Tuesday, August 24, 2004

The Dreaded Mark of U

My glorious return to LL&L also marks my 50th post so I decided to focus on one of the first laws I thought was completely crazy.

As I alluded to in Paths of Salt, my sense of direction is worse than blind lemming. Streets and signs blur together, turns pass unnoticed and I always seem to forget where I am and how I got there. While this tends to happen more in the city, the wrong approach on a highway can be far more time consuming because you’ll travel for 20 or 30 minutes before you have a chance to turn around (this has happened to me on more than one occasion). The highway system in general can be rather confusing, especially around metropolitan areas, and it’s easy to grab the wrong exit (given Ron’s post, some of this confusion can probably be derived from poor government planning).

When I was driving back up to Beloit, I noticed a pick-up truck pulling to the left shoulder and sneaking past the wretched sign: "No U-Turn.". The man obviously took a wrong exit and was anxious to correct his mistake. Why should he have to travel thirty-some extra miles more to turn around and backtrack another thirty-some miles? Why is it that we—the taxpaying public—are barred from using those nifty connections that bridge the halves of the interstate? Why can’t we make U-turns on pavement and gravel we paid for?

Traffic regulators might say that the connection is for emergency vehicles only is open in case they need to suddenly change direction. But that’s not really much of a reason considering “authorized” vehicles rarely use the connections in the first place. And if they did need some one to get out of the way, the motorist would move. That’s why these vehicles have sirens and lights.

And even more ridiculous argument is safety. Because there’s no merging lane, one can claim that it’s too dangerous for motorists to merge successfully. If you can’t merge with traffic, especially since “merging” in this case means waiting until there’s a break in flow, then you shouldn’t be driving.

Granted, this kind of violation is rarely enforced (I’ve never heard of anyone getting a ticket for making an improper U-turn) probably because it’s so easy to get away with. In fact, it’s easier to get away with than speeding because you’re moving so much slower. But the very idea that I could get fined for making something as useful and harmless as a U-turn burns my blood.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dude, (can I call you 'dude'?) I am totally with you on this one. The most irritating highway experiences I've ever had involved passing an exit with a gas station and then glancing at my fuel gauge, only to notice that I seemed to be running on pure thought alone. I decided to try to get to the next station, and about 15 miles down the road, I passed a sign saying "Next Gas, Food, Lodging, 20 miles". Needless to say, fate and physics decided to make me run out of gas halfway to the next station.

Less than five miles from the passed opportunity was a turnaround. Had I not been forbidden from using them, I would have turned, gotten gas, and not been stuck on the side of the road for hours waiting for the surly man from AAA.

The only thing I've ever seen using those turnarounds have been police, waiting to catch people fo speeding.

Ridiculous indeed.