Medicine Hat Media

Posts Tagged ‘Driving’

There’s a lot of dumb intersections in Medicine Hat. It is my sworn responsibility to bring them to light so I can make more heads shake as a result.

Dumb Intersection #1

My first example in this series is between Superstore and Future Shop. For some reason you have to stop to turn right although nobody else has right of way in that lane since there’s a big cement brick blocking them. So why do I have to stop there? Who am I stopping for?

What were they thinking?

Face it, we all hate waiting at the lights on Dunmore Road to cross the TransCanada, waiting to turn left onto 15th Street SW by the Husky, and to a lesser extent, turning left onto 7th Street SW by the Callaghan Inn.

I have seen many accidents at the Dunmore Road / TransCanada intersection and a few along the TransCanada through town. So why not just turn all these intersections into overpasses? It might cost a lot of money, but I would not rather see the aggravation of fellow drivers while they are waiting followed by them getting slammed by an 18 wheeler. Even one would probably relieve a lot of traffic congestion. Although that might increase the congestion at other intersections.

Unless we are willing to rename Medicine Hat from “The Gas City” to “The Vehicle-Emissions City” and let motorists idle for 5-15 minutes, especially driving to Walmart on a Saturday or Sunday, I think it is time a solution was created for these intersections.

We all have stories about pulling up to a 4-way stop and watching someone else come up to the same intersection who just slows down and goes without stopping. How many people actually know how to use a 4-way stop? Or for that matter, understand the concept of right-of-way?

For starters, right-of-way is indicative of who has the right to use a conflicting part of a road and who has to wait until the other does so. Generally the person who is at the intersection first has the right-of-way. If 2 vehicles arrive at an intersection that is controlled by a 4-way stop at the same time, you allow the person on your right to go. This is a concept which is usually taught in Drivers Education. Sometimes it seems to me that people believe they get higher priority on the road based on a number of factors, such as the size of their vehicle, their age, and so on.

For those who are unaware, when the power is out or streetlights are all flashing red, the intersection automatically turns into a 4-way stop. It also helps to think ahead and be in the lane that makes the most sense for the direction you want to go in and to eliminate any confusion for other motorists. For example, if you are coming up to an intersection and the lights are out, there are 3 lanes, the left of which turns left, the middle goes straight and the right goes straight and turns right, and you want to be going straight, you should be in the middle lane. If you are in the right lane and go straight, you may be confusing someone else in the intersection and that could leave you having a bad day.

As described in a recent Medicine Hat News article, distracted drivers in Alberta could now be fined under a new law introduced by the Alberta Government on April 21, 2010, if their driving is deemed to be suffering from distraction.

The fine, which is set at $172, applies to anyone who is talking on a handheld cellphone (a headset may be passable), texting, reading, writing, grooming, etc. The aim is to lower vehicle collision rates and force people to drive safer. Many people will jump at the chance to agree that talking and driving is not safe. But what about talking to passengers, especially with all the hand gestures usually involved in talking to someone face to face? I have even seen people driving wearing Alain Mikli Shutter Shades, and if there is one thing Kanye West has taught me, it is that you do not look cool wearing Shutter Shades, plus your vision is probably reduced by like 25%. Who needs to see more than 25% of the road anyway?

Previously the only fine the Police could doll out was a hefty $402 for “Driving without due care and attention” plus 6 demerit points to your driving record. With a law being passed to enforce driving without distractions, we can either expect the average driver to be safer, or for people to hide their phones between their legs while texting. Now all we have to worry about are those police officers who often use their laptops while driving. Wait a minute! Are laptops not an even bigger distraction than cellphones and texting? Not to mention the fact that those police radios are kind of like cellphones too. Maybe they should pull over or come to a complete stop while using them, or maybe police officers are infallible, and unlike the rest of us they can safely do two things at once.

We all dislike left turns, especially left turns without advanced green lights, better yet, left turns without advanced green lights during heavy traffic.

