Not all that long ago, most Kansans lived in rural areas. Today, most people live in cities and suburbs. Our neighbors—and their vehicles—are all around our homes, schools and workplaces. High concentrations of vehicles require frequent intersections, stop signs, directional signs and traffic signals on our local roads. Trucks, buses, motorcycles, bicycles, children and pets are all part of the mix. Driving safely through our cities and neighborhoods requires patience—and a high state of awareness.
Congestion is at its worst in urban areas where too many vehicles, too many people, too much of everything can create an overload of stimuli, fueling frustration and—sometimes—hostility among drivers. Crowded roads leave little room for error. Navigating this maze successfully requires patience…and some special skills.
Here are some tips to help you get to your destination safely.
While the normal speed limit in urban areas is 30 mph, some streets may have higher or lower speed limits. Always leave yourself plenty of time to reach your destination. Poor weather conditions—even a slight rain—can back up traffic and cause delays, as can crashes or breakdowns.
Give the drive your full attention. Resist the urge to eat, drink, comb your hair, put on make up, talk on your cell phone or read when driving.
Respect the Red
It’s sometimes hard to resist accelerating through a yellow light, but this aggressive and unsafe behavior places yourself and others at risk.
Give ‘em a Break (and a Brake!)
Give the other person a break. Let them in when they need to change lanes or when they’re trying to enter traffic flow. Remember, everyone makes an occasional mistake. Don’t take it personally if a driver adjacent to you does something irritating.
Stop for Emergency Vehicles
Where there are people, there are emergencies. When an emergency vehicle is flashing its red lights and/or sounding its siren, state law requires all vehicles to move to the right and stop—regardless of whether the vehicle is coming toward you or approaching from behind.
Always wear your seat belt…and insist that your passengers do, too.
All of the above tips apply for neighborhood driving, but in neighborhoods you are more likely to also encounter people, school children and pets. So remember to…
Yield to People and Pets
Realize that in residential areas there are more people out and about…children playing or walking to school, joggers, bicycle riders, people walking their dogs. Watch for them.
Watch for School Buses
School buses, common in residential areas, make frequent stops. State law requires all vehicles traveling in both directions to stop no less than 25 feet away from a bus that has red lights flashing, its "stop" sign out, and students loading or unloading.
Signs used at pedestrian, bicycle and school crossings have a new color. It’s called FLUORESCENT YELLOW-GREEN. Its bright color makes it easier to see. Whenever you see this sign, be especially cautious because it means pedestrians and bicyclists are nearby.
COMMUTERS & URBAN FREEWAY DRIVING
Many people commute from their suburban homes to their urban workplaces. Making the transition from suburban to urban driving can pose some special challenges, especially for those who drive the freeway in and out of the city.
At rush hour, it’s cars, cars, and more cars…as far as the eye can see. Inside those cars are people in a hurry; people eating breakfast; people on cell phones, and so on. Congestion plus distraction increases the likelihood of crashes and the opportunities for frustration. The best remedies: be patient and pay attention.
Weaving: In the city, interchanges occur
frequently. The short distance between them requires drivers to "weave"
in and out of traffic as they share the same lane to exit and enter urban highways.
Freeway traffic that is both exiting and entering at the same time, in the same
area, creates one of the most dangerous driving situations. Safely navigating
a weaving section of freeway requires maximum cooperation.
On Ramps: It’s always a challenge for
drivers attempting to enter a freeway where other traffic is already traveling
at 70 miles per hour.
Usually the entrance ramp serves as an acceleration lane. Sometimes, special acceleration lanes are provided on the freeway itself. They are set off from the regular freeway lane by a solid white line followed by a short dashed white line. The dashed line extends about halfway down the acceleration lane where it merges with the freeway. Both ramps and acceleration lanes are designed to allow vehicles to increase their speed to match freeway driving speed before they attempt to blend into the traffic flow. Don’t be impatient; stay with the merging traffic and never cross the solid white line.
Drivers on the freeway should cooperate by creating safe gaps that make it easier for entering vehicles to merge. (Motorists driving in the right lane should move over to the left lane.) But remember, it’s you who must YIELD to approaching vehicles as you attempt to enter the freeway.
Off Ramps: Deceleration lanes help motorists
who are leaving a freeway reduce their speed to make a safe exit. Deceleration
lanes are often set off by short, dashed white lines and will always lead you
to an exit ramp. Do remember, however, that the length of deceleration lanes
varies from road to road. Be sure to look for advisory signs that tell you the
safe speed for the exit ramp.
