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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883


When things go well

I’ll always campaign for drivers to strive for precision while at the wheel, and pointing out common errors is a component of that plea process.  Recognizing that we are all subject to driver error is the first requisite for improvement.  And hopefully, the mistakes we make will be ones we can live through and learn from.

Whenever I’m driving, I see multiple errors, and topics of this column reflect that.  At times, however, forces of nature align so that I encounter excellent drivers doing good things — it’s rare, but refreshing.

Last week, while travelling on one of eastern Washington’s ubiquitous two-lane-only state route highways, I enjoyed some welcome sights of proper driving.

First, I saw a vehicle waiting to pull onto the highway from a side street ahead and to my right.  With ample time to get out in front of me, they went, causing instant concern on my part.  Past experience suggested that they would not maintain a proper or steady speed, and that I would soon be passing them to maintain my operation near the limit.

Admittedly, continuous vehicle operation near the limit sounds like an easy behavior, but it’s surprisingly scarce — especially the “continuous” part.

Usually, even though I may have followed a vehicle at a steady speed and distance for many miles, their speed will eventually drop and/or fluctuate.  This creates undue effort in following them, and passing becomes the best solution.  Not this time — I followed that individual who pulled out ahead of me at a constant, proper distance and speed for over fifty miles!

As I’ve discussed in the past, a contributing factor to the long strings of traffic on these state routes is when the second-in-line vehicle is too timid to pass the slow leader of the parade.  If the third driver won’t pass, then drivers further back are left with the option of participating in the parade or making a hair-raising, dangerous pass past several vehicles.

Again, not this time!  The driver ahead of me encountered four slower vehicles during our fifty-plus-mile “relationship,” and made a safe, expeditious pass in each instance.

It’s sad to me that competent driving such as this is an anomaly, but my initial apprehension that this driver would be one of those with slow or unsteady speeds and unwillingness to pass was borne of first-hand experience with this norm.

But for the moment, there must have been a unique and favorable planetary alignment.  For certain, something unusual was at play that day, as one slow-moving pickup truck even moved to the shoulder when I approached to allow me an easy, safe pass.

Nearing town, I was ready to deal with some sloppy driving arising from sheer vehicle volume.  Surprisingly, expected errors were absent.  Drivers around me used signals, went reasonable speeds, and did not tailgate.  I even experienced an orderly, efficient episode at a busy 4-way stop!

To top it off, just as I had resigned myself to sit through a red light to enter Browne south from Riverside west, the vehicle ahead made its “free” left turn.  I was now beginning to wonder if wonders would ever cease!  That is the first time I’ve encountered a driver willing to make that legal turn upon a red indication — the last time I made a light horn tap to induce a driver to do so, he leaned out of his side window and yelled back, “I can’t turn when the @#*%!^& light is red!”

Just for the record, it is legal in Washington (and Idaho and elsewhere), according to the Traffic Signal Control Legend (Washington RCW 46.61.055 and Idaho Statute 49-802), to make a left turn from a two-way street to a one-way street when facing a steady red light, unless signage is present forbidding a left turn or a turn on red.

Yes, when things go well while driving, I notice.  Also, despite reporting pet peeves and driving errors, I’m always thankful for the many drivers who pay attention to the driving task, follow the rules of the road, and attempt to drive well — I just wish the number of them were greater!

Readers may contact Bill Love via e-mail at