Opinion

Gord Turner: Driving madness in Castlegar

Driving the streets of Castlegar. - Google Maps
Driving the streets of Castlegar.
— image credit: Google Maps

The more I drive around Castlegar and various roads in the area, the more I’m perplexed by West Kootenay drivers. A common theme is that a number of basic driving rules keeping everyone safe and aware are not adhered to.

The driving habits and rules programmed into me when I learned to drive seem not to be in the mind-set of many current drivers.

For example, I was trained to remain two or three vehicle lengths behind the vehicle ahead. The reason had to do with the need to be able to stop if something untoward happened. This is doubly important in times of snow-covered and icy roads. During this past week, I counted four times that I was actually tailgated.

These drivers drove within one length of my vehicle so that if I had to brake suddenly, I would have been slammed into from behind. Now that I’m older, I usually pull over and let them by — rather than let my road rage take over.

Some of these tailgaters roar up behind me on the highway. I check my speedometer and find I’m traveling just beyond the speed limit. So why do they ride my bumper at 100 km per hour? I believe it has to do with human nature, particularly among the young — these drivers cannot bear to follow someone. For some reason, they need to be ahead, lead the charge.

I’m probably more bothered by drivers not using their signal lights. In some cases, I have no idea where they’re going, and I’m only aware of them turning left or right when they do so. Because I remain a few car lengths behind these drivers, I usually have time to react when they slow down before turning.

After my gymnastic workout at the college two mornings ago, I followed a vehicle from there all the way downtown without the driver signaling once. He should have right-signalled across from the airport. He should have signalled right to take the down-lane onto the Columbia River bridge. He should have signalled right to take the off-ramp toward Columbia Avenue etc, etc, etc.

Just because there’s a turn lane moving off to the right doesn’t mean a driver can simply slide into that lane without a signal. A signal tells the drivers behind not to accelerate into that turn lane and cause a possible accident.

A number of drivers seem to be clueless about lane changing or which lane to turn into. Drivers entering Columbia — Castlegar’s main thoroughfare — should turn into the nearest lane because it’s the least busy. After that, using the signal light again allows them to shift from that lane into the main traveling lane.

What’s most worrying — and I blame many seniors for this behavior — is when drivers turn a corner right or left from the middle lane. In a big city, these drivers would be dead meat, but here they usually get away with it. A right-turn signal from the middle lane should happen long before the corner, and the first right signal simply gets the vehicle into the correct lane for the turn.

A continued right signal from the proper lane gets the vehicle around the corner unscathed.

I don’t know what to say about speed demons. I know most of us occasionally travel a bit above the speed limit, but some people speed excessively all the time. They speed up to the vehicle ahead, they roar past often in a no-pass zone, and you’ll note their tail-lights receding ahead. And then, a kilometer up the highway they turn off into a subdivision. They may have gained 10 seconds — go figure!

 

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