Congestion, impatience, stress and frustration can create a condition called road rage. We’ve seen it in other drivers and maybe even experienced it ourselves.
Road rage can lead to dangerous behavior that includes:
- Running stop signs and red lights
- Speeding, tailgating and weaving between lanes
- Cutting in front of other drivers
- Passing on the right shoulder
- Making inappropriate hand and facial gestures
- Screaming, honking the horn, and flashing headlights
If You’re the Object of Road Rage
- The smartest thing to do: move out of an angry driver’s way.
- Do not challenge the driver by speeding up or attempting to "hold
your own" in the travel lane.
- Avoid eye contact.
- Ignore gestures and refuse to return them.
- Get off the road and drive to a safe place, such as a police or fire station.
- In Kansas, you can reach the Highway Patrol by dialing *47 on your cell
phone, or *KTA if you’re on the Kansas Turnpike.
If You’re Feeling Road Rage
- Pull off and cool off.
- Try to keep things in perspective. Don’t take other peoples’ actions
personally. Usually, they’re not even aware of what they did.
- Listen to soothing music to help keep yourself in a positive frame of mind.
Within municipalities, intersections are the most frequent site of crashes. While intersections constitute a relatively small percentage of urban street and highway systems, they are the sites for 40 percent of all motor vehicle crashes and more than 9,000 deaths per year (1998 NHTSA). National statistics show the percentage of total motor vehicle crashes at intersections has risen over the past 20 years.
- Red lights. Red light running is
a dangerous form of aggressive driving that accounts for nearly ONE MILLION
crashes, more than 90,000 injuries and more than 1,000 deaths each year in
the U.S. Equally dangerous is accelerating through a yellow light. The average
red light lasts only 45 seconds. This timing may vary from location to location,
but the truth remains the same: running a red light simply isn’t worth the
risk of injury and death.
- Stop signs. "Stop" means
stop, at all times. Always. Any time you see it. Some intersections are controlled
by two-way stop signs and cross-traffic does not stop. Other intersections
are four-way stops where each vehicle must stop before proceeding. Be sure
to take note. At busy intersections, left-hand turn lanes have been added,
meaning as many as eight lanes of traffic must try to negotiate a four-way
- Pedestrians. The most vulnerable
people we share the road with are pedestrians, especially children. Realize
that in urban and suburban areas there is a higher concentration of people
on foot. Watch for them, especially at intersections.
Roundabouts are being constructed in more urban areas to make intersections safer and more efficient. A roundabout (which is different than a traffic circle) utilizes a circular intersection design that:
- Permits traffic flow in one direction, counter-clockwise around a central
- Operates with yield control at all entry points, and
- Gives priority to vehicles within the roundabout.
Roundabouts are relative newcomers to the Midwest, so they take a little getting used to. Research shows roundabouts are effective in reducing crashes. Results from 11 test-case intersections indicate that roundabouts decreased annual vehicle crash rates by an average of 37 percent.
- Vehicles entering a roundabout yield to vehicles already circulating within
- The circulating vehicles are not subject to any other right-of-way conflicts
and weaving is minimal. A vehicle entering as a "subordinate" vehicle
immediately becomes a "priority" vehicle until it exits the roundabout.
- No parking is allowed on the circular roadway.
- All vehicles circulate counterclockwise, passing to the right of the central
"splitter island," a safety feature that separates traffic moving
in opposite directions.
Two-Way Left Turn Lanes
These are special lanes designed for busy sections on two-way roads where many left turns are made. These special lanes are usually found on a commercial or residential street with several entrance/exit driveways on both sides of the road.
This center lane, with special pavement markings, is designed to be shared by traffic going in both directions for making left turns.
- For vehicles turning left from the road, it is a place to wait safely for
a gap in traffic to make your turn.
- Always make sure you are completely in this special lane and not blocking
- This lane is for vehicles turning off of the roadway and should not be used
as a location to merge into traffic.
- Never use a turn lane to overtake and pass other vehicles.
Water main breaks, tree removal and street repairs all bring workers to area highways and neighborhoods. In a typical year, the state of Kansas has more than 500 road construction projects underway. Municipalities throughout the state also initiate construction projects on their local roadways. As a result, drivers are likely to encounter a variety of work zone conditions, including narrow lanes, concrete barriers, uneven pavement, slow moving equipment and loose gravel. Because of their temporary nature, these areas can surprise a motorist. That’s why the color orange is exclusively designated for most signs, barrels and barricades used in these areas. So if you see orange, pay attention.
