Monday, August 29, 2005

Intersectionitis. Disease of the suburban mind

A month or so ago, I was hopelessly hoping for undo buttons in life. Why ? Well...I was involved in a car accident. Nothing major but definitely nothing minor. No one was hurt. It happened at a busy intersection when the light was turning yellow. It was not my fault. It was my right of way. It was my first accident.

Needless to say, the whole thing shook me up. For almost a week, the accident played over and over in my head.

I have always been a very careful and defensive driver. For the next couple of days, I was the most careful driver on the streets. Careful enough to be annoying. People would give me dirty looks as they passed me by.

My worst fears surfaced at traffic signals. I started dreading the yellow light. Every time I approached a long running green light, I would start praying..."God, please don't let it be yellow when I am crossing". Not wanting to speed up and not wanting to slow down, afraid of the guy itching to take the yield in front of me, afraid of the lady on her cell phone tail gating me, caught in a painful state of indecision and twitch. Intersectionitis!

It is estimated that about 1 million crashes occur on urban and suburban roads every year. The vast majority of them occur at suburban intersections. To make matters worse, we have the ugliness called suburban sprawl. It took me 10 minutes to reach my office a year ago. Today it takes about 30 minutes. Why ? More traffic and definitely more traffic lights. Woods and fields just vanish over a weekend. Only to be replaced by signs like "Future home of Costco" or "Future home of McDonalds" or a tennis court or a gas station.

A couple of weeks have passed since my accident. I thought my silly disease would pass me as well. I thought wrong. It haunts me still (not as bad). I looked around to see if there were others like me out there. I didn't find any. I did find an interesting solution though. Roundabout !

The new mantra is, "Yield at entry. No more lights and intersections"

Roundabouts are quite common in Europe. In America, it still is a rare sight. My first run-in with a roundabout was in Massachusetts. I have to admit, I was a little dizzy the first time! I became a pro by the second time.

According to studies, roundabouts have been found to be very efficient and safe. Most importantly, it reduces fuel consumption and smog.

As I see it, roundabouts are the only cure for intersectionitis. Please do let me know if there is a different cure out there.

Quote of the day
"Suburbia is where the developer bulldozes out the trees, then names the streets after them"...Bill Vaughn

7 comments:

deepak said...

http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/12.12/traffic.html

n2kaja said...

We have few intersections here in Australia, and I even find myself going out of the way to miss them.
Roundabouts are awesome and seem to save so much time. Sorry to hear about your accident.

Chris said...

In college, where everyone rode bicycles, we used roundabouts to prevent collisions, and it worked very well. I've been to the UK also, and they seem quite efficient. Why not in the USA?

I'm sorry to hear you got in an accident. My last two accidents were due to collisions with wayward deer crossing the highway. Now, when I see a deer on the side of the road looking passively at me, I'm the one that panics.

Jennifer said...

I have a very bad driving phobia. For real. If the country goes to roundabouts, I will never leave my house!

I LOVE the Bill Vaughn quote - it is so true!

One More Reason said...

Deepak, Thanks for the link.

n2kaja, I didn't know Australia had so many roundabouts. Thanks for the info

Chris,
I never hit a deer. I hope and pray I never do.

I remember two years ago, I was driving to a relative's house on Christmas eve. There was snow all around. A deer jumped in front. I braked real hard. I did skid. But I am so glad I could stop before anything terrible happened to the deer

Jennifer,
Roundabouts are a little confusing the first time around. After that it is fun.

uma said...

"Suburbia is where the developer bulldozes out the trees, then names the streets after them"...Bill Vaughn.

oh god, that's so true.

Chris said...

Youre lucky not to have hit a deer, OMR -- it's a horrible feeling.