Posts Tagged ‘road safety’

How To Navigate A Traffic Circle / Roundabout

5 Road Traffic Circle at Mackenzie Towne

Pictured above is the traffic circle located in Mackenzie Towne. While most of the “traffic circles” in Calgary are of the miniature single lane traffic calming variety, this one is a dual lane version connecting five roads together. The traffic circle was built not only to move traffic more efficiently than intersections with traffic lights, but also to move the traffic in the area with a higher degree of safety. With traffic all going in the same direction, head-on collisions and right angle (t-bone) accidents are prevented. The environmental benefits are there too since there are no cars stopped at red lights with the use of a traffic circle.

Thats great! properly designed roadways to handle traffic is a rarity in Calgary. Just look at how many new “interchanges” have lights. Mackenzie Towne residents know the real reason why the city prefers to build interchanges/intersections with traffic lights. Many drivers don’t know how to properly navigate a traffic circle! When uneducated stupid drivers enter the traffic circle and drive all the way around the circle in the right lane oblivious to the drivers honking at them, the traffic circle goes from efficient roadway to fancy looking roadway with long queue of cars waiting to get through.

This handy little guide is for all the frustrated drivers out in Mackenzie Towne who are sick of drivers that don’t know how to navigate a traffic circle. Hopefully people will read this post and share it with people they know who drive in the area.

1. Before arriving at the traffic circle, figure out which exit you will be taking as it will determine which lane you should use. You may actually use either lane but we’ll get into that later. Traffic flows counter clockwise in the traffic circle, so on this particular traffic circle there are 4 exits, and 5 technically if you want to go back the way you came from. If you plan on exiting on the first 2 exits, you’ll want the right lane. For exits 3 and 4 (or 5), you should be in the left lane.

2. Drivers in the left lane inside the circle have the right of way. Drivers in the right lane inside the circle should be exiting the circle. In point 1, I mentioned that you could use either lane to navigate the circle but that the left lane should be used if you are heading to an exit that is past the 2nd one. If you chose to use the right lane, you MUST yield to traffic that is in the left lane that need to exit the circle.

3. When entering the circle, wait for cars to pass and enter. If you are in the left lane, stay in your lane and go to the inside lane of the circle. When you reach the exit you want, stay in your lane when exiting. Remember, you have the right of way and traffic in the right lane should be yielding to you. If you entered from the right lane, exit the circle in your own lane. If you want to proceed past an exit, simply yield to traffic in the left lane that may be exiting and continue through to your exit.

That’s all there is to it! If you find everything all too confusing try to remember this:
1. Cars on the inside lane of the circle (left lane) have right of way
2. Cars on the outside lane of the circle (right lane) must yield to cars on the inside of circle who are exiting
3. When exiting the circle, stay in your lane

It’s great that the City of Calgary is looking at ways to improve our roadway system both for drivers and for pedestrians, but in this case I feel there needs to be a stronger educational campaign involving driving schools. Perhaps the test should include a quick trip to the traffic circle in Mackenzie Towne!

Feel free to add anything that was missed by leaving a comment to this post. Also, if you feel any of this is inaccurate, please share!

Alberta to ban cellphones with no ‘proof’ it works

The provincial Tories are pushing ahead with distracted
driving legislation with no proof such bans reduce collisions,
says Alberta Transportation Minister Luke Ouellette.

Toyota to conduct safety tests on all SUV models

Toyota Motor said on Thursday it would conduct safety tests on all its sport utility models after a report claiming that a handling problem in a new version Lexus put drivers at risk of rollover accidents.

The Dangerous Machine

Imagine if you will a machine that almost anyone can buy and operate. You read the training manual, practice it’s use under the supervision of someone who is also a user and has some proficiency of it’s operation. Finally, you take a test to see if you too have basic proficiency in it’s operation. If you pass, the supervisor lets you use the machine with minimal oversight as you see fit.

