Tuesday, June 24, 2008

High gas prices change little on parkway

Happy Tuesday. Yesterday, I was happily sitting in New Britain, watching the Rock Cats choke up a fur ball against a New Hampshire team just a little less hapless. But it was fun watching the game with granddaughter and son-in-law Mike, who really does know a lot about baseball.

More about minor-league baseball later in the week.

Today's subject is driving, drivers, gas prices and the millions of words spewed by the blond and banal (otherwise known as TV journalists) about how high gas prices are changing driving habits.

This blog also makes some suggestions. You listening, Dick Roy?

To that, I say B-A-L-O-N-E-Y! (Remember, this blog is rated PG).

Last week, friend wife and I had occasion to drive from New Haven to New York, to Norwalk, back to New York one day and from New Haven to Norwalk the next.

Our experience: Nothing, not a blamed thing, has changed.

Drivers are still flying along, one to a car. We drove both during rush hour and so-called normal traffic.

On the Wilbur Cross and Merritt parkways (same road, different names), drivers still were speeding, passing on the right, accelerating onto the highway as if there were no car about to reach their position, forcing the car on the road to swerve if the left lane was open or slam on the brakes if it wasn't.

The amount of rudeness and selfishness has not changed. When a lane is blocked, and most drivers have formed a single line to pass the obstruction (mostly trucks blocking a lane to ensure the safety of mowers), there are always few who are too precious to wait their turn with the rest of us. They rush forward and then wheedle their way into the waiting line of traffic.

It's amazing to me that anyone lets them back into the lane. What they are doing not only is infuriating, it lengthens the wait for the rest of us. There should be a law.

Suggestion: : At most of these blockages, there is a state worker sitting in the truck that is blocking the lane. That person should be safely placed in a position where he or she can write down the registration plate numbers of those who are too precious to wait in line with the rest of us. Letters should be sent to those people, warning them that the next time they are caught, they will be fined. The General Assembly should pass a law to enable that, if there is not an applicable statute.

The fines should be stiff enough to be a disincentive.

Next on the list: speeding. Look, I'm not one of these nutcases who accelerates painfully slowly to save gas, and I have been known to drive with the flow of traffic (any cop or trooper will tell you privately that this is the safest way for traffic to flow).

But there are people driving sports sedans, SUVs, wagons, minivans, and even Priuses flying along the highways doing 80 mph or faster. There was one genius Friday about 5 p.m. in heavy traffic driving a Mustang. He would accelerate heavily, change lanes, move up 20 yards, slam on the brakes, and sit in traffic. He repeated this process 12 times the I saw.

By the way, Dick Roy (that's Rep. Richard F. Roy of Milford, the impetus behind the least-obeyed law in state history, the statute that makes it unlawful to talk on a hand-held cell phone while driving), sometimes it is hard to find a car where the driver is NOT talking on a hand-held cell phone. I guess people think you're not serious about the law because nothing is being done about other distractions.

There are food driver-thrus, where drivers pick up sandwiches and snacks they can eat while driving. I have seen people reading, writing, eating, putting on make-up and shaving, among other activities you would not believe, while driving. As any long-haul trucker about what he has seen people doing while driving. As long as people consider their cars to be extensions of their homes, we are just spinning our wheels, so to speak.

Polite driving in New York City: fahgettaboutit. In Washington Heights, double-parking is rampant. Not only cars, but vans, small buses, "My Ride" handicapped-access vans, you name it, double-parking on narrow streets. And what do the other drivers, who are stuck behind them do? They lean on their horns. There is nobody in the double-parked cars, but the waiting drivers blow their horns -- right under the sign that tells about the $300 fine for doing it.

There was one instance where a large vehicle double-parked. The traffic behind it passed it, going into the opposite lane, for minutes at a time. Never mind there were drivers in the other lane whose lane was not blocked. They were important; the others were not.

Anyway, in my two-day survey, I have to say that the high price of gas has only made two changes: It has increased business for gas-station owners who priced their gas a few cents a gallon less than the competition and it has given the blond and banal something to be wrong about.

What's been your experience? Just leave a comment at the end of this posting.

Until next time...

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