On merging, stopping and lighting up
By Steve Wallace, Times Colonist, September 28th, 2012
Following up on last week’s column, more questions from readers:
A reader asked what a driver should do when the vehicle ahead on a merge lane approaching the freeway is travelling at half the posted merge speed.
The first thing to keep in mind is the space cushion around your vehicle. Activate the four-way flashers. This will not only warn the drivers behind you, but create the necessary space as you reduce speed. Stay well back, to ensure you have enough space behind the driver who is doing a tortoise-in-transit impression. As you get closer to the freeway entrance, with lots of space in front and behind your car, speed up dramatically in a slingshot fashion. This will allow you to merge at approximately the same speed as freeway traffic. Glance forward several times to ensure the intimidated or inexperienced driver ahead has not come to a full stop.
Look for the space on the freeway instead of the vehicles. Spaces are bigger than vehicles, easier to judge and move at roughly the same speed as vehicles. If the space you are planning to merge into is getting bigger, that’s to your advantage. If it’s getting smaller, take a second look at the vehicles to see which driver is speeding up or slowing down dramatically.
Another reader asked about the proper stop position at an intersection. Drivers must come to a stop prior to the natural path of pedestrians. If there is a white line at the stop sign, the driver must stop before the line. Even if no white pedestrian path lines are painted on the road, a driver must stop before the linear extension of the sidewalk across the road. Where no pedestrian marker or sidewalk is present, pedestrians will most often walk on the road. That is the area before which a legal stop must be made. Crosswalks do not have to be marked to be legally enforced.
Drivers must stop prior to the pedestrian path when exiting a parking lot, back lane and even their own driveways. This regulation is seldom enforced, but it’s taken quite seriously on the driver’s road test.
Stop signs are placed by municipal employees and contractors. They have to avoid underground wires, pipes and a host of gas lines and other utility cables. Telephone and hydro poles, guide wires, sewer lines and trees often influence the placement of a stop sign. It’s safer to stop twice when lateral visibility is poor – once for pedestrians and once more to see cross traffic. Always remember that the stop sign tells a driver what to do, not necessarily where to do it.
Another reader asked why some vehicles do not have headlights lit when operational. Vehicles produced before 1990 in Canada are not required to light up upon ignition. Vehicles manufactured for sale south of the border are not required to light up at all. This makes it relatively easy to identify both older and newer imported vehicles on our roads. There is a common belief that vehicles that do not illuminate when being driven are involved in more crashes. Apparently, drivers pay more attention to an approaching vehicle that’s lit up than to an unlit vehicle. Some researchers think the crash rate is higher for unlit vehicles because they are older and less mechanically sound. As a precaution, I always pay more attention to vehicles approaching or following me when they are not illuminated during daylight hours.
Questions are always welcome.
Steve Wallace is the owner of Joan Wallace Driving School on Vancouver Island and in the Central Interior of B.C. He is the former vice-president of the Driving Schools Association of the Americas and a certified B.C. teacher.