Contact Street Smarts
Reader emails continue to converge on merging question
Dear Street Smarts, Q: I'm sure in your line of work you're familiar with the book "Traffic" and with the author Tom Vanderbilt's blog, http://www.howwedrive.com/. Here's a link to an excerpt from the book about the 'late merge' that your readers might be interested in. Not only do traffic engineers say that what we might call a late merge, merging at the point of lane closure, say that it improves traffic flow by 15 percent, at least according to this article link, but some states are starting to adopt it. Vanderbilt's blog links to an Illinois highway with a "Take Turns at Merge" sign. Laura Dolson, Ben Lomond A: Thank you for sharing. Meanwhile, the California Driver Handbook doesn't tell drivers the best way to merge in construction zones; rather, it simply advises drivers to "merge as soon as it is safe to do so without crossing the cones or drums." Here's more on the subject: "Pay close attention where road work is being performed. Signs and message boards warn you of workers, slow moving equipment, and closed lanes ahead. Cones and/or drums will guide you through the work zone. Merge as soon as it is safe to do so and without crossing the cones or drums. Reduce your speed and be prepared to slow down or stop for highway equipment. In work zones where lanes are narrow or where the shoulder is closed, watch for bicycles and "share the road" when they are present. "The most common cause of deaths and injuries in work zones is rear-end collisions. In fact, most of the people killed in work zones are drivers and passengers. For your own safety and the safety of your passengers remember to slow down, allow extra following room between vehicles, merge early, expect sudden slowing or stopping, watch for drivers changing lanes at the last minute, and minimize distractions. Avoid distractions including using your hands-free cell phone while in the 'Cone Zone.' Fines for traffic violations in the "Cone Zone" can be up to $1,000, or more. Anyone convicted of assaulting a highway worker faces fines of up to $2,000 and imprisonment for up to one year. "Keep your eyes on the road and other vehicles around you. Do not stop to watch the road work. Obey special signs or instructions from workers. Driving carefully through work zones improves safety for drivers, pedestrians, bicyclists, and road workers." Q: OK, your info about merging is good, but you said; 'Section 22108 tells motorists to use their turn signal 100 feet before the place they seek to turn.' How do we estimate far 100 feet is as we're driving down the street or highway? I and most of my friends have much trouble estimating distances beyond ten feet. Jim Nee, Santa Cruz A: When I was learning to drive, all those years ago, my instructor told me to use telephone poles to gauge distance. The rule of thumb is that the distance between two telephone poles, let's call them pole A and pole B, is 50 feet. Thus, the distance between pole A and a third pole, pole C, would be 100 feet. So, if the driveway you plan to turn into is coming up, the telephone pole closest to it would be the 100 foot mark and you would have had to have hit your turn signal three telephone poles before you reached your turning point. Practice using telephone poles while driving on quiet, safe streets to get the hang of distance so you won't have rely so heavily on them when you're on busier roads with lots of traffic, pedestrians and cyclists. There, your attention will be needed elsewhere. Hope this helps.