The Coaster & The Highway

Families have started making plans to spend some vacation time together, which might include highway driving to visit relatives or amusement parks. This means that the newest drivers in these families might get some driving time on the highway to relieve their parents during a long journey.

At the driving school, one of our instructional drives is a highway drive—which may be the student's first time on a highway. Many students are obviously apprehensive. So, I try to get a student to relax by comparing the anxiety he or she feels about entering a highway to the anxiety I feel about getting on a roller coaster.

When my family and I go to Cedar Point, almost everyone wants first to go on the highest, fastest death-defying roller coaster built by man. Not me, no thank you. And so the anxiety builds. Just thinking of the ride makes my hands sweat!

I explain to the students that, as I stand in line, my grandsons, Ryan (10 years old) and Damian (7 years old), tell me that I look ill and that the ride is fun. It doesn’t help. The students seem to relate to this feeling. I equate sitting in the coaster car and going up the first big hill with driving a car on to the entrance ramp of a highway.

The biggest difference is that the coaster is going slowly up the hill, whereas the entrance to the highway involves speeding up. But once I’m at the top of the coaster hill (whew!), the ride becomes more enjoyable. Similarly, once on the highway, a student’s anxiety eases and his confidence builds, making the drive more pleasant.

At our school, we instruct the students to use a procedure called SMOG when entering the highway. As the student is on the entrance ramp increasing his speed, he or she should activate the turn Signal before the merge sign. Then, the student should check the Mirrors to make sure there is room to enter the highway. As the student is about to enter the highway, the car’s speed should be at the posted speed limit for the highway. The student should take a quick glance Over his shoulder to make sure the lane is available for entrance. The student should then Go, entering the highway, while periodically checking the mirrors.

Reader Observation

We received a note from one of our readers: “It is my observation that most people do not know how to make a left turn.”  Our reader has witnessed drivers making right-hand turns into the left lanes of travel, and left-hand turns into the right lanes of travel. 

Not only is this illegal, but highly aggravating to drivers who are being cut off. The proper procedure for making these turns is called corresponding lanes - easy to understand.

  • When making a right-hand turn, stay in the right (curb) lane, right to right.
  • When making a left turn, stay in the left lane as close to the center line as possible, left to left.

As for making left-hand turns at an intersection such as Wooster and Hilliard, some drivers do pull past the stop bar and into the intersection. This is commonly referred to as committing to the intersection, and the only vehicle permitted to do that is the first vehicle in the line of traffic making a left-hand turn—as long as it is not obstructing the flow of traffic. This procedure is not recommended, although at some busy intersections with no protected turn arrow, it can be helpful.

Until next time, keep both hands on the steering wheel and your eyes on the road!

Please submit your questions and observations to Dale through our website. Click on Submit a new story and choose the Category, Dailey Driver. 

Dale Drottar

Dale Drottar is retired from the Avon Lake Police Department.  He is currently an instructor at a driving school located in Rocky River.

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Volume 2, Issue 1, Posted 4:12 PM, 07.04.2014