It’s important that you do because, each year, more than 700 people are killed and 37,000 injured nationwide in crashes that occur in work zones. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the combination of high speeds and congestion is the leading cause of crashes on urban interstates, followed by the failure to remain alert while driving. So it comes as no surprise that one in three work zone crashes is a rear-end collision.
Some tips for driving safely in work zones.
- Be cautious. When you see orange signs,
cones or barrels, be especially alert, reduce your speed and be aware that
there may be flaggers, workers, machinery and adverse road conditions ahead.
Observe all work zone warning signs.
- Pay attention to flaggers in orange
vests directing traffic.
- Keep a safe distance between your vehicle,
other vehicles, traffic barriers, construction workers and equipment. (Extra
caution is required when driving in an active work zone at night.)
- Merge at the first notice of a lane
closure or change. Resist the urge to "jockey for position" as you
approach or leave a work zone.
- Avoid distractions. Don’t use your cell
phone or put on make up. Keep your cool. Delays can be frustrating, but summon
up your patience and good manners. Remember, these people are working to make
this part of the road better and safer for you.
- Don’t tailgate. It won’t make the vehicle
ahead of you go any faster.
- Don’t take it personally. People make
mistakes, and they usually just aren’t thinking when they do something that
Here’s The Law:
Many states double or triple the fine for a moving violation in work zones, whether or not workers are on site. Some states even require jail time and/or community service for violations in work zones. Kansas law requires you to obey all signs in work zones.
In Kansas, fines are doubled in work zones.
If you are ticketed driving just 10 miles an hour over the speed limit in a
work zone, you will pay at least $114 in fines and court costs.
SHARING THE ROAD
No doubt about it, we share the road with others. Some are in motor vehicles, while others use different means of transportation.
Be considerate of cyclists who also have rights to the road. Bicycles are allowed on all state and local roads except for the Interstate. While bicycle riders are expected to obey all traffic laws and regulations, be prepared to give them the benefit of the doubt whether the rider is operating lawfully or not. Expect cyclists to be near the right edge of the roadway or curb. When passing, use extreme caution and pass at least four feet to the left of the bicycle.
If you are the bicyclist…
- Wear a properly-fitting helmet. Head injuries are a leading cause of death
in bicycle crashes.
- Check your brakes and tires before riding. Carry a tire patch kit.
- Ride near the curb—as close to the right edge of the road as possible—and
travel in the same direction as the traffic.
- Keep your hands on the handlebars.
- Have a reflector on the back of your bicycle and a headlight on the front
so you can be seen when riding at night.
- Use proper hand and arm signals when you stop or turn.
Motorcycles are hard to see in heavy traffic. And it’s tough to judge how far away they are or how fast they’re moving. Being alert to this problem can help avoid a tragedy. Remember, motorcycles are entitled to a full lane on the road. Give them plenty of space.
If you are the motorcyclist…
- Wear a helmet. Head injuries are a leading cause of death in motorcycle
crashes. Kansas law requires helmets for riders under the age of 18.
- Wear goggles to protect your eyes. If the motorcycle windscreen is 10 inches
or lower, eye protection is required by law, regardless of speed.
- Use your turn signals. All turn signal laws apply to motorcycles.
- Make sure you have a working headlight and a red taillight.
- Keep your hands on the handlebars. Never carry anything that would prevent
you from using two hands.
No traffic signals? Then drivers must slow down or stop for pedestrians within a marked or unmarked crosswalk.
Drivers must also yield the right-of-way to pedestrians…
- When making a right or left turn at an intersection
- After coming to a complete stop at a stop sign
- After the light turns green, if there are pedestrians still in the crosswalk
- When entering a street from an alley or driveway
If you are the pedestrian…
- Always cross at intersections. Don’t be a jaywalker.
- Stay on the sidewalk. On a road without sidewalks, always walk facing traffic.
- Although pedestrians have the right-of-way in crosswalks, pedestrians crossing
a road at other than a marked crosswalk must yield to vehicles.
MORE ABOUT TURNS
Driving is filled with many twists and turns. You can spot the safe and experienced drivers by the way they execute a turn! A good driver thinks ahead and uses turn signals. Not only is it the courteous thing to do, it’s the law. Use your turn signals every time you make a right or left hand turn. Also remember to:
- Plan ahead. The faster and heavier the traffic flow, the sooner you should
get yourself positioned in the proper lane. Before doing so, look on both
of your car, as well as behind you, then signal your intentions and move into
the lane you need.
- Slow down to make the turn BEFORE you reach the intersection. You
should not use your clutch or brake while actually turning.
- Complete your turn in the proper lane. If you are making a right hand turn,
you should begin and finish your turn in the right hand lane. Avoid swerving
into the adjoining lane as you make your turn.