Over time, the machine is upgraded with new functions and capabilities. The circumstances that you use it in also change gradually. More machines are present in the area where you work and others use them to do more work more quickly.

Some safety rules are developed for your protection, but they are not always fully communicated to you so that you learn them. In fact, you are allowed to make mistakes or deliberately misuse the machine with only minimal consequences. If you really mess up or make a large number of mistakes you may have to quit using the machine for a while. You don’t lose your job or even have to upgrade your skills.

These machines kill one person a day and injure hundreds of others. No one gets too upset unless these people are friends or family, after all, the costs for this are spread over us all and we pay an amount for it each year regardless of whether we cause the problem or not.

If I were actually describing a machine in your workplace you might refuse to use it or go on strike until your employer made safety improvements. Why don’t we get excited when the machine is our own motor vehicle?

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Trucker’s Top 5 Driving Pet Peeves

I asked a couple of transport truck drivers what bothered them about the drivers of small vehicles. We had a lively half hour discussion from which I gathered their top five concerns. Each of them could have serious consequences for everyone on the highway.

The first two concern sudden reductions in speed. The small vehicle driver will either pass the transport truck, pull in suddenly, and then slow down, or just slow suddenly without taking note of the truck behind. When you consider that a fully loaded truck with all the air brakes properly adjusted has only 50 to 65% of a small vehicles braking efficiency, you can guess how dangerous this move could be.

Passing over a double solid line when drivers are impatient with trucks forced to travel slowly is next. Often there is oncoming traffic and nowhere to go for all vehicles involved. The truckers would travel the speed limit on hills if they could, but they can’t so it would be best to wait for the proper place to pass.

On multi-laned roadway slow drivers that won’t keep to the right are frustrating. This situation isn’t limited to truck drivers either. People need to realize that even if they are traveling at the speed limit in the inside lane if someone faster approaches they must move to the outside lane.

The last situation is where drivers of small vehicles follow along directly beside heavy trucks. There is no law against this one, but it is not a good idea to do this with any vehicle. If either driver is required to make an emergency maneuver there is nowhere to move to. Pacing slightly ahead or behind is the preferred method.

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How To Survive Winter Driving In Calgary

With every new snowfall, at least 70-80 car accidents occur within the city. I shouldn’t even be calling these “accidents” as many of these collisions are avoidable. I have driven through Calgary winters in all sorts of vehicles: those that are equipped with a rear-wheel, front-wheel and all-wheel drivetrain. I have also driven in cars equipped with all-seasons as well as winter tires. Despite what you may hear, vehicles of all types can be driven in the winter, it is all about equipping your vehicle with proper tires and most importantly, driving for the conditions.

1. Get winter tires.
This is one of the most important things to consider if you drive regularly in the winter. The most common argument I hear from people that don’t have winters on their car is that they have the best all-season tires and they have never had any issues driving with them. They’ve never been stuck and don’t feel that the cost of winter tires is worth it. The fact is, with all-else being equal, a vehicle equipped with winter tires will have more traction than a vehicle equipped with all-seasons. This additional traction allows you to accelerate quicker, corner faster, and stop in shorter distance. You may drive with the utmost care and attention but one factor you cannot control is other people. If someone cuts you off, the few extra feet of braking distance that winter tires reduce could make all the difference.

2. Ease up on the brakes
The roads are slick and you’re trying to turn onto a side street. You apply the brakes and you feel the car sliding. You turn the steering wheel but the car doesn’t respond, its just sliding and you feel like you’ve lost control. What most people will do in this situation is crank the wheel even more as they slide past the street where they are trying to turn. Worst case scenario, you slide into an intersection and get hit by another vehicle. If this ever happens to you, try easing off the brakes instead of cranking your wheel more. During that moment where the most common instinct is to turn the wheel more your foot will naturally want to apply more brakesto slow the vehicle down. The problem is, on slick winter streets applying the brakes wont make the car stop, it will just make turning more difficult.

