Sunday, January 27, 2008

Highway hijinks

On the way to work a few days ago, I was minding my own business in the right lane of a 4-lane divided highway. I became aware of a bright green late-model Ford Mustang (pre-2005 model) behind me in the left lane slowly catching up. Directly behind the Mustang was a Chevrolet Express cargo van from an electrical supply company. I noticed in my rear view mirror that the Mustang suddenly slowed down for no apparent reason. Then I saw the van whip into the right lane and cut off a BMW X5, whose driver flashed her high-beam headlights at the van.

Then as the van started to pass the Mustang on the right, the Mustang accelerated. I realized now that the Mustang driver had deliberately slammed on his brakes to frustrate the tailgating van driver. Now the two were in a race of sorts to get ahead of one another with me dead ahead in the right lane. Fortunately, the van backed off and passed me on the left behind the Mustang. Then after passing me, the van driver returned to the right lane and this time was able to go around the Mustang.

I caught up to the Mustang at the next red light. The car looked to be in immaculate condition with shiny aluminum wheels. The driver appeared to be around 50 or so, with a beard, and casually dressed. The kicker was the car's vanity plate. It read 1 NT2PSH, that is "one not to push!" So does this guy purposely "camp" in the left lane just to annoy drivers who get on his rear end?

Signs, signs, everywhere a sign (continued)

On the way home from work on Friday, I decided to count the number of road signs on my usual route. The trip length is about 12.5 miles, including 10 miles on major 4-lane divided highways, 2 miles on residential or rural 2-lane roads, and a half mile on the driveway at my place of work.

On the first stretch, after leaving my employer's driveway, I counted only 6 signs -- 2 speed limit signs, 2 stop signs, and 2 "stop ahead" signs. Once I entered the 4-lane highways, it was a very different story. I counted 97 signs! This does not include standard street name signs, commercial or business signs, or double-counting the same signs when they appear on both the left and right sides of the roadway. I encountered everything from speed limit signs and "signal ahead" and "crossroad ahead" signs to silly signs like "littering is illegal" (does anyone not realize it's illegal?) and "keep Virginia green." I did not count signs not facing in my direction, such as the numerous red and white "wrong way" signs or the "one way" signs facing vehicles entering from side roads or business parking lots.

When I turned onto the residential/collector road leading to my subdivision, I encountered only 8 signs, including speed limit and bridge load limit signs, a "neighborhood watch" sign, and a curve/intersection warning sign. In my subdivision itself, there are no signs heading in the direction toward my house.

All I can conclude is we really ought to consider cutting the clutter and retaining only the most meaningful signs. Otherwise, one just tends to tune out ALL of the signs, especially if you've been traveling the same route for over 15 years like me.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Only one more year!

It's now only a year before George W. Bush leaves office! It looks like his infamous legacy will now include a recession.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Signs, signs, everywhere a sign!

Here's a great example of way too many signs. This photo was taken near my home in central Virginia, but some states like Pennsylvania are even worse. Look at the confusion caused by having so many highway and commercial signs in very close proximity. One of my "favorites" is the "slippery when wet" sign -- isn't every road more slippery when wet OR if this segment is particularly slippery, why doesn't the state department of transportation fix the pavement? I also love those "signal ahead" signs placed just ahead of the traffic signal. If you can't see the signal, you're certainly not going to notice the sign! And this signal is in an obviously congested area and only 2 miles from the last signal. Talk about unnecessary expense and clutter!

See this for another take on the same subject from the BBC.