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Author Topic: Unsafe is safe: Doing Away with Traffic Signs
Spam & Cookies-mmm
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Are streets without traffic signs conceivable? Seven cities and regions in Europe are giving it a try -- with good results.

"The many rules strip us of the most important thing: the ability to be considerate. We're losing our capacity for socially responsible behavior," says Dutch traffic guru Hans Monderman, one of the project's co-founders. "The greater the number of prescriptions, the more people's sense of personal responsibility dwindles."

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Don Enrico
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quote:
Germany has 648 valid traffic symbols. The inner cities are crowded with a colorful thicket of metal signs. Don't park over here, watch out for passing deer over there, make sure you don't skid. The forest of signs is growing ever denser.
I honestly don't remember when I saw the last "watch out for passing deer" sign in an inner city in Germany...

Apart from that, I agree with Mr Michael Schreckenberg of Duisburg University:
quote:
If clear directives are abandoned, domestic rush-hour traffic will turn into an Oriental-style bazaar, he warns. He believes the new vision of drivers and pedestrians interacting in a cozy, relaxed way will work, at best, only for small towns.
Don "watch out for passing toads" Enrico

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I'm Dreaming of a White Canvas
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quote:

If clear directives are abandoned, domestic rush-hour traffic will turn into an Oriental-style bazaar, he warns. He believes the new vision of drivers and pedestrians interacting in a cozy, relaxed way will work, at best, only for small towns.


I live in a small town and even with traffic signs it's a frustrating mess, mainly because people here are selfish, self-righteous and inconsiderate. Add inexperienced teen drivers to the mix, and it can be downright dangerous

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GenYus
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I think there is a huge difference between US drivers and European drivers. And I think that difference will manifest itself if this proposal is tried in the US.

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Amigone201
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I'm also not thrilled about the "oriental-style bazaar." Why doncha lay off the Asians, Lou?

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Lainie
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quote:
Originally posted by Amigone201:
I'm also not thrilled about the "oriental-style bazaar." Why doncha lay off the Asians, Lou?

Who's Lou? [Confused]

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Hans Off
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quote:
Originally posted by Don Enrico:
[QUOTE]I honestly don't remember when I saw the last "watch out for passing deer" sign in an inner city in Germany...

Is that not because they have all been shot?

I ahve a great " Eduard Kettner" catalogue here that has very reasonably priced Deer fridges and those things that you use to tie a deer foot to your shoe to train your dogs to track with.

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abbubmah
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We could always opt for alternate signage. NSFW

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FrogFeathers
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quote:
Originally posted by Lainie:
quote:
Originally posted by Amigone201:
I'm also not thrilled about the "oriental-style bazaar." Why doncha lay off the Asians, Lou?

Who's Lou? [Confused]
Simpsons' quote. Chief Wiggum to one of his officers. [Big Grin]

And this wouldn't work in my town. Pedestrians would be dead, there'd be flaming wreckage everywhere.

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Buzzkiller
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The rules strip us of the ability to be considerate? Oh, please. You know what I think is considerate? Following the traffic signs and rules.

My #1 pet peeve about living in the southern US (and in general, I really do like it down here) is that laid-back Southerners tend to be so "polite," they rewrite traffic rules. On the four-lane main drag of my city's downtown area, friendly drivers sometimes come to a standstill and wave across pedestrians waiting to cross the street...which would be fine if they were the only two people for miles around. But what assurance does he have that the pedestrian won't be hit by drivers in the other three lanes, or that another motorist will won't rear-end the considerate driver who is inexplicably stopped in the middle of the block?

I'm also highly annoyed when a motorist who clearly arrived at the four-way stop ahead of me keeps waving me on. I don't like to barrel on ahead when it's not really my turn, but if I don't, people will be waiting behind us while this clown and I try to prove to each other how nice we are. "No, you go." "No, YOU go!" I can usually chuckle about these little Southern peculiarities, but for some reason, these excessively polite traffic-rule-breakers rouse my ire. Who are they to flout the law in the name of Niceness?

