1.05.2006

Drive Aloha!

Having grown up and learned to drive in Southern California and having lived in 6 states since then (not to mention driving in or through 18 others), I feel capable of commenting on the driving habits of drivers in other states. Especially those here in Hawaii.

Hawaii is a different country. That 2500 miles that separates these islands from the "mainland" pretty much guarantees that. The pace of life here is slower...much slower. And, for the most part, so are the drivers. That part, I don't mind so much.

California drivers are a special breed. There are thousands of jokes out there about Los Angeles drivers. And yes, we may be rude. We may be obnoxious. We may speed. My father always told me that defensive driving will save your life. Others have said that Los Angeles drivers do not drive defensively...they drive OFFESIVELY. I beg to differ.

It has often been said that the best defense is a good offense when it comes to football. I believe that same analogy applies to driving in Los Angeles as well. We LA drivers may be rude. We may be obnoxious. We may speed. But we are PREDICTABLE. I KNOW the asshole in the car sitting just off the right front quarter panel of my car WILL cut me off in the near future if given the chance. Therefore I have two options, I can slow down (and risk being anihilated by the rest of the traffic on the freeway) or I can speed up and block the asshole in the car next to me from cutting in front of me. If I don't speed up, he WILL cut in front of me and I WILL have to slam my brakes on and risk being rear-ended at 70 mph by the guy behind me who is, himself, trying to avoid being cut off.

We may be assholes but at least we're PREDICTABLE about it.

Here? Not so much.




I'm driving home from the commissary today (finally made it out of the house by myself!) and the first problem I encounter is just outside of the main gate as that road transitions to the main road leading to the highway. There is no stoplight for the right hand turn lane. There is no stop SIGN for the right hand turn lane. There is no YIELD sign for the right hand turn lane. It's a gently-sloping lane that B-L-E-N-D-S into the traffic on the main road. To most, this would indicate the need to MERGE.


But not here.


Oh, no.


Here, the lane that is supposed to be merging on to the main road tends to come to a complete and screeching halt if there is any indication of ANY traffic in that lane anywhere within a 1 mile radius. God forbid anyone actually use their accelerator to help their car speed up and MATCH the speed of the traffic on the main road.


Obviously, that is asking too much.


The next problem I run into is where the main road turns into the highway. Notice I said nothing about the need to stop/yield/merge. All it requires is gentle pressure on the accelerator. It's really not that hard. For most people. However, the people that seem to have the biggest problem with this concept are usually at the front of the pack.


In BOTH lanes (they travel in pairs).


Luckily, I didn't have to pee and wasn't in a big hurry to get back home so I just drove with the flow. But MAN, this stuff makes my head hurt.


The other difference between LA and other places when it comes to roads and driving is that LA seems to have actually (at some point) hired a civil engineer who knew what the hell he/she was doing! For the most part, transitions between freeways as well as on-ramps and off-ramps tend to flow well, thanks to proper planning on the part of the engineers and planners who designed them.


Here? Yeah, not so much.


There is a part of H1 (one of the 3 main highways on the island) toward downtown that is the biggest Charlie-Foxtrot I have EVER seen in my life. You literally have 2 lanes of high speed traffic on the main highway forced to merge with 2 lanes of high speed traffic from the by-pass freeway (the H201 or Moanalua Highway) by making a pretty sharp right hand TURN (yep, a TURN at 55 mph!). At the same time, the far right lane turns into an "Exit Only" lane about 1/4 of a mile past this Charlie-Foxtrot transition.

So you have 4 lanes of high speed traffic being thrown together with little-to-no buffer space AT THE SAME TIME that the far right lane of cars is trying desperately to get out of the "Exit Only" lane they are now stuck in. Add to that the cars from the 3 LEFT lanes that are trying to get INTO the "Exit Only" lane and you begin to understand why this interchange is PERPETUALLY CLOGGED WITH TRAFFIC. It doesn't matter if it is 4pm or 4am - there is traffic in this location. A nuclear bomb could go off, leaving ONLY the cockroaches to inhabt the earth and THEY would wind up in traffic at this interchange.

And it's not like things get better the further east you go. They get worse! There are so many on- and off-ramps crammed into such a small space (with many of them being "Exit Only" lanes) that each one causes more and more traffic to snarl.


It's enough to make a person cry.


In LA there are only 2 places I can remember being even close to that in terms of Charlie-Foxtrotedness (is that a WORD?): anything between the 5-110 interchange and downtown (it loosens up nicely once you get past 4th I think) and the 5/60/10 interchange just south of downtown. Other than that, I think most of the other CFs have been rectified.




Luckily, there isn't far to travel here on this "medium-sized turd in the Pacific" as a good friend of ours put it so the traffic headaches are minimized. Sure does make you think twice about heading downtown though!




Pau.




- hfs

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