08 July 2004 -
If I could say only one thing to the throngs of people who uses the local and interstate highways in the Greater Washington DC metropolitan area, it would be this:
LEARN TO MERGE.
Yes, my fellow travellers, there is a lot of traffic on the Beltway. There is always a lot of traffic on the Beltway. Traffic on the Beltway is one of those comforting constants of life, like the sunrise and the tides. It will be there.
Yes, the traffic is dangerous. So are summer thunderstorms. But as you can choose not to do stupid things during thunderstorms, like standing in the middle of a golf course with a club in your hand, you can choose not to do stupid things while merging into Beltway traffic.
A few suggestions:
Get off the phone when you get on the ramp. This should go without saying, but apparently it doesn't.
Don't rush to the end of the ramp and stop, forcing all the people behind you on the ramp to stop, too.
Don't dawdle along the merge area, wandering into the right lane when the merge lane runs out.
Don't race ahead in the merge lane with your blinker on, looking for a 'better' place to merge. There is no better place. The few car lengths' distance you might win is negligible in the long run.
Use your demmed blinker. Your brake lights are not an acceptable substitute for the blinker.
Use your demmed mirrors. There are frequently softhearted shlumps like me who will let you into traffic. If use your mirrors (and put down the phone) you might see this. Contrariwise, if the person in the right lane is not a softhearted shlump but a hard-driving bastard, you might see him and avoid an accident.
If you are riding a motorcycle, do not assume that the obvious coolness of your conveyance will save you. Some of us, shockingly, do not believe that yellow Kawasakis going twice the speed limit are cool, and while we may not intend you harm, that twice-the-speed-limit thing doesn't exactly improve your visibility, either. Nor should you assume that the fact that you signed your organ donor card means you're in good with the deities and they'll watch out for you. Some of the people waiting for organ donations may be in good with the deities too. Maybe even better than you are. And if you are riding your bike on the Beltway, I sincerely hope you have signed that organ donor card.
verso - recto