That's right. I'm a big, cranky Yankee.

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Amigone201
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quote:
Originally posted by Frog_Feathers:
quote:
Originally posted by Lainie:
quote:
Originally posted by Amigone201:
I'm also not thrilled about the "oriental-style bazaar." Why doncha lay off the Asians, Lou?

Who's Lou? [Confused]
Simpsons' quote. Chief Wiggum to one of his officers. [Big Grin]
Nice catch, F_F!

WIGGUM
Well, well, well! This place has got more pirated tapes than a...

LOU
A Chinese K-Mart?

WIGGUM
Well, that'll have to do. Are these yours, son?

MILHOUSE
No sir. We're just exhibiting them for profit without permission.

WIGGUM
Fair enough. But the owner is in more hot water than...

LOU
A Japanese tea bag?

WIGGUM
Why don't you lay off the Asians, Lou?

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Don Enrico
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quote:
Originally posted by Hans Off:
quote:
Originally posted by Don Enrico:
I honestly don't remember when I saw the last "watch out for passing deer" sign in an inner city in Germany...

Is that not because they have all been shot?
I rather think they don't really like all that noise, light and the movement of humans and vehicles you find in inner cities. Deer seem to be mostly confined to rural and woodland areas over here, but YMMV. [Wink]
quote:

I ahve a great " Eduard Kettner" catalogue here that has very reasonably priced Deer fridges and those things that you use to tie a deer foot to your shoe to train your dogs to track with.

Who's that Eduard Kettner and why does he share my last name?

Don "Kettner" Enrico

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Troberg
Angels Wii Have Heard on High


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quote:
Germany has 648 valid traffic symbols.
A bunch of those are probably direction signs for wayfinding, and those will have to remain. Some warning signs that warns for dangers that can't reasonably be expected should also remain.

quote:
The rules strip us of the ability to be considerate? Oh, please. You know what I think is considerate? Following the traffic signs and rules.
I think it should be read as "...gives us an excuse to not be considerate". How many times have you seen people force others to panic break because "I had the right of way" or pedestrians behaving like idiots when crossing the road because "The cars have to stop".

People will only assume responsibility if you let them, and if you try to force them, they will avoid it as soon as they get the chance. I usually illustrate this with this example:

A workplace has sandwiches for breakfast breaks. To keep the tax man happy, the employees have to put a coin in a jar when they get a sandwich. Most people are honest enough to actually put their coin in the jar, and it would not be socially acceptable to not do it. Then, someone realize that someone else (it's always someone else) might cheat. To stop this potential cheater, they put a sandwich automat instead. Put a coin in the slot, and the machine gives you a sandwich. Would it be considered socially acceptable to take both sandwiches if the machine were to malfunction and hand out two for one coin? Most people would consider it a lucky jackpot.

If you treat people as responsible and trust them, they will try to live up to those values. On the other hand, if you treat them as potential criminals, well, then that's what they will live up to.

What I see as the big problem is that the legal system is not suited to handle it. When an accident happens (and it always will, sooner or later), how do you determine guilt when the situation has no clear rules?

Don't get me wrong, I think they are onto something here. It just takes more than just removing a bunch of signs.

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/Troberg

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Don Enrico
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quote:
Originally posted by Troberg:
quote:
Germany has 648 valid traffic symbols.
A bunch of those are probably direction signs for wayfinding, and those will have to remain. Some warning signs that warns for dangers that can't reasonably be expected should also remain.
You're right, there are a bunch of direction signs and warning signs: List of all German traffic signs.

And I don#t know how they come up with the number 648 anyway. On the above list, I'm counting 387, and that does include all signs painted on the street (arrows, pedestrian crossing and so on) and all additional signs (like "starts", "ends", "motorcykles only" "mo - fr" and so on). To get to 648, you'll probably have to count any possible combination of main signs and additional signs as one sign on itself.

