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


Give thanks and quell temper

We all encounter sources of aggravation while we drive: tailgaters, speeders, those who won’t yield right-of-way and countless others. Part of good driving is dealing with others’ bad driving.

Especially in this challenging year, it’s best to give thanks for the privilege of freedom of driving and refrain from overreacting to the scofflaws.

Readers often send me their pet peeves, adding their gratitude for letting them vent.  Such venting is preferable to reacting with rage.

I often remind readers — along with myself — that attempting to control the acts of others is futile, while it’s very possible to control reactions to our own acts.  Regular readers also know that I like to speculate potential reasons for drivers’ mistakes.  Maybe that guy driving on the wrong side of the road is from Great Britain.  Or, the driver who enters the freeway going 35 mph may have a broken ankle and is operating the go pedal with her left foot.  Possibly, the car that won’t take a “free right” on a red light indication contains a driver who has dozed off.

I find such explanations offer comic relief.  Of course, I’m not the only one dealing with poor driving, and the degree of aggravation is proportional to one’s exposure and purpose. A commercial driver on a time schedule has more cause for irritation when held up than someone out for a joy ride.

A common driver complaint I hear regards drivers entering the freeway from a low speed or even a stop.

For certain, it is the duty of the driver in a vehicle entering the highway to yield right-of-way to vehicles already on the highway.  But most freeway entrance and exit ramps allow for timed acceleration and deceleration. Drivers should accelerate their vehicles to near freeway speed as they enter a well-timed gap in traffic.  Similarly, they should exit the freeway at full speed and then decelerate on the exit ramp. A Washington State Patrol officer I once rode with confirmed that by saying, “That’s what the ramps are there for.”

Only some freeways have posted minimum speed limits, but 45 mph is generally considered the allowable low, so technically, someone could enter at that speed legally but they would still not be doing so in a safe, efficient manner.  Washington RCW 46.61.425, however, prohibits a vehicle to travel at such a slow speed as to impede the normal and reasonable flow of traffic, so there is a tool for officers to cite slow mergers.

Many readers have expressed disgust over those failing to take right turns at red lights, especially when there is an open lane for the purpose.  One groused, “I have seen traffic backed up on the east bound Sullivan off ramp because drivers won’t turn right, and there is no possible way for there to be any opposing traffic because the right lane begins there.”

Here, I must redress my practiced coping method of deriving possible explanation — maybe the driver is busy reading.  The sad truth is that many drivers simply cannot determine that there is a free lane to turn into — nor can they discern that the vehicles coming from their left are in a separate lane.

Irritating driving encounters will never cease — the scores of road rage incidents confirm that.  Do not take others’ mistakes personally — just be certain you don’t make the same errors they do.

Readers may contact Bill Love via e-mail at