A few traffic tips for drivers in Knoxville and beyond, inspired by observations made while motoring around in the last couple of weeks.
Interstate on-ramps – Please accelerate to the travelling speed of the freeway (about 55
m.p.h.) in order to smoothly and safely merge in to traffic. Of course, vary this to the traffic patterns overall around you.
Interstates – The Right Lane is for Travelling. The Left Lane is for Passing. One simple rule for them all. If you’re still having trouble with this, here’s another pointer: If traffic is passing on your right, you’re in the wrong lane.
Downtown/pedestrians/drivers – If you’re walking, use crosswalks and cross when the walky-guy gives you the O.K. Because drivers often have the right-of-way in Tennessee in most cases. If they hit you, the driver must pay a fine of $250 for bodily injury or $500 for death. EXCEPT: Drivers must stop for pedestrians in crosswalks that aren’t at lighted intersections – like in front of the City County Building. This drivers-yield-to-pedestrians rule is commonly ignored at Union Avenue and Locust Street, but drivers seem to remember to yield at the intersection one block over at Union and Walnut Street. Go figure.
If you’re turning left – Please, for the sake of all things sacred and holy, use a turn signal. Especially you, KPD officer who turned left from Gay Street onto Wall Avenue at 8:15 a.m., yesterday, April 23. (And yeah, I jotted down the unit number.) You set the example for all of us. I, myself, have broken this rule many, many times. Nobody’s perfect.
DON’T TEXT AND DRIVE – Your family loves you. Or your dog does. Act like you have some regard for humanity. Your girlfriend/aunt/bro/parents/buddy can wait. Or, just call. Remember what it’s like to hear a human voice on your talky phone? Don’t even text while stopped at an intersection – for a very similar reason as explained below. Full disclosure: I’ve broken this rule. And you have too.
Parking decks – Advance to the next open space and park. Do not stop – and thereby stack up traffic behind you – while waiting for a car to back out and open a space.
Begin rant here.
For those accustomed to driving into acres of pavement at Wal-Marts and malls, where parking closer to the entrance actually means something, parking garages are troubling structures. Here’s the basic concept of parking decks: Go up, create more space, make it easier to get around. (Architect buddies feel free to correct me here.)
People who stop a line of traffic while waiting for Bob, Deb and half the soccer team to load up, back out and drive home are the people who completely defeat the intent of a parking deck. At the risk of giving away a little parking secret I love, but to ultimately improve the traffic flow in one of the most miserable-but-necessary structures humankind has produced, here’s a bonus tip. Keep driving your car up to another mostly-empty level and park near a corner of the parking deck. This does two things: 1) keeps you from having to cross in front of traffic while you walk to the stairs to exit, and 2) takes you less time to actually leave a parking deck because you’re closer to the stairs. “But this defies logic!” you may say. “I’m parking farther away from the entrance to the parking deck! Farther means more time! I can’t walk all that way!”
Let me help alleviate those concerns. Remember from before, when we talked about the concept of going vertical? That creates more space. Which is to say that there is all this open area above you that you can advance to and park. You don’t have to wait for someone to back out! Still concerned about going deep into the depths of the deck and making it all they way back out on foot? The new millenium has this one handled. Most parking decks come with elevators. Remember all that idling you once did in your car, traffic piling up behind you, going nowhere, creating more exhaust, WASTING EVERYONE’S TIME, while you waited for Bob, Deb and the gang to load up their SUV? Now that can be time you spend playing Angry Birds while you wait on the elevator. Meanwhile, the rest of the world can go on about their lives without you in the way. Think of it as a courtesy.
Generally speaking, I love my car. Lots. Because I spend a lot of time inside of it, I’ve made it an envrionment with my tunes going, and some coffee in the cupholder. But I love being outside of it even more. Spending less time in traffic – for all of us – means we get more time to hang out at the ballpark with friends, peruse eggplants at the tent run by those cute organic farmers in Market Square, take naps and drink beer. And who doesn’t like naps and beer? Terrorists, that’s who. When you’re a bad driver, the terrorists win.