I don't deny that there may be to much signs at some places. Studies have shown (I know... and I don't have a cite, either) that you could get rid of about 20-30 % of all signs without losing any regulation - like a sign that raises the speed limit just 10 meters before a "Stop" sign. But that's motre an issue of public money spent for maintenance of surplus signs (Troberg will have facts and figures on that, I'm sure).

Don "give way" Enrico

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jessboo
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quote:

Ejby, in Denmark, is participating in the experiment, as are Ipswich in England and the Belgian town of Ostende.

We need our resident Ipswichian(?).

There's an area near me which has no signs and no road markings, and it's a nightmare. People end up in the middle of the road and don't give way.

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jessboo
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unmarked waffles

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Troberg
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quote:
And I don#t know how they come up with the number 648 anyway. On the above list, I'm counting 387, and that does include all signs painted on the street (arrows, pedestrian crossing and so on) and all additional signs (like "starts", "ends", "motorcykles only" "mo - fr" and so on). To get to 648, you'll probably have to count any possible combination of main signs and additional signs as one sign on itself.
Many signs exist in left/right versions, and some lane indicators exist in many variants.

quote:
Troberg will have facts and figures on that, I'm sure
Actually, I don't have numbers for that. Usually, all signs except direction signs, information signs and warning signs have a regulation attached to them. It may look stupid with a speed increase just before a stop sign, but the speed limit is probably for an entire zone, and all possible ways into that zone needs to be properly marked.

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/Troberg

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Joostik
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quote:
The utopia has already become a reality in Makkinga, in the Dutch province of Western Frisia. [Nitpick: it's the province of Frisia. Western Frisia is part of another province, Northern Holland] A sign by the entrance to the small town (population 1,000) reads "Verkeersbordvrij" -- "free of traffic signs."
Well, not entirely:

 -

So they not just removed all traffic signs, they replaced them with one 30kmh zone sign. In other words, the whole town is now a 30kmh zone. This means, by law, all streets must be organized in such a way that traffic is essentially forced to drive slowly. Nothing new so far.

What is perhaps slightly different is that they have also done away with all No Parking and One Way signs. Makkinga is a quiet little town in one of the most rural parts of the country. I don't think just any town could do this.

Nevertheless, there is an effort to make all towns in the Netherlands into 30kmh zones.

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Joostik
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WildaBeast
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A bit of a hijack, but I always found this sign rather confusing during my time in Germany. I get that it means the speed limit is no longer 60, but then what is the speed limit?

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Bug Muldoon
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quote:
Originally posted by WildaBeast:
A bit of a hijack, but I always found this sign rather confusing during my time in Germany. I get that it means the speed limit is no longer 60, but then what is the speed limit?

Whatever the default speed limit for that type of road is.

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Don Enrico
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quote:
Originally posted by Bug Muldoon:
quote:
Originally posted by WildaBeast:
A bit of a hijack, but I always found this sign rather confusing during my time in Germany. I get that it means the speed limit is no longer 60, but then what is the speed limit?

Whatever the default speed limit for that type of road is.
Which probably means 100 (on highways outside towns) or "no speed limit at all" (on the Autobahn*).

Generally, the black-and-white sign with the five lines across is an "end of zone regulation" sign. Besides speed limits, it's mostly used for the end of a "no overtaking" zone.

*BTW: Most parts of the Autobahn (about 70 %, IIRC) do have speed limits posted on traffic signs. It's only the rest that is "free to speed".

Don Enrico

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My spelling is Wobbly. It's good spelling, but it Wobbles, and the letters get in the wrong places. - Pooh Bear

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rogue
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NPR yesterday:

Talk of the Nation, November 23, 2006 · Traffic engineer Ian Lockwood explains why some European cities have ditched their traffic signs and make the roads "shared space."

