Archive for Sunday, September 6, 2009

Motor myths debunked

Is using a center turn lane to merge with traffic illegal? It isn’t, but that’s not what they’re there for, city officials say.

Is using a center turn lane to merge with traffic illegal? It isn’t, but that’s not what they’re there for, city officials say.

September 6, 2009

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Just because you have a driver’s license doesn’t mean you obey — or even know — all the rules.

David Corliss is convinced that even the most certain of edicts can, at times, take on an entirely different meaning depending on who’s doing the transportational translating.

“Red means stop,” said Corliss, Lawrence city manager. “It’s not ‘gun it to the floor.’”

As drivers are on the highways this holiday weekend, perhaps the time is right to address a few less-obvious questions that tend to pop up every now and then in transportation circles — things that drivers think might be true, or wonder whether they’re serious, or even why something works the way it does.

Call them motor myths.

“One of the myths is that streets heal themselves,” Corliss said, chuckling at the absurdity of the thought. “That’s not the way it works.”

Some other myths that aren’t quite so easily dismissed:

No shoes, no dice?

You’ve heard it before, perhaps from a friend. Or your mom. Or the driver’s ed teacher all those years ago: Driving barefoot is against the law.

Not true.

“In Kansas, there is no law against driving barefoot,” said Capt. Art Wilburn of the Kansas Highway Patrol. “We don’t encourage it, but there’s no law against it.”

Wilburn knows of no laws in any state that would prohibit shoeless driving.

“I don’t know where that idea came from,” Wilburn said. “It’s one of those urban legends, or urban myths. But we don’t encourage it. Your feet would stay more uniformly on the brake pedal or accelerator if you use some type of footwear.”

And, no, wearing flip-flops or high heels isn’t illegal, either.

Front-seat Fido

Driving with a pet in the front seat may not look all that safe — that dog really shouldn’t be licking its owner’s face behind the wheel, should it? — but it’s not necessarily illegal, either.

But don’t start wagging too many tails just yet.

“Technically, if an animal were in the car running around and interfering with the driver’s ability to see or maintain control of the vehicle, it could be,” said Wilburn, citing a law that prohibits vehicles from being loaded with too many people. “Then again, you’d have to prove that it was interfering with the driver’s ability to maintain control.”

Such a citation would bring a $30 fine and $86 in court costs.

Center-lane directions

Plenty of streets in Lawrence have center turn lanes — Sixth and Iowa streets among them — and it’s not unusual to see drivers turn into them from off one side, accelerating until they can safely merge into traffic.

While that’s not what they’re for, the traffic pattern is not expressly illegal, said Sgt. Bill Cory, of the Lawrence Police Department.

“It appears to be legal,” Cory said.

Not that it should be, said Chuck Soules, the city’s director of public works, whose department sees that such lanes are installed properly.

“It’s not a driving lane,” Soules said. “You’re supposed to get over and, within a short distance, merge into the appropriate lane. I saw one guy drive at least three blocks in one. That’s not the intent.”

Pothole payment

Drivers frustrated after hitting a pothole at times seek reimbursement for what’s often even more frustrating: the bill for taking the car in for an alignment.

But can the city be forced to reimburse a driver for such an expense?

That depends, said Corliss, the city’s former director of legal services. As a general rule, cities in Kansas follow what’s known as a safe streets doctrine.

“One of the important provisions of the law, as it’s developed, is in order for a municipality to be held liable for a defect in a street, such as a pothole, we have to be placed on notice,” Corliss said. “Someone needs to have told the city that that defect exists.

“That’s also one of the reasons we have a pothole hot line: We want to know where those situations are so we can fix the situation.”

To report a pothole, call 832-3456. City crews review reports and make appropriate repairs as soon as possible, Corliss said.

Anyone interested in filing a claim against the city for damage to a car caused by a pothole may contact the city’s Risk Management Division, at 832-3010.

“If the pothole caused damage to a vehicle, and we knew about that pothole and didn’t fix it, there’s an argument that we have responsibility for fixing the damage,” Corliss said. “But in most cases, we’re finding out about the pothole with the claim.”

Big Brother isn’t watching

Back to Corliss’ original “myth”: Drivers understand that “red means stop.”

Many drivers, he said, mistakenly identify the small video cameras atop certain traffic signals as being capable of snagging them for running red lights.

Not so.

The cameras are not so-called “red light” cameras, which are used in places such as Kansas City, Mo., to photograph vehicles as they run red lights, then lead to a citation mailed to the car owner’s home.

Instead, the cameras at some Lawrence intersections merely detect when traffic is waiting for a light to change, then notify the signal’s controller that it should react accordingly. A green light could come sooner, for example.

“It’s there to help,” Corliss said.

Other intersections have smaller camera-like equipment designed to allow emergency vehicles to change signals so that fire trucks, ambulances and other apparatus can get to their destinations as quickly as possible.

Comments

jafs 8 years, 9 months ago

Yes,

The city should be issuing many more tickets for driving incorrectly in a variety of ways.

And, I think it's kind of absurd that you have to "notify" them about potholes individually - don't city employees have eyes?

