An Open Letter to Wichita Drivers
Wichitans love to drive, and why shouldn’t they? With almost everything in town within 15 to 20 minutes, driving should be an almost pleasurable experience right?...Wrong!
Kansas has been ranked amongst the worst drivers in the US, according to a study by QuoteWizard. While Wichita will often stray from the norm of the rest of Kansas, this unfortunately isn’t one of those cases. Where do we begin...
Let’s start with the issue that’s not only horrendously unsafe and infuriating, but it’s actually breaking the law. Blinkers, also known as turn signals, are supposed to be used to let the other vehicles around you know that you’re merging or turning at the next possible turn. Contrary to some drivers beliefs, they actually come standard on every vehicle and are required by law to be used BEFORE changing lanes or turning. Oh, here’s the great part—they aren’t some new high-tech addition to vehicles, they’ve actually been around since about 1907 and have been required by law since 1955. So, let's all remember blinker FIRST, then merge, brake, or turn.
Picking the Proper lane
Believe it or not, there is actually supposed to be some sense of order to which lane you use while on divided highways like I-135 and Kellogg (US-54). The far left lane is intended to be the “fast” lane, the far right lane is for merging on and off the highway and the middle lane is for cruising. Oddly enough, the lanes follow the same layout as every other roadway in the US, meaning faster traffic to the left and slower traffic to the right. Inevitably, I still end up behind someone doing 15 under in the far left lane on my way home from work. I’m not saying that driving a speed you’re comfortable with is a bad thing, I’m just saying don’t do it in the left lane.
“But what if I do exactly the speed limit in the left lane and refuse to get over despite being the slower vehicle?” While you’re not wrong, you are potentially endangering those around you and impeding the natural flow of traffic. While we can’t openly tell you to speed because it is illegal and an unsafe behavior, we can say that refusing to yield to faster traffic doesn’t help the cause either.
When in doubt here’s a little “life hack” for you: If you’re able to watch a car pass you while looking out your passenger window, you’re doing it wrong.
On and Off Ramps
Those who ride with me regularly know these hold a special place in my heart as far as infuriating traffic tendencies go. On and off ramps are for acceleration and deceleration onto and off of highways. By the time you reach the end of an on-ramp you should be doing the same speed as the traffic already flowing on said highway. DO NOT get up the ramp then slam on your brakes while you find a big enough hole in traffic to both merge and accelerate in. This both slows down the cars behind you and will slow down the traffic already on the highway. Both of these are potentially very dangerous situations.
Let’s face it, this simple activity would probably be 1000 times easier if we could get the first three things on this list down. Merging, in theory, is a pretty straightforward process. What is supposed to happen is your vehicle should match the speed of traffic you are attempting to merge with. You then signal your intent with that blinker thingy we were talking about earlier. Then once you’ve found a space that will SAFELY accommodate your vehicle you merge into the flow of traffic.
I can’t even really describe what actually happens. It’s something akin to a small lion merging with a pack of stampeding wildebeest. We’ve all seen Lion King and we know this doesn’t end well.
Oh, and if you’re already in the flow of traffic don’t slam on your brakes to let someone on. If you’re using the middle lane, like you should be, this won’t be a problem. But even if you are in the far right lane, the person merging is supposed to yield to the faster traffic, not the other way around. “Being courteous” is actually considerably more dangerous to those around you than being “a little rude” and not letting someone in. Don't feel bad about it. If they were following the tips we mentioned earlier about merging they wouldn't be in that situation.
Not Turning Right on Red
While this isn’t illegal, and really just poor planning on the cities part. Let's face it, we all really hate that guy who didn’t turn right on a red light, meanwhile the next 20 cars behind him all need to make a right. So, a quick solution is to make sure you yourself are never that guy. If space allows it and you’re approaching a red light, get over and let those who need to make a right have the space to do so. It makes that infuriatingly long light at Kellogg and Town East Drive a little more bearable for everyone involved.
Getting Off In Time For Your Exit
This one just boggles me. To the morning and evening commuters who have been making the same commute for years—how do you still manage to almost miss your exit every single day? Yes, I’m talking to the person who blocks traffic in the right, and middle lanes of I-135 because they failed to get into the now half mile long line to exit off onto K-96. This line only being as long as it is because A) no one knows how to merge properly, and B) there’s probably a wreck caused by any of the above issues and then further compounded by….
It’s like the people of Wichita have never seen a wreck before. Yes, you should slow down to safely maneuver around emergency vehicles and workers. But if the situation has been contained and traffic now flowing around it don’t slow your car to a crawl and gawk at what’s happened. Focus on what you’re actually doing which is driving. Gawking at a wreck leaves you unable to react should you need to which of course can lead to another wreck.
Remember It Could Be Worse
While we've all been frustrated by one or more bad driving habits, if we give these tips a try, even just to see how they feel for a bit, we might just find that we can all be better drivers. Simple things like remembering to signal before turning or merging at the speed of traffic, the road can be a better place for all. Hey, at least we can all be thankful we don't have LA traffic problems.
While we offer some advice on how to drive 360Wichita.com nor its employees are lawyers, therefore, nothing we are saying constitutes legal advice nor should it be construed as such. We do not condone reckless driving habits, we insist everyone abides by the rules and laws of the road, and we ask everyone to just not be jerks while driving. Drive safe Wichita.