drivers in cars alongside the trucks don’t understand the trucks need more room to maneuver their rigs. One of the major accidents I witnessed along the route on I-75 involved a big truck hauling commercial bottles of water. Traffic backups stretched five miles or more on both sides of the highway because the rollover was in the medium. Rubber necking contributed to the stalled traffic because the truck was upside down. Police officers were scrambling all up and down the area chasing the bottles that had rolled in every direction and collided with cars on the road.

The second severe accident I encountered resulted in a backup of 15 to 20 miles as traffic on the highway was rerouted on both sides. We drove through small towns and side roads, which caused hours of delay for many travelers. We were fortunate that the route continued mostly in a southerly direction so we did not lose too much time.

As we got further south and encountered turnpike highways, the use of electronic passes allowed for some control of traffic movement. Where toll booths are still in use, traffic volume is quickly reduced. In my opinion, if toll charges were increased during high traffic times for cars with fewer than two people, it would promote carpooling. Other areas are utilizing tiered interchanges given the nickname “Spaghetti Junctions” for complicated road traffic. They are used at exits and where more than one highway joins.

We all need to agree driving our countries highways and by-ways has become a dangerous undertaking which requires excellent driving skills and knowledge of the traffic laws. It would be great if a bit of courtesy were a requirement before allowing a person behind the wheel.

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