Drivesmart column: Random thoughts while stuck in traffic

Have you ever given any thought to how efficiently traffic lights control the flow of vehicles?

By Tim Schewe

Have you ever given any thought to how efficiently traffic lights control the flow of vehicles? I found out last Friday afternoon at 5:30 p.m. as I traveled the 7.6 kilometers between Superior Road in Lantzville and Northwest Bay Road in Nanoose Bay on Highway 19. Total elapsed time: 40 minutes for a trip Google Maps says should take five minutes.

Power was off due to storm damage and the four way stop procedure was in effect for the dark traffic lights in Nanoose Bay, causing the delay.

I thought that it would be much worse as the tail end of the line was at Ware Road when I drove by it at 4:45. Thank goodness everyone leaving work in Nanaimo didn’t all try to go home at the same time!

Given that this particular traffic signal had not been working since the previous day, drivers were for the most part waiting their turn and being patient in the lineup.

The first thought to run through my head was to wonder why the road maintenance contractor did not have flag people at that intersection for the peak traffic volumes created by to and from work trips. It would have made the 40 minute wait a lot shorter!

It might have something to do with trees down everywhere from the storm and flaggers being busy elsewhere already!

When I learned to drive my dad used to tell me that it cost the same amount to drive with the top half of the gas tank as it does with the bottom half. Good advice for surviving being stuck on the road. My situation wasn’t bad compared to those who were trapped by fallen trees between Port Alberni and Coombs on Highway 4.

Working in northern B.C. also taught me to dress appropriately for the weather. Sure, you could stay warm if you were lightly dressed in the cold, but that only counts if the vehicle keeps running and the heater works. Otherwise, you’ll be glad to have those emergency supplies and warm clothing.

I’m fortunate enough to own a reliable vehicle that I can afford to keep maintained properly. If you are not as fortunate, deciding not to travel could be a wise decision.

Being stuck in the “wilds” of the Regional District of Nanaimo wasn’t a hardship, just an inconvenience. That can change quickly in many other areas of our province, so it is really worth preparing properly and knowing what the roads are like before you go.

Merry Christmas everyone, safe travels!

Tim Schewe is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement. To comment or learn more, please visit DriveSmartBC.ca

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