3. Ease up on the accelerator
Back during the big storm on December 4th when all the roads across the city were ice rinks, I saw people trying to get their cars going spinning their tires away. On every hill this just became outright dangerous. If you try to get your car going and it just slides from side to side, your tires are spinning. The key to trying to get going in this situation is to ease up on the throttle. If you drive an automatic, just let go of the accelerator completely and let the car roll on its own to get going. I know, this sounds really obvious but next snowfall I can guarantee you’ll see someone spinning their wheels away trying to get going.

The second part to this is when you’re already moving. Those speed limit signs have a very important word above the number. It says ‘Maximum’. It does not mean you should be travelling at that speed even when the roads are covered in ice. Don’t feel you need to be travelling at the speed limit. If someone is tailgating you, and you aren’t already in the right lane then move over and let them pass.

4. Avoid any sudden movements
This applies to steering, accelerating and braking. If you stomp on the accelerator on slick roads, you’ll just spin your wheels. Likewise, if you stomp on your brakes while on an icy road you’ll either lock your wheels up and slide or ABS will go crazy and you slide a bit less. Crank your wheel suddenly and you’ll upset the balance of your car and depending on how slick the roads are, may throw your vehicle into a spin. Ease onto the throttle, the brakes and steer gently.

5. Pack a Winter Safety Kit
As much as you prepare, and as safe as you try to be on the roads, SHIT HAPPENS. In the event you are in a collision you’ll want to ensure you have a safety/survival kit. If you’ve ever had car trouble in winter, you’ll know how fast your car cools down when its not running. In -20 or colder weather, it’ll take mere minutes for your cars interior temperature to plunge to below 0. The most important thing to have in your vehicle is a jacket. You may be coming out of a heated garage and be in a toasty car, but if you’re ever in a collision where your car is no longer running, you’ll wish you had something to keep you warm. Here are some essential items you should have in your vehicle when driving in the winter:

Ice scraper
Small shovel
Booster Cables
Warning Light/Flare
Windshield Washer Fluid
Metal Cans/Dishes

Of course, if you all you do is drive within the city during the winter you won’t need much more than a blanket, jacket, booster cables and windshield washer fluid but I’d recommend having some sort of survival kit in your vehicle if you ever do any highway driving.

Driving in the winter is no different than driving in the summer. As long as you are paying attention, your vehicle is equipped properly and you are driving carefully it should not be a problem. If you have a fear of driving in the winter, do everyone a favor and take public transit or ask for a ride.

The Brake Check

The sign says “Trucks, Stop Here, Check Brakes, Steep Hill Ahead.” Ask almost anyone and they would likely tell you that this sign only applies to heavy commercial trucks equipped with air brakes. This is not the case however, the sign applies to all trucks with a licensed Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) of more than 5,500 kg. regardless of brake system type. It could include everything from a truck tractor to a pickup pulling an RV.

Advisory signs posted at the brake check site tell drivers of vehicles equipped with hydraulic brake systems that they must check pedal pressure, brake assist, that there are no fluid leaks and that the brake drums are not overheated. Pedal pressure is tested by applying the brakes and holding them applied. The pedal must not be spongy or slowly depress. Turn the engine off, pump the brake pedal to deplete the assist, hold the pedal down and start the engine again. If assist is working properly you will feel the pedal rise slightly.

Are you towing a trailer equipped with brakes? Disconnect the vacuum lines, pull the pin on the electric switch or the lever on the surge brake to activate the breakaway brake. Try to drive ahead and the trailer wheels should lock.

In addition to checking for hydraulic fluid leaks, it would be wise to check fluid levels in the master cylinder as well. Some master cylinder leaks are hidden when the brake fluid leaks into the vacuum assist chamber and is pulled into the engine and burned rather than appearing as a visible leak.

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Railway Crossing Etiquette

Using proper caution at railway crossings is something that all drivers must remember, because the train will not stop for you. It is easy to forget if you use a crossing regularly but don’t often meet a train. The following information may help you avoid “running into” a train.