NPR STORY

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Aureal
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quote:
Originally posted by Buzzkiller:
On the four-lane main drag of my city's downtown area, friendly drivers sometimes come to a standstill and wave across pedestrians waiting to cross the street...which would be fine if they were the only two people for miles around. But what assurance does he have that the pedestrian won't be hit by drivers in the other three lanes, or that another motorist will won't rear-end the considerate driver who is inexplicably stopped in the middle of the block?

Well, what do you expect them to do? If nobody ever stops, the pedestrian's never going to get across. As somebody who crosses a 5-lane road several times every day, I can tell you, it's bad enough already without having to just start walking into the road, hoping that everyone's paying enough attention to stop.
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lazerus the duck
The First USA Noel


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The best suggestion I've ever heard for safe driving is remove the air bag behind the drivers wheel and replace it with a very visible 6 inch spike. You'd find a lot less people losing concentration on the roads.

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NZUL
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Uh, no.

My one and only reasonably major accident was when I was on open road, and the other person failed to see me and pulled out right in front of me.

Spike or air bag, there wasn't much I could do either way.

Your idea is great if you assume that only people who actually *cause* an accident have a frontal impact. Sadly, not the case.

(Yes, yes I know it was just fascetious anyway. Just wanted to point out you'd have killed me for no apparant reason.)

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BringTheNoise
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quote:
Originally posted by lazerus the duck:
The best suggestion I've ever heard for safe driving is remove the air bag behind the drivers wheel and replace it with a very visible 6 inch spike. You'd find a lot less people losing concentration on the roads.

I don't know. I'd be fairly NFBSKin' distracted by having a spike in front of me...

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Buzzkiller
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quote:
Well, what do you expect them to do? If nobody ever stops, the pedestrian's never going to get across.
I don't know what it's like where you have to cross (sounds stressful!), but in my city's downtown traffic is relatively slow, and intersections are equipped with "Walk/Don't Walk" signals that let them know when it's safe to cross. There's no need for cars to have to stop mid-block to allow pedestrians to cross on a whim.
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Aureal
The First USA Noel


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...well, that's completely different. Of course, if there's actual signals, everyone should proceed according to their directives. But of the (at least) six times I cross this five-lane road during the day, at only one point do I have a signal. At all the other places I have to rely on the drivers yielding, as they're supposed to do for a pedestrian in a crosswalk.
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misfitguy
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quote:
Originally posted by Buzzkiller:
The rules strip us of the ability to be considerate? Oh, please. You know what I think is considerate? Following the traffic signs and rules.

My #1 pet peeve about living in the southern US (and in general, I really do like it down here) is that laid-back Southerners tend to be so "polite," they rewrite traffic rules. On the four-lane main drag of my city's downtown area, friendly drivers sometimes come to a standstill and wave across pedestrians waiting to cross the street...which would be fine if they were the only two people for miles around. But what assurance does he have that the pedestrian won't be hit by drivers in the other three lanes, or that another motorist will won't rear-end the considerate driver who is inexplicably stopped in the middle of the block?

I'm also highly annoyed when a motorist who clearly arrived at the four-way stop ahead of me keeps waving me on. I don't like to barrel on ahead when it's not really my turn, but if I don't, people will be waiting behind us while this clown and I try to prove to each other how nice we are. "No, you go." "No, YOU go!" I can usually chuckle about these little Southern peculiarities, but for some reason, these excessively polite traffic-rule-breakers rouse my ire. Who are they to flout the law in the name of Niceness?

That's right. I'm a big, cranky Yankee.

Oh, that is rich. I love it. My wife read the post and said, "You guys could be brothers." Four way stop signs in the US, not just in the south, have become an adventure.

Other pet peeves include people that hit their brakes and start their turn before they put on their blinker light. What is that about? Is that considerate?

People that don't stop before making a right turn on a red light. That is just scarey to me.

People that go past the stop sign, speedily, before stopping. Most drivers under 40 do this and if you are approaching an intersection, it is difficult to tell if they are going to stop.

People that don't merge into traffic on the expressway. They slowly enter the expressway, causing me to move over to the other lane, if that is possible, or brake, and then they speed up and pull away from me. MERGE knucklehead and we'll all get home safe.