As they walk, bike, and drive around the city, can't they see the potholes?

classclown 8 years, 9 months ago

“One of the myths is that streets heal themselves,” Corliss said, chuckling at the absurdity of the thought. “That’s not the way it works.”

======================================

That myth only exists withing the confines of city government. The citizens of this town have been trying to explain that to them for years to no avail.

gsxr600 8 years, 9 months ago

Besides the aforementioned "myths", what bothers me most are double line crossings and wearing headphones as you drive.

tomatogrower 8 years, 9 months ago

I saw someone run a red light right in front of an officer, and they did nothing. I should have taken the numbers of the police car and complained, but I was so flabbergasted, I didn't react fast enough. Maybe people wouldn't run red lights, if the police would make them pay the fines. It doesn't seem to matter to these people that they are putting others at risk, so maybe hitting their bank accounts would get their attention.

puddleglum 8 years, 9 months ago

here is one that is not a myth at all.....the stoplight at 6th and congressional has been changed back to super sensitive for any cars approaching from the sides ie- north or southbound cars stop at the light and the light immediately changes-stopping twenty cars on 6th street (coming down a hill if eastbound-very dangerous) and staying red for FAR too long. it seems this stop light is constantly being 'tweaked' back and forth from whatever is safe (cars on the main road ie-6th street aka us 40 having the right of way) and whatever some new tenant to the north with a lot of influence and a giant parking lot wants-all traffic to stop so some of their customers can get across 6th street and bypass the 6th & wakarusa intersection by cutting through neighborhoods (not safe) and why is there a flashing yellow turnsignal for the left lane at this intersection and nowhere else in the city.....like at 6th and stoneridge? You would think there would be a flashing yellow at stoneridge, so all the traffic coming off of the k-10/us-40 junction doesn't have to arrive in town and stop at an empty intersection, watching the one minivan cruise thru......huh.

bad_dog 8 years, 9 months ago

"“One of the important provisions of the law, as it’s developed, is in order for a municipality to be held liable for a defect in a street, such as a pothole, we have to be placed on notice,” Corliss said. “Someone needs to have told the city that that defect exists."

And that is the very reason some trial lawyers in New York set up a corporation with employees that travel the city streets and sidewalks looking for defects. They spot them, send a certified letter to the city and wait for an accident, injury or damage to occur.

topflight 8 years, 9 months ago

rdragon, this article was not for Commercial Motor Vehicles. This was aimed at the general public. The general mtoring public are not required to understand the Commercial Federal Regulations.

average 8 years, 9 months ago

Puddleglum -

There are at least 5 other flashing-yellow (left turn permitted but unguarded) signals in town. There will be more. The Federal Highway Administration has made it their recommended signal for that situation, but only in the last few years.

Leslie Swearingen 8 years, 9 months ago

I've often wondered how the buses, T and KU factor in time at stop lights. Occasionally I have been on a bus that makes every red light.

LogicMan 8 years, 9 months ago

"There are at least 5 other flashing-yellow (left turn permitted but unguarded) signals in town. There will be more. The Federal Highway Administration has made it their recommended signal for that situation, but only in the last few years."

I like them, so far. Hopefully no one will turn in front of me (or you) when having the green and coming from the other direction!

average 8 years, 9 months ago

If you want a heads-up on the next trick up the highway engineer's sleeve, check out the 'diverging diamond' highway interchange that opened in Springfield, MO this summer. There will be a few of them in KCMO in the next few years.

eotw33 8 years, 9 months ago

What about driving 20 mph under the speed limit? That should be illegal

MaryKatesPillStash 8 years, 9 months ago

I love the diverging diamond! It may be tricky for some to grasp, as it involves driving on the opposite side of the road for those making a through-movement, but they do eliminate many conflict points.

roger_o_thornhill 8 years, 9 months ago

It seems to me that people generally believe many other traffic myths than those listed here. Many more dangerous.
There are too many people issued driver's licenses. Way too many. There should be at least 33% fewer licenses issued across the country. Maybe like 50% fewer in Kansas. The idea that someone should be allowed to drive because "How else'r they gonna git to work and stuff" is Bull. I don't care if you are from East Bumblefuk, Kansas--if you can't drive you shouldn't be allowed. And many, MANY people with licenses cannot drive. Anyone who didn't know the answer to every question in the article shouldn't be given a license. Anyone who cannot pass the written test without the book should not be given a license. Anyone who cannot pass a driving test on the first try should not be given a license. Anyone who ever is convicted on DUI charge...etc... It isn't just your life you risk by being a bad driver! If there were 50% fewer drivers, just think of all the money they could contribute to a transit system since, without a license, they would have no need to buy a car. Oh well, I forget, driving is one of those unalienable rights...whatever.

Susan Mangan 8 years, 9 months ago

Roger...you forgot "Everyone who thinks they are the best driver in the world and everyone else sucks and shouldn't be allowed to drive!" If we got rid of those, 95% of the roads would be clear.

hartk678 8 years, 9 months ago

I, too, like the diverging diamond interchange. I've been through the on in Springfield several times and was amazed at how fast I got through them even during heavy traffic. If that level of traffic had been at a normal off-ramp interchange I would have had to wait on the ramp for the light to change several times before I entered the intersection.

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