Congestion Courtesy


This past weekend I accompanied my Boy Scouts into the path of totality for the eclipse of the sun.

It was a wonderful experience until the drive home.


There were four traffic jams. In all cases, about 95 percent of the drivers accepted their fate and progressed patiently through the traffic choke points. But there were a rude minority that insisted on improving their line position by cutting ahead of the rest of us.

This leads to road rage and should be illegal.

In one case, the Umatilla Bridge was closed, and a detour route was set up to the Tri-cities via Highways 730 and 12. I kept asking myself why does the traffic stop? Why not a steady pace to the stop sign at Highway 12?

A dominant factor was the rude 5 percent who insisted on cutting line. Their selfish acts cost the patient majority time it takes to pass their vehicles through the choke point.

Analysis of the problem indicates the cause. The choke point was the stop sign where vehicles progress somewhere near 6 cars per minute.

Traffic stopped because, the rude minority in a string nearly 15 miles in length represent upwards of 200 cars. The traffic literally will stop because the rude cutters can fully saturate the stop sign for upwards of 30 minutes as they cut to the head of the line.

Another situation was at the lane merges due to lane closure. The lane that is closed is the lane to choose until it is actually closed. There is science behind this claim. The cars in the closed lane must merge into the open lane. The open lane must allow the merging cars to enter.

The cars at the rear of the open lane are forced to allow the cutters to pass through the choke point ahead of them which delays the patient majority who merged early rather than race to the end of the closed lane.

I learned in elementary school that cutting-in-line was bad and it applies to driving too. The problem is there is no big Johnny to tell the cutters, “no cutting line.” We need congestion courtesy rules that when violated can result in a citation. Rules like no passing in construction zones or congestion. A system to receive citizen reports of courtesy violations would also help. I do not want more laws but laws are intended to provide order and some fairness. This situation where the majority have to wait until the discourteous minority get their turn is wrong. What do you think?

Tim Bardell, Sunnyside


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