Roundabouts And Other Traffic Hazards of Suburbia

Driving in suburbia has become increasingly dangerous thanks to the latest idea by brilliant city and town planners to assist the flow of traffic.  The new cool trend in all the best suburban settings are roundabouts.  If you really want to watch people struggle with driving throw a circle in the middle of the road.  Some people stop and sit as car after car after car goes through the roundabout apparently waiting  for someone to let them in or also come to a stop.  Others (like certain drivers in my own family) think they are a way to jockey for better position if you have been trapped behind a slow driver.  And still countless others have tried unsuccessfully to just continue to go straight – disregarding the bushes, flowers and trees planted in the middle of the roundabout to deter this.  But the roundabout is just a new hazard in the suburban setting.  There are countless others to speak of.

Another one of the newer driving dangers in suburbia is the dual left turn lane.  Several busy intersections have them now.  Again a brilliant engineer thought that by having two turn lanes he would cut down on the amount of time you have to wait to turn – and it does.  However the dual turn lanes have several problems.  Some immediately go back down to one lane after you negotiate the turn thereby causing drivers again to have to jockey for position.  Also many people do not realize that there are two turn lanes so they turn and swing wide into the other lane where there is typically another turning car.  Then after the drivers start to get used to having dual turn lanes in certain intersections they start to think there are dual turn lanes at all stop lights and just turn whenever they feel like it from which ever lane they are in.

Prior to the double turn lane there was and still are a multitude of what I like to refer to as “suicide” turn lanes.  These are the lanes that are usually in the middle of a 4 lane road.  They go down the middle and have arrows showing you can turn both directions.  So basically as you are trying to turn left from the northbound or eastbound lanes while someone else is coming at you head on also trying to turn left from the southbound or westbound lanes.  This was the best idea of them all – obviously designed by someone who wanted to test the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety ratings for head on collisions.

One other thing to add to the list might surprise you.  The popularity and increased media coverage of NASCAR.  Yeah this may be a stretch, but seriously there are countless suburban dads out there attempting to “bump draft” in the family truckster.  Some are easier to spot than others because they will have their loyalty to Tony Stewart or Jeff Gordon displayed in countless bumper stickers on their back window but others you can’t spot until they are trying to get the drop on you during a “restart” at the stoplight.  I feel a little bit sorry for them… the soccer dad’s you know.  Because no matter how much they pretend they are driving the last lap at Bristol eventually the reality that they are driving a Honda Odyessy will set in.

Lets not forget traffic lights.  Yes traffic lights.  Your basic 4 way stop controlled by a stoplight.  See these are great…. until they don’t work.  For whatever reason (i.e. power outage, accident etc) when the stop lights stop working so do suburbanites brains.  No one seems to remember how to negotiate a 4 way stop.  But never fear, all suburbanites carry their handy-dandy cell phones to call 911 and let them know the traffic light is out and they should send a police officer out right away to direct traffic before there is a horrible accident.

These are just a few of the reason’s that soccer mom’s have to drive SUV’s (Sport Utility Vehicle).  Or as I like to call them SAV’s (Suburban Assault Vehicle).  Well that combined with the fact that we basically live in them.  Seriously I have logged more hours this week in the SAV than I have in my own bed.  They also tend to be somewhat intimidating in the roundabouts, suicide lanes, stop lights, dual turn lanes and to the NASCAR dads.

Luckily American suburbanites will never be faced with the driving challenge like the one posed by going from mainland China (driving on the right side of road) to Hong Kong (driving on the left side of road).  Some architects have come up with a solution called a “flipper bridge.”  This bridge basically makes a figure 8 and switches you from driving on the right side of the road to driving on the left side of the road – while driving on bridge over a large body of water.  Yeah…. I’d like to try that soon.

With that in mind I’d like to suggest something new and fun.  I think we should let Putt Putt course designers start designing our roads.  I’m looking forward to seeing a water hazard or a windmill in the middle of the road soon.  Better yet…. the swinging logs!  Oh sure the swinging logs in the middle of the road might be a bit much, but think how much fun it would be to watch the jerk who’s been tailgating and honking at you get whacked by one.  And an added plus to having the Putt Putt designers making our roadways we would have lovely fake palm trees, assortments of concrete wild animals and glow in the dark curbs.  Of course there would be the problem of the loop-de-loop – it might be tough to negotiate.  Oh wait… they already have a loop-de-loop, it’s just that it’s flattened out and called a roundabout.

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