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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Autos

Shifting gears to spring

Hopefully, most of us drove successfully thorough the rigors of winter.  Drivers here have just completed a 90-day course in winter vehicle operation:  brushing snow, scraping ice and sliding around some.  This winter wasn’t too harsh, but it still offered a few days that tested winter driving skills.  Good drivers had to “read” the varying and sometimes treacherous road surface, adjusting driving behavior to safely navigate their machines through this past winter season.

Time marches on, and spring is upon us. Thankfully, there’s no more snow or ice nor the resulting slick streets.  What we now face, however, is a new group of items and events emerging along with budding flowers and trees:  outdoor enthusiasm, an increase in pedestrian traffic, and the emergence of motorcycles and bicycles.

That renewed enthusiasm can be a rude harbinger of spring.  After the short days and cold temperatures of winter, the joy of spring’s warmth and sunshine sometimes causes drivers to put away their shields of caution.

Some drivers have evidently lost their cautionary reason already, as numerous reports of vehicle-to-vehicle, vehicle-to-building and vehicle to pedestrian persist of late.  These incidents remind me that potential peril can exist at anywhere, anytime, even on dry roads and clear days.

One caution is to never trust green lights as a guarantee of a clear intersection.  I initiated this philosophy years ago after an intersection near-strike while riding my motorcycle.  Since then, I’ve removed the blinders when travelling though green-light intersections — instead, releasing the throttle to make a quick-check for an absence of cross-traffic as I proceed. 

On the motorcycle subject, please heed the “bikers” age-old request to “share the road”.  Motorcycles (and bicycles) have every right to be there — drivers must mentally adjust to not only see them, but also acknowledge their presence and yield to them according to normal traffic rules. 

Bicycles have even more difficulty blending with automobile traffic.  With the advent of spring, we must contend with bicycle riders running the gamut from kids on BMXs to Spandex-clad adult riders.  Like it or not, the law provides for bicycles on our roadways.  With their lack of speed and visible presence, they can be a challenge for drivers.  And while bicyclists have rights, they also have road rules to abide by.

The warmer weather will encourage many individuals to head outside for walking and running, creating an increase in pedestrian traffic.  The effusive mood of spring probably affects our youthful citizens the most. Those youths may not be considering traffic, so “traffic” needs to consider them.  Please watch for kids in the street whether at crosswalks or not.

With increased outdoor activity, emergency vehicle activity rises.  The law requires drivers to pull to the right and stop when emergency vehicles are approaching from either direction.  That’s easier to do if you are in the right-hand lane to begin with.  Remember, the left lane is to be used for overtaking another vehicle, moving left to allow a vehicle to merge from the right, and for brief travel when about to make a left turn.

There is even an emphasis patrol where police ride along in fire trucks and ambulances, mailing tickets to those who ignore their presence.  Try not to retard the progress of these vehicles when they appear in your vicinity.

Spring is a wonderful season — don’t spoil it by ignoring the accompanying increased traffic risks.

Readers may contact Bill Love via e-mail at precisiondriving@spokesman.com.