Tag Archives: driving

Left turn yield on green

left turn.jpeg

Virginia drivers are not particularly bad, but there is one thing I’ve noticed that drives me just nuts: they seem to refuse to make a left turn on a green light (no green arrow), even when there is no opposing traffic; even when there is a sign above the light that says “Left turn yield on green.” What’s with that?

I learned to drive in L.A. In L.A. you creep out into the intersection in the left hand turn lane, until your car is completely in the intersection. If there is no opposing traffic, you make your turn. If there is traffic, you wait until the light changes and the traffic stops and then make your turn. In parts of New York, some people will make the left turn as soon as the light turns green, jumping ahead of the opposing traffic. (In New Jersey, there’s no such thing as a left turn.)

But in Virginia, the cars don’t creep into the intersection, they make no effort at turning when the traffic is clear. They just sit there until they have a green arrow. I suppose there is a certain safety in this, but it is almost like they don’t understand the sign that’s sitting right in front of them. It’s not really a big deal one way or the other, but it’s one thing about Virginia drivers that I’ve found to be generally consistent and generally annoying.

California bans cell phone use for teens

Yes, the sunshine Golden state has passed a law which goes into effect in July that bans teens from using cell phones while driving.

It’s amusing to look at how various states and municipalities tackle this problem. First, it was that using one hand to manipulate a phone was dangerous. Now, even talking on the phone is distracting to teens. I wonder if they will ban teen talking period. I could dig that.

While I believe cell phones are a distraction while driving, I don’t believe that the distraction cannot be overcome by better training. In fact, auto accidents could be greatly reduced by better driver training. But it probably won’t happen because it’s too expensive. Of course, so are accidents.

It took a minimum 40 hours of flight training to get my private pilot’s license (I think I had 52 hours when I got mine). A portion of that goes to the basics of flight, another portion goes to weather, another to navigation. But a sizable portion goes to what’s called ADM and cabin resource management. ADM, or aeronautical decision making teaches situational awareness. How to be aware of your surroundings. How to focus on multiple tasks at the same time. Cabin resource management is how about how to efficiently manage those tasks in the flight environment.

Granted, there are not as many planes in the air as cars on the ground, but in a busy airspace like Los Angeles (where I flew), things could get dicey. You have to be able to pay attention to half a dozen things or more at the same time–including talking on the radio. At any given moment (kevnyc might recall from his one flight with me) you have to listen for your call sign, look for landmarks, watch for other aircraft, keep an eye on 6 key instruments, chat with your buddy in the seat next to you–oh yeah, and fly the airplane. ADM and cabin resource management teach you how to do this in a way that makes sense. One example: the first rule of flying is aviate, navigate, communicate. That is, fly the airplane first; know where you are and where you are going; and then, when there is time, talk to the control tower.

It seems to me that some sort of equivalent should be taught for driving a car. When I took drivers ed, back in 1986-87, I was never taught any such thing. Instead, I was taught how to merge with traffic. How to come to a smooth “California roll” at a stop sign. How to to parallel park. These days, with GPS’s, cell phone and all of the other gadgets we put in our cars, there are plenty of things to distract us. But instead of teaching us how to properly manage those distractions, we are taught to eliminate them instead. This is bad because from a practical standpoint, no kid is going to stop talking on a cell phone while driving just because there is a law that says they should. Especially for a $20 fine. If that were the case, we would never see teenagers speeding.

So while I think that cell phones are a distraction to driving, I think the proposed solutions have been and will continue to be ineffective because they don’t address to the core issue: better training.

5 years in the Washington area

Today, August 1, 2007, marks the 5-year anniversary of my time in the metropolitan Washington, D.C. area. In some ways, the time has zoomed by. Nevertheless, though I arrived in the D.C. area a few days before August 1, 2002, it was not until August 1 that I had my first official day of work in this office, and since August 1 is a nice, round number, I use it as my official anniversary date.

On an interesting note, during these past five years, I’ve never driven my car into the office–a striking difference when compared to the 8 years of constant commuting from Studio City to Santa Monica. Whereas I was driving around 16,000 miles/year in L.A., I have averaged 6,000 miles/year here in the D.C. area.

110,000 miles

Yesterday, my 1997 Saturn passed the 110,000 mile mark. Today, as I pulled into the driveway after work, the odometer read exactly 110,011, which has a nice symmetry to it, and also happens to be the number 51 if you convert it from binary to decimal.

It amounts to about 9,400 miles/year. Keep in mind, however, that I had about 85,000 miles when I moved out to Washington. So in the first six year, I averaged about 14,000 miles/year. In the last 5 years I’ve averaged 5,000 miles/year.

And as a side note, I have the first stomach ache I’ve had in a couple of months.

Lazy Nanuet Sunday

I was up at 7 AM and everyone else was up shortly after 8 AM. After various showers, we decided to head over to Friendly’s for breakfast. Eric and Ryane headed home around 11 AM. I debated when I was going to leave and finally decided that I would wait until Vicky got back from her work meeting she had Sunday afternoon. Norm, Vicky and I lazed around until Vicky headed into work, and then Norm and I headed over to Dave and Busters. I’d never been to a Dave and Busters before, and so I really didn’t know what to expect. It is a kind of Chuck-e-Cheese for grown-ups. One of the games I played three times was Sega’s Airline Pilot Simulator, which allowed you to fly an airliner. It was a pretty good simulation. I played all three levels, beginner, intermediate, and advanced, and I managed to successfully takeoff and land the airplane each time. Norm played Police 9-1-1- and was frustrated because the game did not seem properly calibrated.

I had a snack at the mall and then we headed back to Norm and Vicky’s place and waited for Vicky to get home. She got home at about 4 PM and I got on the road at about 4:15 PM.

It was absolutely miserable driving home. It rained most of the way, and at times the visibility was down to almost nothing. I was tired. Also, there was once again about an hour’s worth of traffic in Delaware so that while I left Norm and Vicky’s at 4:15 PM, I didn’t get home until about 9:40 PM. All-in-all, however, it was a fun weekend and as always, I had a really good visit.

I received the December/January 2007 issue of ANALOG in the mail this weekend. It had the conclusion (part 4) of Robert J. Sawyer’s serialized novel, Rollback and I am anxious to read it in the next day or so. Also in the mail was the latest issue of F&SF.

I’m getting ready for bed now. Working from home tomorrow…

Pull over

About a month ago, I complained about all of the people running stop signs in my neighborhood. This morning, I was sitting in the front yard, reading, and I noticed that two local police cars were pulled into some trees at the end of my street, by the park. I was curious and so I watched. In the space of one hour, those cops pulled over 3 cars for running the stops signs at the end of my street. One of the cars didn’t have plates and the driver apparently didn’t have a license–and the car was towed.

It’s a small thing, I know, but it was satisfying for me to see the police enforcing the rules at this particular intersection.


In the 18 years 1 month and 1 day that I have been driving a car, I have not received so much as parking ticket. Until yesterday. Yesterday evening, while racing to the airport (after being stuck in traffic) to meet my Dad’s flight, I got picked up on laser doing 50 in a 35 zone. It was completely and totally my fault and I expected to be ticketed for speeding. Lucky for me, the officer let me go with a written warning. In Maryland, a warning is just that–no fine, no points–just a record that I was stopped. So my own record stays in tact. For now.