Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Praying Does Not Count as Planning

This will be a tad ranty...

See that image there off to the left -- that is, I believe, what counts as a two-lane road. It's actually a remarkably spacious one compared to others I've seen in Texas -- one side actually has more than 6 inches separating the lane from the concrete DEATH WALL.

I think this pic is from a car chase where the bad guy decided that driving the wrong way up an off ramp would be a clever escape technique -- probably learned that from the movies. Oddly enough, when freeways where everyone drives 75 MPH have concrete death walls locking them in on both sides, accidents like that in the picture happen. The freeway planners can feel morally comfortable too, because it's not the fault of their crappy planning, but the fault of a hardened and dastardly criminal.

San Antonio is growing so fast that all the freeways constantly have some major construction going on somewhere. In order to slow San Antonio's growth, during this construction they'll often put concrete death walls 4 to 6 inches from the left and right lanes on three lane freeways -- this means that the only lane where you don't need to drive in constant panic of a brief twitch sending you, your family, and the people in the cars behind you to a fiery, spark trailing doom, is the middle lane.

In the middle lane you just need to worry about the two tractor trailers walling you in on either side. Here's a nice example photo:

But picture it filled with SUVs, Hummers, and big rigs. The image is from the Texas Freeways page -- the above is route 410, but the I-10 is actually a bit worse right now.

It's so bad that Jaru and I essentially don't use the freeways in the northwest quadrant of San Antonio unless we're hit by devastating cases of suicidal depression.

And here's my thesis:

It's as if the Texas Highway Planning Commission thought that this will all work just perfectly -- as long as absolutely nothing ever goes wrong.

And this is endemic. About 25% of the drivers on the freeway figure one to two car lengths is a reasonable following distance when hammering along the interstate at 75+ MPH. This is known as the quarter-second rule.

And this on freeways you might see a Batman villain come up with, like those above, or out in the wilds where you'll see corpses of deer alongside the road about every ten miles. What do they think's going to happen if a deer jumps out in front of that car .25 seconds ahead of them?

A few months back Jaru and I drove up to Dallas on the one big road that leads from here to there, interstate 35. You can barrel along that road, it's awfully straight, and there's almost no major interchanges along it's path. Other than deer, there's almost no threats on that road -

- except other drivers.

On the way up and back we passed 3 (THREE!) blood-on-the-pavement car accidents. People pinned under cars kind of accidents. This is Texas -- there's no rain, no fog, bright daylight, no twists in the road, rare off-ramps and no one using them anyway, just a bunch of people driving the same direction.

You should be able to put your car on autopilot. But not if you like tailgating and/or weaving in and out of traffic. My suspicion is that the German heritage might have something to do with it. Everyone's quite polite, but get on the freeway and it's the autobahn.

Anyway, given the freeways' lack of emergency lanes, in case, you know, there's an emergency, and the prevalence of drivers whose strategy involves hoping really fervently that the driver ahead of them doesn't encounter:

  • a deer jumping out of the brush
  • a retread flying off a big rig's tire
  • junk falling out of the back of a pickup truck
  • a bee flying in the window
  • spilling something on his lap
  • a tire blow-out
  • ...

I can't help but have a deeper understanding of President Bush's methodology.

1 comment:

Grubber said...

Dude, I keep telling you, get everyone over on the left, and it will all be sweet, but will anyone listen...noooooooo :)