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


On drivers’ minds

Usually reader/driver comments typify the thoughts of many.  For example, I regularly receive reader concerns about certain traffic patterns in our region.  Not surprisingly, a significant majority of those reports involve intersections, where vehicular conflict intensifies.

And one of those intersections I often hear about is where Mission crosses Hamilton in Spokane.  The latest gripe comes from S.P. who wrote, “The question I’ve never got an answer to is why in heaven’s name are there no turn lane arrow lights at the intersection of Mission and Hamilton. That has to be one of the worst places in Spokane to navigate, especially during our rush hours. I avoid even attempting to make a turn there and always use an alternate, longer route.”

S.P. commiserates with many who have found, the hard way, that a left turn from Mission to Hamilton at that location is often futile.  He has learned to seek routes that do not include the maligned intersection — a solution sought by similarly-wise drivers.  Vehicles “caught” there may see only one vehicle per light cycle able to turn left, a scenario occurring only when that vehicle enters the intersection upon a green indication and completes the turn upon a red indication as the approaching cross-traffic stops.  Minus that procedure, the turn lane sits still as the light cycles from green to red.

Over the last few years, improved traffic control at various intersections has happened.  In fact, it often results from the efforts of attention brought by grass roots campaigns initiated by concerned citizens.  Success in two cases resulted in installation of traffic signals at 5th and Freya, along with 37th and Grand.  Both campaigns touted improved safety of schoolchildren.  I think it would be fortuitous to begin an effort that would improve pedestrian safety and traffic flow at the Mission and Hamilton site.

Reader J.E. expressed a unique driving thought by writing, “Even ‘drunk bumps’ in the median of 2-lane highways irritate me, though I understand their life-saving potential.  I use lanes as suggestions, and have no qualms about straightening my line on windy roads by borrowing some of the oncoming lane when visibility permits.  The increase in the presence of median bumps make this too painful to do on many roads now, and you can’t even really drive the ‘racing line’ within your own lane without incurring the wrath of The Bumps (no, I’m not racing).”

So, I guess J.E. feels he must make a sacrifice for the safety of others.  Those “bumps” are not just for drunks, though, as I’ll bet many sober drivers have inadvertently heard the “buzz of the bumps” during bouts of inattentiveness.  Bumps can help avoid disaster during such bouts by alerting an unwary driver of their error.  Just remember to return to the lane of travel smoothly if warned by the “buzz” — often, drivers will over-react with too-sudden, harsh input to the steering wheel, resulting in spinouts and rollovers.

But J.E. doesn’t claim to be a “thrilled by driving” guy, and in regard to self-driving cars says, “So I’m fine with having the wheel taken from me to a point; I reserve the right to change my mind when it actually happens.”

I think that given the uncertainty of what an autonomous vehicle world will really be like, many of us share J.E.’s cautionary sentiments on the topic.  Nevertheless, as I’ve been reporting of late, self-driving’s “time” is coming fast.

Readers may contact Bill Love via e-mail at