The recipe for safer highways

There’s no question that driving Minnesota highways, especially those in the metro, is a frustrating experience. Anybody can get a driver’s license and it shows daily in the incompetent and dangerous moves we all see, and sometimes participate in.

How far are we willing to go to change that behavior?

That might well be the question you have after reading today’s Star Tribune op-ed with suggestions for making highways safer.

Kevin Turnquist of Shoreview provides several typical ones: Slower traffic required to move to the right, banning trucks from the left lanes. They’d never survive a legislative floor flight. You know, freedom and all.

8) To think that humans will always obey traffic laws when they think no one in authority is watching is just silly. We can’t afford an army of officers to enforce these common-sense suggestions. So the solution must come from technology. Outfitting the vehicles of countless citizen volunteers with cameras similar to those installed on police vehicles would ensure that there is always a good chance that someone will capture traffic infractions on tape. When volunteers see someone driving in a way that impedes the flow of traffic, they can push a button that will send the footage to appropriate authorities.

Turnquist also suggested a system of demerits. When a driver accumulates enough demerits, he/she has to put pink license plates on his/her car.

He didn’t suggest this one. How about this person never, ever be allowed to drive an automobile again on the theory that he’s proved an inability to do so safely?

It’s unclear whether he was drunk. The chase started with a report that he was weaving on the highway. If he was, it wouldn’t be surprising if he’s had previous conviction because if there’s one thing Minnesotans love to do, it’s drinking and driving. And Minnesota loves to put them right back on the road. One out of seven Minnesota drivers has a drunk-driving conviction on his/her record.

  • KTN

    A couple of weeks ago I was driving to the Munich airport from Salzburg. A Thursday morning, around 7:30, and traffic was sort of heavy, and yet, I was moving with traffic at just a tick over 200kph (120mph). No drama, no freaking out, and no slow drivers in the left lane. It was so orderly, smooth and safe.
    Then I get home and have to drive with the challenged (what a buzz kill that is).

  • Gg

    Why is the conversation about installing cameras in cars? It won’t completely alleviate the problem of bad drivers. I would be much more intetersted in a conversation about pushing forward self-driving car technologies, which I believe would have a much better chance of having a positive effect on roads by removing more distracted or careless drivers from the equation.

    • While at the Toward Zero Death Converence in 2013 I attended a presentation by Anders Eugensson the Director of Government Affairs of Volvo. Volvo has technology in their cars that helps keep you in the lane in which you are currently driving. If you get too close to the next lane the car corrects your direction, unless you use your turn signal to indicate your intention to leave the lane. One of the many highlights of his presentation was when he said that the technology is underutilized because most Volvo drivers turn this technology off because it requires them to use their turn signals. If I’m not mistaken, it’s the law to indicate your intention to change lanes before you do so even though we all have skipped that little step at one time or another.
      “Any system which depends on human reliability is unreliable.” Gilb’s Second Law of Unreliability
      Until all driver’s take responsibility for their safety and the safety of those around them driving will be a risky endeavour.

  • MrE85

    Are Minnesota drivers (or highways) any worse than in other parts of the nation? I’ve lived in several regions and I don’t see any difference. I’ve also lived (and driven) in Europe. I’ll take the good old USA driver any day.

    • jon

      Can’t say other places are worse, but it is different.

      Minnesota has an issue with driving in the passing lane, and trying to merge through other cars.

      Other places have issues where they always use maximum braking pressure.
      Some places have lane changes into oncoming traffic, to make left hand turns…

      Drivers in any location seem to have their own quirks, I’d like to think that it is because of how the roads are made, or bad driving quirks passed down through generations, but what ever the cause, fixing the issues in any given location is a challenge.

  • Tyler

    Self-driving cars can’t get here soon enough.

  • Sarah

    I have a question about slow traffic in left lanes. I often travel in the left lane or two on 35W heading north in the evening because my exit is one of the left downtown exits. The right lanes are usually much slower or stopped because of the I-94 exits on the right. I usually travel above the speed limit by a bit because of the flow of traffic–I don’t want to be the jerk going slowly in the left lanes that everyone always complains about! But I am still passed by so many people going so much faster than me that I’ve wondered at times if my speedometer is broken. (It’s not.) Is it proper etiquette to get in the very slow lanes then because I’m still in the way, even though I’m traveling at or above the speed limit? Or are the people speeding the ones making this difficult? I usually only hear complaining about slow people, not the speedy ones. And I’ve basically abandoned the MnPass lanes due to the anxiety of people coming up fast behind me, but not wanting to forfeit my place once I’ve paid the fee for the lane..

    • DavidG

      Related case for me: I can be traveling faster than the right lane traffic, but if I move back to the right lane after passing a car, drivers in the left lane will then not allow me back into the left lane when I need to pass the next car in the right lane.

  • kevinfromminneapolis

    Taking driving seriously as the dangerous activity it is, instead of your mobile living room or portable office, might help.

  • shleigh

    I often think it’d be nice to have a safer way to report unsafe drivers. If I see a car driving recklessly or aggressively, the only way to communicate that to authorities is to call it in. Of course, if I’m alone, digging out my phone and looking at the screen to dial is all distracting me from driving safely. Whenever I see people driving like jerks, I wish I had a hands-free, OnStar-like button to report them.