July 18th, 2018

Speed kills, but slowpokes on merge ramps are a danger, too

By Medicine Hat News Opinon on December 29, 2017.

There are some passionate comments in the Ticked Off and Tickled Pink column of the News sometimes.

Several have expressed feelings of annoyance about a sense of being hurried by other traffic.

Some have gone as far as saying they have the right to drive slowly and if others do not like it they should pass by and get on with it.

It is, of course, true that in most cases there is a limit on the maximum speed you can travel legally but in general not a minimum speed limit. This minimum speed does exist though in many jurisdictions and there is a reason for that — safety.

Two recent incidents of slower traffic nearly causing collisions occurred at on ramps merging with traffic on the Trans-Canada Highway (TCH).

The first took place near Dunmore Road. The car leading the column of other vehicles on the ramp appeared to slow down rather than increase speed. The column of vehicles behind it were trying to speed up to merge more safely with traffic on the highway but the leading car actually came to a stop at the end of the ramp. To avoid a collision, because a car stopping at that stage is the worst for safety, vehicles were trying to merge before the end of the ramp and then suddenly the stopped car decided to move again and joined the TCH.

This week at the College Avenue ramp merge, the leading car did not stop but continued travelling at about 40 km/h which must have felt comfortable for the driver but not for anyone else. The slow progression had the effect of traffic accumulating on the ramp. Drivers were struggling to find a place to merge safely and again there could very easily have been a multiple-vehicle collision.

Observing both instances it was interesting to note that one of the problem vehicles was driven by a person roughly in their 20s and the other was a young looking senior. The reason for the drivers behaving in the manner they did is simply because they clearly did not feel comfortable merging with fast traffic — it was fraught with danger and many decisions for them.

There are a couple of solutions: Attend a driving skills improvement course to gain confidence, or stay off the highway completely and stick to city roads with traffic lights and no merge ramps.

Merging when you are at or close to the same speed as traffic on the highway is much safer because there is less disruption. Nervous drivers make the mistake of thinking that coming to a stop or slowing right down will make the process easier; it is in fact harder and far less safe.

This is not a case of annoyance at people who drive slowly — there is a time and a place for that, it is a matter of safety — theirs and ours.

(Gillian Slade is a News reporter. To comment on this and other editorials, go to https://www.medicinehatnews.com/opinions, email her at gslade@medicinehatnews.com or call her at 403-528-8635.)

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