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The Rules of the Road - Reprised

The Rules of the Road - Part I - Or How I Spent My Summer Vacation

An introduction is in order - the following was previously posted on patch.com, but, your author being less then nept - as in inept - as to how it should have been submitted, it ended up in the announcement section under a nom de plume. No more. I intend to follow this blog entry up with another, as I offer some sage advice - or rant, as you might term my terms - about the state of driving. So, on with it.

In the current stage of mass media, it would seem the best place to get out this timely reminder is online, and patch.com, as a local purveyor of local news, would seem a great place to do this.

The topic? The Rules of the Road.

First, bear in mind that the perspective of your dear author is colored by the fact that his learning-to-drive experience was close to the last of those drivers for whom school-based driver's education was part of the high school academic curriculum. In Ohio and beyond, the science and academics of educating drivers, in the last two decades, has been largely reassigned to private concerns and, by some accounts, that's not been a good thing. In fact, there is a slow but growing movement to bring driver's education back into the schools.

As a current participant in driver's education, for and with my own kids, that close proximity has drawn, as it should, a closer bead on just what driver's education has come to be since I was educated in the finer elements of driving by the then Mrs. King - more recently known as Mrs. Campbell -  when I took my driver's education courses in the Akron Public School system in the late 1970s. Sadly, I can't say it's all good.

As I'm sure many others have noted, we're daily treated to myriad examples of what can only be described as the erosion of everything related to driving: education, skill, courtesy, rules, manners, and just what should go into managing two or three or more tons of steel and plastic in the form of guided ballistic missiles on the public highways and byways. Distracted drivers - texting, cell phones, makeup, shaving, reading newspapers, operating iPads and smart phones, eating, drinking, basically doing everything but concentrating on the task at hand (that would be driving) - are the bane of the roadways and, unfortunately, steadily growing trends. With more and more vehicles coming from manufacturers with direct technology links and ever-larger touch-screen interfaces, the urge to distraction will only become greater.

Combine the age of distracted driving with the fact that, for most on the road, driver's education has either been through for-profit enterprises, the efforts of well-meaning parents, or the passage of time alone. That's right: under Ohio law, reach age 18 and you can take the Ohio driver's license exam without ever having taken any form of actual driving education of any kind. That's an issue for the Ohio General Assembly to take up.

Now, onto the rules of the road. Putting aside the rant above - and it is most assurecly a rant - it would appear that many drivers just don't know, or refuse to observe or obey, the rules of the road. Simple rules. Easy rules. Example: Stop signs. They mean, simply, "Stop". It's not an optional stop; it's not a rolling, roll-through stop, it's a S-T-O-P, in capital letters.

The same may be said of traffic signals - it would seem many drivers are deeming them simply optional. While we used to learn "Red means stop, yellow means wait, and green means go, go, go", for many now, red means, if no one's looking, just drive on through - after all, you're way more important than what that red light is trying to make you do. There seems to be some collective idea that the later the hour, the more you can simply ignore the signal and do what you want. That's not part of the Ohio Revised Code - nor part of the rules of the road and the courtesy we owe to others in sharing that road.

There's also been a steady degradation in simply knowing the rules of the road. Take, for example, what a driver is to do at a signalized intersection in making a left turn. When the light changes a solid green, the left-turning driver is to proceed into the intersection, yield to all traffic with a superior right-of-way (i.e., drivers proceeding straight through opposite, or drivers turning right onto the same roadway, etc.), then make the left turn when traffic allows. That is called "taking possession of the intersection"; moving into the intersection under the solid green light allows that left-turning driver to complete the turn at the end of the light cycle, as, being lawfully in the intersection, that driver then maintains a right to clear that intersection. This allows traffic to continue to move, both for that driver and for drivers following that driver. Of course, in those intersections with simultaneous left-turn arrows and solid green lights, when the left-turning driver is presented with both solid green and left-turn green lights, that driver has the designated right-of-way through the intersection; conversely, where the left-turning driver has only left-turn arrow signalization, and otherwise has a red light, that left turn can only proceed upon receiving the left-turn green arrow.

So often now drivers are absolutely clueless about this simple rule - and, at busy intersections without green arrows, but only solid green light signals, they sit at the intersection, never entering to take possession as traffic backs up behind them. The same happens at intersections with both solid green and left-turn green arrows - drivers sit, failing to enter the intersection, hoping that the green arrow will signal. At many such intersections, however, the left-turn arrow only cycles when the signal perceives sufficient left-turn traffic to initiate the left-turn arrow - otherwise, the driver is to proceed as one is to proceed with a solid green light. They don't, and traffic backs up. This is basic driver's ed - but, without basic driver's ed as a part of school curricula, more and more drivers are less and less aware.

Roundabouts - if you're in Tallmadge or Akron, traffic circles - are another issue. "Modern" roundabouts - like those now in place across Ohio and Summit County (Ridgewood and Jacoby Roads, and Ridgewood and Hametown Roads in Copley Township, Riverview and Smith Roads in the valley are examples) - provide for continuous traffic operation with yielding, but not stopping, the preferred method of use; "traffic circles", on the other hand (like Tallmadge Circle or Mull and Hawkins Avenues in Akron), require those entering the pattern to stop berfore entering the circle. However, our drivers seem heaped with confusion on confronting any roundabout, and do one of two things: either jam on the brakes and stop dead before entering, and at every entry point in the roundabout for other traffic, or never yield at all and slam their way through the roundabout, other traffic be damned.

