Thursday, October 28, 2010

Wrong way on the On Ramp

Yesterday, while riding my motorcycle to Long Point, I witnessed the legendary "wrong way on the freeway ramp" scenario first hand.

The day started bright, dry and warm. It was already 11c by the time I started getting the bike out of the garage late in the morning. I was driving almost on autopilot to Paris, because I am so familiar with the route - maybe 20-30 times this year. In Paris I loaded up with a tank of gas, and soon was on Highway 24 crossing the 403, with a small car in front of me. Suddenly, and very unexpectedly the car slowed to almost a stop, and then tried to turn right, into the exit ramp coming off the 403. This was clearly marked with three "do not enter" traffic signs and an arrow one-way sign. Also, the wrong-way cars path was blocked by an SUV coming the other way on the ramp, at the stop sign. So the car hesitatingly nosed its way around the SUV, partly taking to the shoulder, while the lady SUV driver peered down, with a slightly amused look on her face. I did not think of honking my horn, which is pretty feeble anyway. The SUV driver apparently did not see anything horribly wrong with what was happening.

Seeing the car get on the wrong way ramp, then begin acceleration toward the freeway, I pulled over to the shoulder and wondered if I could do anything. For example, could I chase the car the wrong way down the ramp. Not legally, of course, but in reality, might it cause the car driver to speed up even more and possibly be the cause of a fatal accident? I just waited, and signalled my concern to the lady in the SUV, who was still sitting there. She gave me a smile in return, but I thought maybe she did not understand what was happening. Just then, I heard a long air horn blast from a truck that was near the car, but it was on the correct entrance ramp. The wrong way car then hesitated again and slowed, then stopped. A pickup driver, also on the correct ramp, stopped, jumped out and ran across the grass to talk to the puzzled wrong way driver. It looked like the situation was under control, so I resumed my ride to Long Point. (via Port Dover first).

Whenever I drive anywhere I automatically take an interest in other traffic situations. You might think of it as poking my nose in other people's business. But my interest in what other drivers are doing has saved me a few times over the years. When driving the car, I used to make comments on the other driver's mistakes, although I have cut down on this activity quite a bit, at Mary Ann's request. Mary Ann does not like it when I criticise other drivers aloud while we are in the car together. I suspect that might even be part of the reason she likes motorcycles. (We have no intercom system, nor does she want one.)

If I had been the SUV driver, I'm pretty sure I would have yelled, honked my horn, waved, or done something to get the attention of the wrong way driver. But being behind, I don't know how I could have got their attention without following and possibly trying to pass them.

It reminds me of a situation years ago, the only time I recall passing a car and flagging them down. I was on my motorcycle when I witnessed an accident take place. It was a getaway car being followed by an unmarked police car, which hit an oncoming pickup truck, and the lone police officer went over to pull the drug dealer out of the burning car and put the handcuffs on him. I decided to turn around and head home, as I had almost been hit during this incident, and I was a bit shaken up. Just then I saw a municipal police car with two officers in it, pull into the road in front of me, also heading away from the accident. I overtook them, waved them off the road, and told them there was an accident just down the street. I guess they didn't know because it was an RCMP officer and he probably didn't have a radio connection with the rest of the town police force. Anyway, I quickly decided that I needed to do something, and according to the police, pulling them over (even in a no-passing zone) was the right thing to do, as they immediately u-turned and sped off to the accident.

Picture: Apparently Nissan is trying to develop a wrong way warning Navigation system. I wonder if the wrong way driver I saw was blindly following a GPS navigation system? I don't have a GPS myself, but friends complain that there are glitches in them.

Now if we only had BMW's cruise control with "Stop 'n Go" feature, and their lane detection system, we can safely remove the requirement to have a driver's licence. I'm not sure what good it does anyway.

1 comment:

  1. Geeze ... I'm not convinced that some of those technical 'cures' (like Nissan's 'warning' system) may not be worse than the problem itself.

    My personal observation is that driving back in the 'Bad Old Days' (i.e. prior to ABS, ESP, GPS, RIM and cellphones) may, in many respects, have been safer.

    I certainly don't begrudge the benefits of seat belts, radial tires, crumple zones and air bags, but an excessive reliance on technology to look after us has a tendency to result in effects like SUA and ... blindly following one's GPS instructions to go where no man has gone before ... LOL!!