In addition to these left turn dislikes that make them even more intolerable is drivers who do not advance into the intersection to wait for their oppourtunity to turn left. Instead, they wait at the stop line while the light turns yellow and proceeds to red, declaring the lost opportunity to get at least one vehicle through and advance the left hand turning traffic.

It is in this rant that I want to tell readers that the way to execute a left turn at a controlled intersection is to pull ahead to about the middle of the intersection to wait for your oppourtunity to turn left. The most important aspect to doing this properly is keeping your wheels straight until you are actually turning. Disobey this commandment and you run the risk of rolling into oncoming traffic if you get rear-ended. One time shortly after getting my license I waited at a busy intersection for 3 consecutive red lights before pulling out during the solid green left turn yield to wait for my turn after finally realizing the logic in this simple act.

In the Discovery Channel finale of Canada’s Worst Driver, Ashley Van Ham was given the title of “Canada’s Worst Driver”

Many people seem to dig this show, but honestly, you wonder how someone can be so ignorant as they appear in the show. From a young age, kids grow up seeing their parents or guardians driving. It does not take a genius to realize that the gas pedal accelerates, the brake decelerates, and you turn the wheel at which ever direction you want to go. Combine that with traffic lights, and obviously again, as we are conditioned to think from a young age that green means go, red means stop, amber (or yellow) can only be between the two, and mean proceed with caution. Signs like stop signs are clearly labeled “STOP”, while other signs can easily be determined with even the lowest of I.Q.’s.

Image Courtesy of

Image Courtesy of

Ashley Van Ham was quoted saying: “It was a great experience overall, and I use the skills I learned every day,” but who really needs to go on a public show and prove their ignorance just to learn something not only learned since a young age and while growing up, but should also learn in Drivers Education class?

This show is parallel in many ways to the show Canada’s Worst Handyman. The difference is that building something takes some form of logical thinking, and not everyone is conditioned with the thought process of how to build things from a young age. But still, you need a good foundation and appropriate support to hold up a roof.

Back to Ashley Van Ham and bad driving habits. If you are overly distracted, aggressive, and unskilled to the point of not learning the skills, then get off the road. As if the ice was not bad enough, or the bumper-to-bumper action going down Dunmore road or any of the bigger hill roads in Medicine Hat, now the news and television perpetuates the fear of Canada’s Worst Driver cruising around the streets.

Medicine Hat has been hit, as we all know, with a belated snowfall. What is more, it rained prior to the snow, making the roads all the more slippery. Lack of traction is not entirely the culprit for accidents; it rests mostly on the drivers who do not give themselves enough time to properly brake on the winter-coated streets.

Following the actual speed limits in winter and pre-braking are the easiest way to avoid accidents, but also down shifting helps quite a lot. When I come down the Dunmore Road hill ever morning for work, I ride the clutch in first year and barely brake at all, because it is just that effective and easy.

Coming home from work on Tuesday, I noticed a car beside me on Dunmore Road following too closely to a van in front of her. Naturally the light turned yellow, the van stomped on the brake and the girl slid into him. Even with no one in front of me, I still down shifted a good way prior to the intersection because I did not want any 180 degree spins going on. And when people might think their car is too light to maintain such traction, keep in mind that I drive a light little Neon that has all-year-round tires, not winter tires. It weighs nothing (in comparison to most other other vehicles), and takes a while sometimes to get going on an icy street, especially in icy hills, but I have never been in an accident and never have gotten stuck, even in deep Saskatchewan snow falls.

If you are in the right lane on a two lane street, the best thing you can do if you are sliding or having trouble slowing down is to grind against the curb on the side of the road, or even a boulevard, not randomly crank the wheel one way or the other, which initiates a spin. Grinding or hitting the curb is a better alternative to hitting someone in front of you by far. That way, since it would be your fault for not giving enough brake time, you would have to pay for their damages, your damages, and your insurance rates would increase from being in an accident that you are at fault for, and most often, hitting the curb will not damage your car much at all, if at all.

Drive safe.



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