And many others. Get rid of the signs? How ludicrous.

Mick

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Cold DecEmbra Brings The Sleet
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I think it might be beneficial to reduce the number of road signs in some places, not because of any "consideration" it might engender, but because some roads are so thickly forested with signs that concentration on the road is difficult.

On my way to work I drive through a small town where traffic calming measures mean that the following signs appear within about a 20 yard stretch: 40mph reminder; national speed limit applies sign; keep left arrow; road markings, luminous bollards, and raised traffic islands to keep traffic off what used to be a dual carriageway; dual carriageway ahead sign (where the road actually now becomes dual lane).

This is a lot to concentrate on in a road where attention would probably best be paid to schoolchildren crossing the road, and the lane change arrangements. You do spend a split-second thinking "yellow bollard? for why?!", and that's probably not the best use of your brain space...

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I want you to lay down your life, Perkins. We need a futile gesture at this stage. It will raise the whole tone of the war.

Posts: 4495 | From: Surrey, UK | Registered: Jun 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
shivaskeeper
I'm Dreaming of a White Sale


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I saw this thread and thought of my DW's hometown in South Dakota. Population 1400 or so and only two 4 way stops in the whole place. Not even a stoplight. None of the other cross streets have so much as a yield sign on them. And they apparently don't have many accidents. Other than a few speed limit signs, domestic or wild animal crossing signs and the street names I don't remember seeing many other traffic signs there at all.

It can work in small towns in the states, but i seriously doubt it would ever work in a major city.

quote:
Other pet peeves include people that hit their brakes and start their turn before they put on their blinker light. What is that about? Is that considerate?

If I may add to that one. Stopping, turning on the blinker to turn right and then swinging the car far out to the left before making the turn. I have seen drivers swing out far enough to put the right side tires on the double line. Didn't get rear ended, so you're going to try for a head on collision?

Greg

Posts: 7 | From: Yelm, WA | Registered: May 2006  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Monza305
I'll Be Home for After Christmas Sales


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Ahh, Misfit, your pet peeve list looks like it was stolen from me. Considering where you're from, I can see why. Must be a Michigan thing.

People who can't merge onto the freeway probably gets my goat the most. Turning on your blinkers too late is right up there too. I once wrecked a car because of some idiot who was driving WAY too slow. When I went to pass him, he turned right in front of me. Of course, he waited until he started his turn before using his signals. Yeargh!

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I've got a pen in my pocket does that make me a writer?
Standing on the mountain doesn't make me no higher.
Putting on gloves don't make you a fighter.
And all the study in the world doesn't make it science. -Paul Weller

Posts: 199 | From: Kalamazoo, MI | Registered: Oct 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
SparkStalker
Deck the Malls


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quote:
People that don't stop before making a right turn on a red light. That is just scarey to me.
I had a jackhole do this to me last night. He was less than a foot away from having a Ranger radiator implanted into his driver's side door.
quote:

People that don't merge into traffic on the expressway. They slowly enter the expressway, causing me to move over to the other lane, if that is possible, or brake, and then they speed up and pull away from me. MERGE knucklehead and we'll all get home safe.

Probably the most irritating thing I've experienced on the road. It's even worse when you're behind one of these ********.

And on a side note, I was amazed at the traffic when I was in Manila. They didn't use any real concept of lanes or other things that I'm used to. Just traffic lights. But I saw no accidents while we were there, despite what looked like chaos...

Posts: 277 | From: Virginia | Registered: Nov 2002  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Nion
We Three Blings


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I always make it a point to get into the passing lane on the highway if I think I'm going to be confronted with people on the on-ramp. I know that technically I have the right of way on the highway, but I also know I'm supposed to drive defensively. It's better to get into the passing lane (if safe!) than take the risk that the on-ramp person is going to be dodgy with the accelerator.

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It can't rain all the time.

Posts: 1102 | From: Iowa | Registered: Oct 2004  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
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