Just An Observation: Summer highways – safely versus speedy

With the sunshine season in full swing, time is now to think about how we drive

Living near, and driving on one of the busiest highways in the country, one gets a unique daily perspective of just what the summer travel season is like.

No, I’m not talking about the QEII, but the TransCanada freeway that stretches about 200 km from Hope to the Horseshoe Bay ferry terminal in West Vancouver.

Now while the traffic doesn’t quite come up to the standards of the 400-series freeways in southern Ontario, this place is the closest thing to a moving parking lot as I have ever seen in the summer. And, that’s without any road construction or vehicle accidents causing tie-ups and delays.

However, with that kind of congestion, vehicles just don’t get up to the speeds seen in the Edmonton-Calgary corridor. So, as a driver, there isn’t the pressure placed on you to keep up nor are the sometimes overly aggressive (re: impatient) driving patterns demonstrated.

Whether that is just a B.C. lower mainland attitude versus the open roadway thinking of Alberta, I’m not sure. To be honest, there is a segment of those kind of drivers everywhere — though it may be more noticeable in more free flowing areas.

With all of this in mind, one might wonder if venturing out on the highways is even worth the trouble.

Travel hints

Alas, I’m here to assist with some travel tips that will ensure the trip is made safely yet also in a ‘relatively’ speedy fashion.

First tip: Give more than ample additional time to make the drive to the destination. Don’t expect the usual two hour drive done on a Tuesday at 11 a.m. to be the same when doing it on a Friday or the day before a long weekend.

Second tip: Plan the route to try and use highways at times when traffic will be at its lowest or at least a normal volume. Driving a longer distance may wind up saving time due to missing all of the commuters either getting to or coming from work.

Third tip: Try to stay with a regular pace of traffic on multi-lane highways. That will mean the vehicle will keep moving, which will add less stress and feel like you are accomplishing the goal of arriving when you want. Getting impatient, then speeding up only to slow down a couple kilometres later only makes one more aggravated and more likely to cause more trouble.

Fourth tip (two lane highways): Wait for a good opportunity to pass slower moving vehicles and anticipate being able to do so. Ensuring there is way more than enough distance to accomplish the pass, being at the speed you want as you start the manoeuvre and staying alert for possible oncoming obstacles will keep everyone safe.

Fifth tip: When the inevitable traffic jam does occur, take it easy if there is no way out or find a legal option to get past it. Driving up the shoulder or across a median or going the wrong way is the perfect method in which to meet one of the wonderful traffic enforcement officers and receive a piece of paper with their signature.

Last tip: Drivers should leave the pushing of buttons and use of devices to the rest of the people in the vehicle. Especially when traffic volumes are heavy, drivers need all of their attention on the other vehicles and the road.

The best way to control any situation is to be able to recognize, anticipate and react. Someone can’t do that if they are hitting their GPS screen or looking down to see if their hands-free cell phone is actually making the call they asked for.

As always, these are simply the ones that I try to follow — I said try — though sometimes things don’t work the way you want.

When that happens, it’s best to either just breathe and go with the flow no matter how slow, or pull over, take break, get some food or a coffee and wait it out.

This is Alberta after all, where if you wait five minutes the weather will change and the traffic will eventually start moving.

But that is…just an observation

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