The rules for roundabouts are really quite simple - when entering a "modern" roundabout, simply yield to any traffic already on the roundabout, then enter - and all others entering after you enter must yield to you until you exit that roundabout. Roundabouts populate Europe, and have made a significant dent across this country, as they truly aid both efficiency and safety, calming traffic while promoting flow rather than stop-and-start action. Used correctly, they are a great benefit to all - used incorrectly by an uneducated populace, they're just the opposite.

Expressways are another beast altogether. We have "limits" placed on our speeds on those roadways - but, for many, and that's turning into most, those limits are simply ignored as optional rather than as mandatory directives. I-77 between Montrose and Akron is a prime example, where drivers routinely push the 55 and 65 mph limits to 75-85 and above, tailgating, weaving through the lanes without signaling, doing all they can on Akron's NASCAR track to get just one more car ahead. A limit is a limit - it's mandatory, not a mere suggestion. It's for everyone - and meant for everyone - using the road. Driving ten feet behind someone else with the idea that your cruise missile in their rear-view mirrors will somehow intimidate them into moving aside, all at 90 feet per second, is a recipe for disaster. The place where common courtesy has simply disappeared is the expressway system, where a damn-the-torpedoes-full-speed-ahead rationale seems to grip certain drivers at the expense of all others. Give yourself five extra minutes to get where you're going, plan your trip, and you won't have to mad-dash to the next soccer game, haircut, or golf match. Five minutes - that's all it generally takes.

I could go on and on - some say I do. Truth is, as an attorney who faces and takes on these matters daily, I can say it's part of my job. In fact, if we all did a better job as drivers, folks like me would have less to do - and I, for one, would not complain about that at all. And I have Mrs. Campbell to thank for that.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Christopher C Esker February 23, 2013 at 12:30 AM
4511.42 Right-of-way rule when turning left. (A) The operator of a vehicle, streetcar, or trackless trolley intending to turn to the left within an intersection or into an alley, private road, or driveway shall yield the right of way to any vehicle, streetcar, or trackless trolley approaching from the opposite direction, whenever the approaching vehicle, streetcar, or trackless trolley is within the intersection or so close to the intersection, alley, private road, or driveway as to constitute an immediate hazard.
Christopher C Esker February 23, 2013 at 12:33 AM
4511.13 Highway traffic signal indications; section not applicable to railroad crossings. Highway traffic signal indications for vehicles and pedestrians shall have the following meanings: (A) Steady green signal indication: (1)(a) Vehicular traffic, streetcars, and trackless trolleys facing a circular green signal indication are permitted to proceed straight through or turn right or left or make a u-turn movement except as such movement is modified by a lane-use sign, turn prohibition sign, lane marking, roadway design, separate turn signal indication, or other traffic control device. Such vehicular traffic, including vehicles turning right or left or making a u-turn movement, shall yield the right-of-way to both of the following: (i) Pedestrians lawfully within an associated crosswalk; (ii) Other vehicles lawfully within the intersection . (b) In addition, vehicular traffic turning left or making a u-turn movement to the left shall yield the right-of-way to other vehicles approaching from the opposite direction so closely as to constitute an immediate hazard during the time when such turning vehicle is moving across or within the intersection.
Christopher C Esker February 23, 2013 at 12:34 AM
(2) Vehicular traffic, streetcars, and trackless trolleys facing a green arrow signal indication, displayed alone or in combination with another signal indication, are permitted to cautiously enter the intersection only to make the movement indicated by such arrow, or such other movement as is permitted by other indications displayed at the same time. Such vehicular traffic, streetcars, and trackless trolleys, including vehicles turning right or left or making a u-turn movement, shall yield the right-of-way to both of the following: (a) Pedestrians lawfully within an associated crosswalk ; (b) Other traffic lawfully using the intersection.
Christopher C Esker February 23, 2013 at 12:46 AM
And, from the Columbus Dispatch, September 10, 2010, "When Red Means Go: Lights Crucial in Left Turn Crashes", this: "Rules of the road: A driver turning left can enter an intersection on a green or yellow traffic signal. But the driver can't turn until the oncoming traffic clears. If the traffic clears only because the light has changed to red, the driver must make the turn to get out of the intersection. Any car that has crossed the "stop" line before the light changes red should turn on red. It's often safe for only one or two cars to cross that line and enter the intersection. Any car behind the line when the light turns red can't make the turn." Source: Sgt. Tony Rudd of the Westerville police
Christopher C Esker February 23, 2013 at 12:57 AM
And, finally, from the Toledo Blade's November 17, 2008 Legal Briefs column by Attorney Dale Emch, this tidbit: "But often there's a bit of a twist in cases like these. Driver A will be waiting to make a left-hand turn on a yellow light and the light will turn red before Driver B enters the intersection. Once the light turned red, Driver B should have stopped and Driver A would have the right of way to clear the intersection."

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