2008-12-17

School Zones are for Losers

I drive the speed limit. When I see a speed limit sign, I moderate my speed to that number, and I set my cruise control. It's not out of any sense of moral superiority (although I will admit such thoughts do cross my mind when someone starts riding my bumper in an effort to push me above the legal limit); it's simply because I've received two speeding tickets in my lifetime, and I've decided that is plenty. Even if the chances of being pulled over for going a mile or two or five over the posted limit are remote, I've just decided it's not worth any added stress.

Does that mean I sometimes get to my destination later than someone else who might push the pedal down a little further? Sure. I've seen plenty of people speed by me and get rewarded for their transgression by getting through a street light that turns red after they pass but before I do. I've also seen plenty of people speed by me and get caught by street lights or traffic and end up no further ahead for their efforts.

Some people seem to take offense at being forced to follow the speed limit, though. Aside from the aforementioned tailgater who will follow dangerously close when I'm traveling the speed limit (usually when the limit drops or, for some reason, is posted slower than what one would think is necessary for a particular road), is this situation that I encounter each morning:

Traveling left to right (in this picture), I enter a school zone, which at the time of day is almost always active (lights flashing). I approach this intersection after making a left turn on a light from another main street, and it seems the lights are timed such that, after making that left turn and traveling to this point, I nearly always am stopped at this red light (often behind a long line of cars — there are probably about 10 car lengths between the start of the school zone and the light). Shortly after the intersection (just a few yards) is a rather large "Speed Limit 40" sign — however, this is not the end of the school zone, as evidenced by the (much smaller) "End School Zone" several yards beyond it (and the corresponding "Begin School Zone" for the traffic in the other direction at the same point). I have to wonder if the large "Speed Limit 40" sign was placed there with the intent to confuse people and entice them to accelerate to 40mph early — but that's the conspiracy theorist in me thinking.

As I approach the 25mph blinking school zone sign, slowing down is not usually a problem, as, as I've noted, there is usually a long line of stopped cars waiting for the light. Even if there are no cars or the light is green, I can typically slow to 25 without incident, although people in the left lane rarely slow completely to that speed. (I'm always in the right lane, as at the next intersection beyond this, I need to make a right, usually as well as a long line of people that would make trying to push in from the left lane difficult [but not beyond what some people will do to try and save a few seconds].)

What is more common is, after being stopped by the red light, when the light turns green, people will "forget" that they're in a school zone and begin accelerating. I'll get up to 25 and set my cruise control, as people in front pull ahead and people on my left pass me by.

What happens here more often than not is the person behind me will ride my bumper for a while, usually about halfway between the "Speed Limit 40" sign and the "End School Zone" sign. They will then lose patience and speed around me. If they've waited too long (i.e. I've reached the "End School Zone" and started accelerating to 40 myself), they will then slam on the gas to get around me.

And what do they get for their efforts? Well, I've yet to see a cop there in this, my third year of driving this route in the morning, so not even the chance of a ticket. But it does put them in front of me (although pulling away isn't possible — remember the line of people turning right at the next intersection ahead that I mentioned earlier?), and I guess that's all that matters. *sigh*

2 comments:

SlapShotSal said...

You sure you not driving in the same school zone as me? Same thing happens to me every morning, but we do have a cop (but he is there mostly to enforce the "no parking" area), so you do get to see someone pulled over every once in a while.

Yakko Warner said...

Reasonably sure. ;)

Thing is, I'm not sure where a cop would stop here. The road is surrounded by raised curbs and sidewalks on all sides, with no shoulders, so he wouldn't be able to just hang out on the side of the road; the cross street is the same way; and the next side street is around a curve beyond the end of the school zone, too late to see what's going on anyway.

Eh well. On my "list", it's minor. Not really worth blogging about if I wasn't avoiding doing real work. :,