Turning Right On Red
Right turns are permitted on red after a driver has come to a complete stop AND has made sure the crosswalk is free of pedestrians.
Turning Left On Red
This is allowed only at a traffic signal when you are on a one-way street, turning left onto another one-way street.
The only time you are permitted to cross a double solid yellow line is when making a left turn into a driveway or business entrance, or from an alley, private road or driveway.
A variety of behaviors can put you and your passengers at risk. They include…
Failing to use turn signals
Your vehicle is equipped with turn signals. You can be ticketed if you don’t use them. Even worse, you endanger yourself and others in your vehicle and on the road. Signals are required every time you…
- Change lanes or make any type of turn from one roadway to another
- Merge from one lane to another
- Pull out from a parking place on a busy street
Following too closely
It’s called tailgating. Not only is tailgating dangerous, it’s illegal and considered aggressive driving behavior. Maintain a safe distance (remember the two-second rule) in case the vehicle in front of you does something unexpected.
Passing on the shoulder
Yes, it’s irritating when the car in front of you stops to make a left-hand turn and you have to stop, too. But, driving onto the shoulder to pass left-turning vehicles stopped in the driving lane is illegal and unsafe.
Unsafe lane change
When attempting to move from one lane to another, the driver attempting to merge must always yield to vehicles already in that lane. Forcing another vehicle to move over or slow down, or "cutting off" another vehicle by jumping in front of it is unsafe, illegal and can be considered aggressive driving behavior.
Failure to use headlights
When it’s raining, snowing, or foggy, remember, the law requires you turn on your headlights if the persons and vehicles on the roadway are not clearly discernible at a distance of 1,000 feet ahead. This safety precaution enables other drivers to see you more easily in conditions that hamper visibility.
Drinking and driving
Never drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Even the smallest amount can impede your judgment and reaction time.
Road signs—they’re there to alert you, warn you, guide you and protect you. Learning about the shapes, colors and symbols of different signs can help you figure out what they mean and put you more in control on any roadway.
Some signs like STOP and YIELD are so important they have their own distinctive color and shape. Other, entire groups of signs share similar colors and shapes.
||Railroad crossing, only
||No passing zone, only
||Special purpose or regulatory
||Stop, yield or prohibition
||Construction and maintenance warning
||Guidance, indicates directional information
||Motorist service facilities, like service stations, motels, hospitals
||Public recreation or cultural interest
Signs used at pedestrian, bicycle and school crossings have a new color. Watch
for it. It’s called FLUORESCENT YELLOW-GREEN. Its bright color makes it easy
to see. Whenever you see this sign, be especially cautious because it means
there are pedestrians and bicyclists nearby.
STRIPING & OTHER PAVEMENT MARKINGS
Pavement markings give you all kinds of information: where you should be driving, where passing is prohibited, where you can expect traffic in the next lane to be traveling in the opposite direction, and where you can safely wait for a chance to make a left turn.
Here are what the markings you see on the road mean:
- Single broken yellow lines separate traffic moving in opposite directions.
Passing is allowed in either direction.
- A single solid yellow line next to a broken yellow line means passing is
prohibited in one direction. An exception to this rule is when the marking
is a two-way left turn lane.
- Double solid yellow lines mean passing is prohibited in both directions.
- Single solid yellow lines indicate the left edge of a roadway.
- Single broken white lines separate lanes of traffic moving in the same direction,
such as on a divided highway or one-way street. Passing is allowed.
- Single solid white lines indicate the right edge of a roadway.
- A wide white bar indicates where to stop.
- Double wide white bars indicate a crosswalk.
- These are permissive lines, alerting drivers they may pass, turn, etc.
- These are restrictive lines. No passing, no crossing, except when making
a left turn on a road with two-way traffic.
- These indicate maximum restrictions. The only time an urban driver is permitted
to cross a double yellow line is when turning left into a driveway or entrance
to a business.
LEFT TURN SIGNALS
There are three kinds of left-turn phasing:
- Protected only
Permissive Left Turn Phasing
On a green light (green ball), vehicles are required to wait for an adequate
gap in the oncoming traffic prior to making their turn.
Vehicles are given a protected opportunity to turn (a green arrow), while oncoming
traffic is stopped by a red light. This is followed by a permissive (green ball)
phase, during which drivers must wait for an adequate gap in oncoming traffic
before turning left. This type of control is commonly signed, "Left Turn
Yield On Green (green ball)."
Protected Only Phasing
Drivers may turn only when they receive a green arrow. This type of control
is commonly signed "Left Turn Signal."