Starla Pointer: Driving with common sense

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Ah, it is a special animal, the obsessively cautious and timid Oregon driver. This is one of my favorite topics. Although they're loath to enforce it, the excessive caution and street-borne terror I witness on my five-minute drive to work each day might beg a new look at ORS 811.130 by our ever-vigilant traffic authorities.

To wit:

• The increasing number of people who, out of an over-abundance of caution, anticipate that the green light might turn yellow soon so we just as well should all stop at the green light and wait for it to turn yellow.

• The astonishing number of local drivers who are uncomfortable traveling in wide-open traffic lanes when there are both parked cars on the right and opposing traffic on the left.

• Those noble defenders of the left-turn lane whose skills aren't apparently up to actually turning left unless there is no traffic visible in any direction. Correction: any direction except behind them, where other hopeful left-turners are stacking up, only to face certain disappointment.

• The indecisive drivers who stop without warning in the middle of streets to consult their navigation devices or cell phones or simply to decide where to have dinner. This is less caution and timidity than ignorance and selfishness.

• The three-car-lengths drivers at red lights who only feel safe with three car-lengths between themselves and the stopped automobile in front of them. When the block is only 75 feet long, a couple of these folks ensure a mess behind them as other drivers -- who should just cancel their turns at this point -- try to fit themselves on a street with no more room and wind up blocking busy arterial streets. (Thinking of that wonderful block sandwiched between the MFD and First Federal.)

• The drivers who are convinced school-zone speeds are best deployed everywhere at all times. The word "leisurely" takes on new meaning when one follows a school-zone enthusiast all the way to the end of West Second Street.


Then we take a little trip outside the immediate area and, once we finally get there, witness the Obsessively Cautious and Timid Oregon Driver (OCTOD) go for broke and hit a whopping 55 m.p.h. on the freeway. With a white-knuckle grip, tunnel-vision and a trembling speedometer, the OCTOD whizzes up the pavement, firmly convinced his or her death is imminent. Add a speeding semi-truck to the mix -- no doubt passing on the right because the OCTOD is blithely yet firmly ensconced in the left lane -- and the dull fear escalates to terror and the speedometer's not the only thing trembling. "Why-oh-why can't I be back in McMinnville where I never have to travel above 25 miles per hour?"

Don Dix

Adding to your list -- those turning left who stay at a green light until all cars opposite (also turning left - away from the intended direction) have turned, effectively leaving others waiting for another green light (East and west on Booth Bend comes to mind)

As well, the controlled intersections with lights that are not timed to ease traffic flow. It is nearly impossible to drive through Mac during the day without stopping several times. Salem lights are set to move traffic. Mac's are explained as 'smart lights' (change as vehicles approach intersection). So wasting fuel sitting at an untimed light is 'smart policy'? Genius!


A regional insurance company has been touting the apparently-quirky-and-delightful-to-some-people game local drivers play at four-way stops. Evidently peculiar to the northwest, these folks conduct a kind of stilted "you go first, no, you go first" dance at these intersections resulting in cars starting to go, stopping, starting again, stopping again, starting yet again, stopping yet again -- all accompanied by sheepish grins and funny little waves.

While many folks seem to find this charming, I find it annoying beyond belief. If you try to play that game with me, I'll just go. I have a powerful car and it's almost a sure bet I'll be out of sight before you even timidly hit that accelerator. Correction: accelerator, brake, accelerator, brake, accelerator, brake...


All I can ask is, people: use your directional signals. The route you plan to take should not be considered top-secret.

Terry C

Hmmmm Trafik,
One thing comes to mind when I encounter a “California-esque” type driver in a big car who tries to bully me into speeding, all the while swearing and offering a middle finger salute:
“Towanda! I’m older and have better car insurance”!


That's funny.

In my idea of a driving Utopia, caution would be matched by equal parts skill. One could argue caution alone doesn't really result in all that much safety.

A few months ago, I was driving sedately along, minding my own business, when a well-dressed middle-aged woman in a late-model car decided to cautiously turn in front of me, crossing my path. When she realized what she'd done, she released the wheel, threw her hands up and closed her eyes. Only my own skill prevented a collision. I know she was well-dressed and middle-aged because this event unfolded approximately eight feet in front of my windshield.

The picture of cautious respectability, this woman will sooner or later cause a totally avoidable accident because she seems to lack the skill to make sound driving decisions and the skill to immediately correct such errors.

A few years ago, a woman T-boned my car at the intersection of Adams and Park because she "didn't realize there was a traffic light there" which, as luck would have it, was red at the moment she chose to be blind.

Am I without error? Of course not. But driving is serious business. Even in a small and slow-moving town like McMinnville, we'd all benefit by staying alert and paying attention to what's going on outside our vehicles. As it stands, I often feel like I have a target painted on my car.


I was rudely reminded of another couple of common local OCTODs today.

First up is the OCTOD who is surprised when the light turns green. Startled, this driver marvels at the the magic that occurs before his or her eyes, amazed such technology helps us through the day. By the time he or she recovers his or her senses, only one or two cars make it through the light, condemning the rest of us to sit through at least one more cycle. Some exhibitors of this regional trait are less startled than thoroughly concentrating on picking their noses.

Second, the console arranger. Obsessed with a crude vehicular order, this OCTOD firmly believes he or she must arrange his or her center console immediately after receiving food or beverages from a drive-through window. Although it never occurs to this driver to maybe pull forward ten or twelve feet to accomplish this rudimentary mobile housekeeping, those behind him or her must patiently wait until all is satisfactorily arranged before we can proceed with our own business. The console-arranging OCTOD sometimes performs this feat while stopped at green lights.

Welcome to Oregon. The time you used to spend traveling from Redondo Beach to Orange County will now be spent moving (very very slowly and cautiously) from Third Street to Walmart.