A Conversation for International Driving Laws
More California oddities
Blatherskite the Mugwump - Bandwidth Bandit Started conversation Jan 23, 2000
1. As DNA's personal experience can attest, it is an oft ignored law, but it is on the books. I suspect it's only there to give the cops an excuse to pull you over, if they're itching for one. Anyway, technically, it is illegal to pass someone on the right, which, since we drive on the right side of the road, refers to the outside lane.
2. We suffer from the worst traffic jams in the States, so when there's room, we like to drive fast. The far right lane on the freeway is for entrances and exits, and slow moving vehicles like '75 Chevy Impalas with cracked radiators that need to be pulled to the side for watering every 25 miles. The two right lanes are the only ones permitted to semis (lorries to the rest of the English speaking world), but oddly enough, busses and trucks pulling large trailers are permitted in any lane. The far left lane (excepting the carpool lane) is the 'fast lane,' and if your car cannot do more than 75 miles an hour (the legal speed limit is 65) you'd best not get in this lane. You'll actually get a ticket. The reason why is crazy law number...
3. The Basic Speed Law: This is a weird one. Californians really have no use for posted speed limits; they serve more as a guide to road and traffic conditions than any real rule. The Basic Speed Law takes precedence over any posted limit, and it reads something like this: "All drivers are required to travel at the safest speed for the existing road conditions." Obviously, traveling 5mph would be pretty safe, but that's not what they have in mind. It basically means "use your freaking head!" If the posted limit is 75 (this is only on rural highways), but you're traveling through a torrential downpour, slow down. If everyone else on the highway is going 85, and you're going 55, technically, you're the only one who is right. But in reality, you are creating a hazard, and you will receive a ticket for driving too slow. I'd be interested to know if people are ticketed anywhere else in the world for this; I have a feeling we're unique.
4. Contra-flow lanes: a relatively new phenomenon, which I know only to exist in San Diego, California and Oahu, Hawaii. These expensive devices have the unique ability to make traffic flow equally horrible in both directions during rush hour. Concrete k-rails are linked together, and a massive vehicle glides along them at an incredibly slow speed, picking them up and moving them into one side of traffic or the other. The result creates one extra lane of traffic for the drivers in the busier direction, at the expense of two lanes for the opposite side (the k-rails rest directly in the center of the 2nd lane). In Hawaii, this extra lane is only useable by carpools (cars with more than one occupant) and busses. And it only covers a portion of the freeway, so it creates a terrible bottleneck when it ends, with strings of massive school busses pushing their way in to the rest of the traffic. Having not experienced the one in San Diego, I can only conjecture as to how bad an idea it is there.
Amanda Posted Jan 23, 2000
St. Louis (where I am fortunate enough to live, heh) and several other cities have permanent "contra-flow" lanes built into some of the busier highways. They work off a "traffic light" system which notifies you of the direction you're allowed to drive on them; i.e. If you're approaching the lane facing north and the light is green you can enter, but if the light is red then only south-bound traffic can use the lane(s).
So I'm trying to decide which is more scary: Slow moving concrete blocks edging towards my car as I try desperately to change lanes in rush hour traffic, or a fleet of color-blind drivers with no short-term memories barreling down at me head-on. I'll get back to you on that.
Zed Posted Jan 23, 2000
Wow! Scary sounding traffic ideas y'all have over there!
There were rumours of people being nicked on the motorway round Birmingham, England, for doing 70 in the outside lane during rush-hour. Technically, they were in the right, but were, as you say, creating a traffic hazard. But I've not heard the rumours confirmed.
Blatherskite the Mugwump - Bandwidth Bandit Posted Jan 24, 2000
The k-rails are moved during off-peak hours.The movers start at 4:00 a.m. to prepare for the morning rush, and then again at 1:30 p.m.-ish to prepare for the afternoon rush. And these things move so slowly, they fail to create much of a hazard, aside from those I've already mentioned. Anyway, the idea of a lack of seperation between the two opposing sides of traffic sounds scarier to me. Unless you mean there's a special lane for this in the center, with barriers to either side?
Amanda Posted Jan 24, 2000
Yup. It's almost like a tunnel, and it consists of one or two lanes with huge concrete walls on either side. I'd be more descriptive, but I've avoided it like the plague since I've lived here. Scares the heck out of me, it does.
CrazyOne Posted Jan 24, 2000
We have one of those too, like Amanda was describing, on one road in Pittsburgh. Despite a series of half a dozen or more gates at each end and all sorts of markings and directional indicator lights and such, the system has failed a couple of times that I know of, resulting in a couple of fatal head-on collsions followed by months-long total closures of the 2 lanes.
A better system is the one which I see in Maryland, where the innermost lane in each direction is designated a carpool lane for certain hours of the day. If there must be a dedicated carpool lane, that's the way to do it. At least outside of the indicated hours it can be useful as a normal lane. The same can't be said of those closed-off systems.
Blatherskite the Mugwump - Bandwidth Bandit Posted Apr 10, 2000
Yeah, they have one of those handier tunnel-type contra-flow lanes on the H3 on Oahu. Luckily, though, there isn't enough traffic on it to merit its use. The bad idea one is on the H1, and ends where the Moana Lua freeway meets it and it shrinks to only 3 lanes.
But back to California: The best indication that traffic is completely horrible here is that a few clever terms have been added to the language to describe typical freeway problems...
Cigalert: CalTrans' own term for any sort of situation that causes a significant slowdown, be it an accident, a spill, a flood, or whatever.
Carbeque: Vehicle on fire. Only in California could we make light of a man's second biggest investment (unless he's a renter, in which case it moves to #1) going up in flames.
Pile-up: Accident involving many vehicles.
Spectator Slowdown: Traffic phenomenon that occurs when the trouble has been moved to the sie of the road, and everyone slows down to rubberneck.
CrazyOne Posted Apr 10, 2000
More California oddities
Researcher 139507 Posted Jun 21, 2000
The flow of traffic portion of The Basic Speed Law, dates back to when California traffic laws were about safety, as opposed to revenue. It was repealled when the 55 mph speed limit was put in effect, and as far as I know, has not been put back in place. The great thing about the flow of traffic law was, if everybody was going 90 mph, then you weren't speeding, regardless of the posted speed limit. Of course, the negative side of The Basic Speed Law, is that you can be cited for speeding, regardless of the posted limit, if the officer feels that the conditions make it unsafe.
More California oddities
Blatherskite the Mugwump - Bandwidth Bandit Posted Jun 22, 2000
I'm almost certain that the Basic Speed Law is in effect, and here is why. I didn't begin driving until many, many years after the 55mph speed limit was implemented, but the Basic Speed Law was taught to me in my driver's ed class.
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More California oddities
- 1: Blatherskite the Mugwump - Bandwidth Bandit (Jan 23, 2000)
- 2: Amanda (Jan 23, 2000)
- 3: Zed (Jan 23, 2000)
- 4: Blatherskite the Mugwump - Bandwidth Bandit (Jan 24, 2000)
- 5: Amanda (Jan 24, 2000)
- 6: CrazyOne (Jan 24, 2000)
- 7: Blatherskite the Mugwump - Bandwidth Bandit (Apr 10, 2000)
- 8: CrazyOne (Apr 10, 2000)
- 9: Researcher 139507 (Jun 21, 2000)
- 10: Blatherskite the Mugwump - Bandwidth Bandit (Jun 22, 2000)