I’ve noticed a lot of crummy driving practices since moving to Salt Spring Island. While I thoroughly enjoy meandering down the bumpy, winding roads, devoid of traffic lights, there are a few things I would like to take a second to address. I admit I am far from being the best driver out there. However, I do try to keep in mind the rules, safety precautions, and general consideration of others on the road when I’m in the driver’s seat.
Today I’ve been bombarded with an extra dose of “What do you think you are doing??” on my trip to town, where all of the following applied. If any of these are unhealthy road habits that you are guilty of, I beg of you to please, please turn over a new leaf in your transportation practices.
4-Way Stop Procedure
With only one 4-way stop on our little island, I can see how some long-time residents who don’t travel off-island often might get confused with this staple in areas where roads are busier. However, if you’re going to be part of the tire-turning tribe (yes, that includes you, bikers), you should really get to know how to handle this basic traffic-directing installment.
Here’s a tip: If it’s busy at the 4-way, there are cars waiting at each of the four stop signs, and the vehicle in front of you has just gone through the intersection, I can guarantee it is not your turn to go. When stopping at an intersection controlled by a red octagon, coming to a stop in line while one or more cars in front of you heed the rules of the road does not count as stopping at the stop sign.
Instead, when the car in front of you takes their turn after pausing at the stop line, it’s expected that you will then come to complete stop at the line and wait for the other vehicles who have been stopped and waiting at their own stop signs, before you get your turn. Waiting your turn is something my preschool children – heck, even my not-yet-2-year-old-toddler – have a decent grasp of. As a licensed adult, I don’t think this is too much to ask of you.
Also, that red sign says “STOP”, not “STOP if there are other cars close by” or “STOP only if you’re not the first vehicle to the intersection”. Just “STOP”. Follow the rules and we’ll all be just fine. Please come to a complete stop – nothing is moving – before proceeding through on your turn.
At our local gas station (the one that charges less of an arm-and-leg for fuel because you pump it yourself), there are three different lines you can pull into to get your gas. The middle of these three lanes allows for two vehicles to simultaneously gas up, as there are two pumps beside each other. To avoid making the lineup longer and looking like a self-absorbed jerk, it’s common courtesy to pull your vehicle completely up to the furthest gas pump, so that the vehicle waiting behind you can pull up to their own pump and be able to reach the nozzle to their tank.
Make everyone’s life easier and just simply pull up. We’ve all got places to be. Being stuck watching you pump your gas and check out your reflection in your window, while a perfectly good gas pump sits idly by in view of a long line-up of empty gas tanks, is an unfortunately common part of gassing up. Please, pull ahead.
Stay in Your Lane
That yellow line painted down the centre of the roads is not a track. Your vehicle does not eat up that line as you go, gaining points and leveling up for hitting every piece of that sunshine trail. Is it blinking and making satisfactory noises as you drive over it? No. It is called a centre line, and it’s entire purpose is to keep vehicles from crashing by staying off of it.
The right-hand lane is for you, and the lane on the left side is for vehicles coming the opposite way. Sounds pretty simple, right? So how come I’m constantly having close calls with cars barreling down the road at me with their tires over that sunshiny yellow line? Coming around a corner to have my heart jump because you’re not concerned about being within your designated space isn’t cool. It’s straight up imbecilic.
And those white lines at the side of the road? They’re just as important to keep from going over as the centre line. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve been walking at the side of North End Rd, as far into the blackberry bushes as possible, to have myself and my little ones so narrowly missed by a car that’s steaming along, not within their lane.
I know, some of these roads are pretty narrow and awfully windy. That’s why I slow down when I’m going around a blind corner and can’t see if there are people or vehicles I’m going to run into. I feel it’s a simple solution. Unless you are passing a biker or pedestrian and want to give them ample space (which you would obviously slow down and wait for a safe opportunity to do so), please, just stay in your lane.
Yes, I realize that Salt Spring runs on island time, that we tend to be more relaxed here and our scenery invokes a slower pace of life, but we’re not all on vacation. Some Most of us do indeed have to go to work or appointments, and budget our travel time to get there promptly. Go ahead and soak in all the natural beauty and quaintness of our island, but if there is a car behind you while you’re chugging along at a snail’s pace, it would be appreciated if you’d pull over or rev up to the expected speed.
On the other side of the coin, for as many slow-moving vehicles as I see each day, I come across at least that many daredevil drivers zipping along at speeds more appropriate for multi-lane highways – not our residential dirt road. You may think you can handle that speed, and you may even be able to stay in your lane while you barrel along, but more often than not your speed causes you to swerve over that previously talked about centre line, putting yourself and other drivers in danger. As much as you’d like to think so, you are not invincible, and neither are the pedestrians, children, dogs, cats, deer and turtles on the road ahead of you, just around that corner.
Even if the speed limit says 60, that number means the maximum you should go when the road conditions and traffic are ideal is 60. You may have to use your own judgement in situations where more people are about (why aren’t there signs approaching St Mary’s beach access yet?) or when the elements make things a little bit riskier.
All I’m asking is that everyone be safe, responsible, and respectful out there. We all want to get where we’re going. Again, I’m definitely not a perfect driver. However, I am thankful when someone calls me out on my misdoings, and gives me a new lens with which to look at life, and make better choices because of it.
Be safe out there, Salt Spring!
*Note* The picture at the top of this post was taken with help from a passenger (Thanks, helpful hitchhiker gal!). The other photo was taken while walking. 🙂