Readers, I’m going to share with you a message that I sent to AAA spokesperson John Townsend on March 20 in reaction to his comments about a shocking ticket-issuing. Some of you may agree, some may disagree. But I need to put this out there because sentiments are high on both sides, and I want to know what you think. Let’s continue this dialog. Please see below:
Greetings! I politely disagree with your comments in this news story that this ticket is sending the wrong message to the public.
I think it’s sending exactly THE RIGHT message — one that we should have been sending for a very long time now — that it is completely unacceptable to impede traffic in the left lane.
Too much emphasis is on the fact that the lady was adhering to the speed limit and shouldn’t have been given a ticket. I’ll give that she was not exceeding the speed limit (I will come back to this in a minute). But, she was also impeding the flow of traffic, which is a much worse offense. The main reason is that it incites road rage — guaranteed every time. Drivers get very aggressive and start to jockey for position to go around her, which has the potential to cause many horrible/fatal accidents. Her actions were disturbing to what would ordinarily be a calm driving environment. Her actions created a hostile atmosphere that put everybody around in real danger. THIS KIND OF RECKLESS DRIVING IS THE REAL CAUSE OF TRAFFIC ACCIDENTS, NOT NECESSARILY DRIVING FASTER. Realizing this, AAA should support and speak out in defense of driving habits that are safe, not incitable.
Coming back to the point I was making earlier, the real problem is that we have traffic laws that are totally contradictory in this country. On one hand, we have laws that permit and encourage officers to issue tickets for “speeding” because “speeding” has been demonized and oversimplified as ”dangerous driving.” To support this, people drive the speed limit in all lanes and feel justified in doing so — after all, they are just obeying the law. On the other hand, we have always been taught that the left lane(s) should be preserved for those who are passing all traffic on the right. In order to obey this law, you will have to surpass the speed limit. Further, we also have laws that permit officers to issue tickets when drivers are impeding the flow of traffic. These contradictions make the whole ding dang proposition flawed! Who should be considered right under any of these circumstances???
To drive on certain European highways, drivers are required to take more classes to handle their cars SAFELY. They are trained to be better drivers, not simply penalized for driving faster. They support the mantra that highways were built to move people/goods in the most expedient way possible, so the unhindered flow is maintained by always urging slower traffic to keep to the right, regardless of speed. Consequently, there really is no speed limit. But they do have an advisory speed limit. European authorities are also more enlightened in that they realize the term “reckless driving” should be assigned to someone who is carelessly driving, not merely driving faster. You can adhere to lower speed limits and still kill/harm people due to inexperience and driving in ways that disregard the safety of all who are around! Hello, cellphones!
By saying this, however, please note I am not saying that higher speeds are not a contributing factor to worse accidents. I am also not saying that there should be no speed limits on U.S. highways. I am simply saying that U.S. authorities are causing major problems because they are contradicting themselves, oversimpifying the issue, and encouraging worsened traffic congestion by en/forcing everybody to drive slower because of lower highway speed limits. The focus on speed has been all wrong for too long! And the problem has gotten worse as populations have increased!
Rather than saying this ticket issuing sends the wrong message, how about looking at this using the Europeans’ model, which would argue that this woman’s actions were reckless and inconsiderate to all the other drivers on the road. And, if she wanted to drive slower to feel safer, she should just keep to the right. The solution to this problem is higher quality, continued driver training and enforcing the law that “slower traffic keep right” on our highways instead of issuing tickets to and demonizing those who are just trying to expediently get from Point A to Point B.
By the way, I am a Premium AAA member, I maintain a blog that discusses these and similar issues, and I passionately advocate for expedient travel that gets everyone from Point A to Point B SAFELY.
Nneka Jenkins (trafficfrustrationblog.com)
As of the writing of this blogpost, Mr. Townsend has not responded to this letter.
Traffic congestion is costing us more than just time spent idling in traffic. According to a report released by TRIP, Maryland’s roads are in desperate need of repair due to congestion delays and increasing traffic volume. Another cost of traffic congestion is road rage has been on a steady incline in recent years.
And there are other contributing factors that make the problem worse, such as Federal policies that keep us stuck in traffic, by incorrectly assessing the true causes of traffic congestion instead of earnestly dedicating the proper time and energy it will take to really understand the underlying problems. Not to mention the paradoxical prevailing attitude in the D.C. area that “someone should do something about the problem” but no one wants to pay for congestion relief.
According to Driven Apart: How sprawl is lengthening our commutes and why misleading mobility measures are making things worse, a report by CEOs for Cities and the Rockefeller Foundation, urban sprawl is another contributing factor of why we spend so much time in traffic. This report surmises that the length and grueling nature of our commutes is more a function of the way we build our cities versus how we have built our roads. This is a very interesting concept, indeed.
If we are ever going to solve this problem, there are several things we need to do: (1) we really need to stop wasting taxpayer money by funding/supporting studies that don’t assess the true causes of traffic congestion, (2) we also need to get real about the opportunity cost of fixing or at least lessening the effects of traffic congestion, (3) we need to concentrate support behind those projects that are assessing actual causes and effective solutions, and (4) we need to mobilize our local, state, and federal governments to develop sensible transportation policies (and adequate, responsible funding) backing those efforts.
This problem is costing us too much time out of our lives (literally), it is harming our health (i.e. high blood pressure, et al, due to road rage and general frustration), and it is costing us our overall sense of well-being — those tangible things that make life more tolerable, pleasurable, worth living — like time spent with spouses, kids, friends, and hobbies.
We need to stop ignoring the problem, stop being complacent about the problem, and actually do something about it. How do you view this issue? Are you ready and willing to finally take action?
Poll Measures Public Opinion on New Potomac River Bridge Construction, Higher Gas Taxes, and Raising Area Tolls
Earlier this month, WTOP Radio 103.5 FM announced the results of its first WTOP Beltway Poll of 2012, conducted by Heart and Mind Strategies, measuring public opinion on a number of “hot topic” transportation issues across the Washington metropolitan area.
The poll reveals strong support of new Potomac River bridge construction, support of funding for area transportation projects, and strong opposition to higher gas taxes. This comes in the wake of intense opposition to Governor O’Malley’s proposed gas tax hikes.
The WTOP Beltway Poll includes the following findings on transportation issues across the Washington metropolitan area:
•59% of residents across the region believe now is the time to increase funding for transportation projects to help promote job growth and regional benefits from improved transportation.
•Two-thirds of area residents (67%) across the region support the construction of a new bridge across the Potomac River to help ease area traffic congestion.
• Support for new bridge construction is strongest among Maryland residents at 69% compared to 65% in Virginia and 58% of those polled in The District.
•Despite the support for increased transportation funding, 78% of those polled oppose higher gas taxes.
•The question of increasing area tolls divided public opinion with 46% in favor and 52% opposed.
“This in-depth look at hotly contested transportation issues is the first of our 2012 series of WTOP Beltway polls. WTOP conducts the polling through our partnership with the respected Heart and Mind Strategies to compare and contrast the views of voters in Virginia, Maryland and DC,” said Mitch Miller, News Director, WTOP Radio. “We look forward to sharing in-depth analysis on a variety of important issues on WTOP Radio and WTOP.com.”
The WTOP Beltway Poll polled 551 participants in the WTOP listening area from February 20 – 23, 2012. The comprehensive findings of the WTOP Beltway Poll can be found online at www.WTOP.com.