Where do you stop? Your vehicle must be stopped within 15 metres, and no less than 5 metres from the nearest rail.

When do you stop? You must stop if an electrical or mechanical signal, or a flagman is giving warning. You must also stop if a crossing gate is being lowered, or if a train is within 500 metres, or is travelling at such a speed that it is an immediate hazard. Of course, you must obey a stop sign posted at the crossing.

It is an offence to pass a barrier at a railway crossing when it is closed, or if it is being closed or opened. It is also an offence to approach a railway crossing without using caution.

Drivers of vehicles carrying poisons, explosives or flammables, and drivers of buses or school buses carrying passengers must stop at all uncontrolled railway crossings, even if a train is not approaching. The driver must look both ways and listen for an approaching train. If it is safe to proceed, the driver must cross the tracks without shifting gears, and must not stop over the tracks.

Finally, beware of crossings where there is more than one set of tracks. If a train appears to be stopped at the crossing remember it could be waiting for another train to pass on the other set of tracks. If you drive across the tracks without checking the second crossing you could be struck by the other train.

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If You Can’t See, You Can’t Go!

A reader writes to me describing an intersection where collisions occur regularly, some resulting in fatalities. He has observed that the opposing left turn lanes in one direction don’t line up directly across from each other but are offset by a few feet. The result is that through traffic in one direction is more obscured by standing vehicles than it is in the other. To complicate matters, one direction has a protected left turn signal and the other direction does not.

The reader is sure that this highway design has contributed to collisions at the intersection and he wants to do something about it. He has written to the Ministry of Transportation suggesting that the lanes be repainted so that they line up directly across from each other. The Ministry has declined to do this stating that they would rather wait for the funding to install a protected turn arrow for the other direction.

Ideally, both should be done in the reader’s view and he was seeking advice on who to contact to try and effect the changes. He suggested ICBC and I would add the local MLA and city council to the list of people to try and influence. It would not be out of the question to have a service club fund an engineering report to support the request. I expect that could be accomplished without too much expense.

Regardless of the state of this intersection, one of the major problems here is left turn drivers who insist on turning even though they cannot see well enough to insure that their turn is safe. Simply put, if you can’t see, you can’t turn.

Enter the intersection and wait, wheels pointing straight ahead. If traffic volume doesn’t allow full view, wait for the light to turn red and after all traffic has stopped complete your left turn. You have right of way over all other traffic to clear the intersection if you do this. Also, ignore drivers behind you that would like to force the issue. They can wait for the next cycle of the light and follow your example.

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Hydroplaning Season

One of the great things about writing this column is that there is no end of inspiration when I travel on our highways. Today was no different with the first rains of autumn falling and few, if any, drivers around me making any changes in their travel speeds. Welcome to the start of hydroplaning season!

I’m sure that you are aware that hydroplaning occurs when your tires ride on top of the water on the roadway. When this happens, you no longer have steering or braking control and will continue in the direction you are moving in until the hydroplaning ends or something bad happens. Lifting your foot off of the accelerator and waiting to regain traction prior to braking or steering is the appropriate action to take.

The possibility of hydroplaning depends mainly on four things, tire tread depth, tire inflation, speed and the depth of the water on the roadway. You have total control over the first three and can estimate the threat of the fourth. Watch the traffic in front of you. If their tire tracks fill in quickly you know that there is a lot of water on the road and it’s time to slow down.

Another threat that you may not be aware of is water standing on or flowing across the roadway. If your front tires don’t strike the water at the same time or if the depth is uneven, unbalanced forces will occur. If one side of your vehicle is suddenly slowed by the contact, the tires on the other side may lose sufficient traction to cause a significant change in direction and loss of control. Higher speeds here could be deadly.

Slush on the roadway is even more dangerous than water. Known as viscous hydroplaning, this can occur at speeds lower than hydroplaning on liquid water alone.

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