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A Lesson In Driving

Columnist: Keith Woods
January, 2019 Issue

Keith Woods
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Attention, please. The first meeting of the 2019 class of the IDNB—the Idiot Drivers of the North Bay—is now in session. It’s nice to see all of you here, though I’m a little surprised that some of you are still alive. Darwinism apparently isn’t what it used to be since I thought for sure you would have been killing each other off at a faster rate.

First, let me apologize for the recent change in venue for these classes. Significantly larger meeting sites have become necessary since the number of boneheads behind the wheel has grown exponentially. If this is your first time at an IDNB meeting, please note how our seating assignments work. The left side of the room is reserved for drivers who are puzzled as to how to turn off their car’s turn signal. Since many of you are perpetually turning left, you will be seated there for your ease and convenience.

The middle section is saved for those of you who think driving 45 mph in the fast lane is the safest and best use of our highways, even when the speed limit is 70. You’ll want to sit on the aisle seats, of course, so you can be sure to impede those trying to get to the seats next to you.

And we have a special section set aside on the right for those of you who drive with pets on your laps since you can’t bear to be away from Fluffy, or Fido for even an hour while you go to the store. If you didn’t bring a pet with you tonight, it’s permissible to ask the person next to you to sit on your lap during class, if it makes you feel more at ease. Think of them as your “Comfort Human.”

And finally, those of you who drive solo in the Diamond Lanes at commute time have probably already grabbed whatever seat you want since rules don’t apply to you.

Let’s get started with today’s topic: “Yellow Lights: What Do They Mean?” At least a few of you might recognize these lights—they are the pretty amber ones in the middle of streetlights between the red one on top and the green one on the bottom.

I’ll talk more slowly now because I know it can be confusing, particularly when making a left turn, which is our topic tonight. See, when you approach an intersection and the yellow light appears, it will stay on approximately three seconds. Practice counting for a moment: 1…2…3. Very good!

Now, if you’re continuing straight ahead, this means you can usually make it through safely if the light turns yellow as you are nearing the intersection. Traveling at 35 to 40 mph, for example, will allow you to traverse most intersections in about two seconds and not put yourself or anyone else at risk. Ah, but here’s the tricky part that seems to confuse you. If you are turning left, the time it takes to make it through the intersection changes dramatically. Instead of the 40 mph you can continue at when going straight ahead, you have to slow down to 10 mph or even less as you enter the intersection.

This may irritate you, but it’s that pesky law of physics. If you turn left at a high rate of speed through an intersection, your vehicle will likely end up on its side fairly quickly.

Let me do the math for you: instead of the two seconds it takes to drive straight through the intersection safely, turning left through a yellow light can now take four to five seconds, or more to complete the turn. For you math-challenged students, that’s double the time of a straight-through drive.

See, that’s why those nasty ol’ drivers who are waiting to go through the intersection from the other direction—but can’t because they’ll broadside you—are yelling very bad words, honking their horns, and making gestures that their mothers wouldn’t approve of. They are sad, very sad, that you were willing to put both yourself and them at risk by driving through what had quickly become a bright red light, just to save yourself the few extra minutes required to stop back where you should have.

So let’s say the words together. “Turning left takes longer. We shouldn’t run a light that is now red.” Good—now practice that as you drive home. By the way, there will be no Idiot Drivers of the North Bay class next week, even though we have lots of work ahead of us this semester. I’ll see you in two weeks.

Next week, I’ll be branching out to conduct some badly-needed training for the thousands of arrogant, spandex-wearing, “I’m-healthier-than-you” bicyclists who think that those annoying octagonal red signs that say “stop” are actually an abbreviation for “STOPTIONAL.” Wish me luck.

Class dismissed.

Keith Woods is the chief executive officer of North Coast Builders Exchange. He says he is more easily-irritated as he gets older, so be careful when you are around him. He can be reached at, but only if the emails are interesting.




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