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Drivers: How Much Information Is Enough?

A letter I received this morning raising a continuing concern of mine about how much information people need to successfully navigate this region.

This one had to do with a Dr. Gridlock column item from Sunday about the new D.C. law barring motorists from passing stopped buses to make a right turn. (Third item: "Passing Buses.") But I could give you a second one from the weekend as well: Was there enough information about the National Marathon's potential impact on Saturday's traffic to help people make travel decisions? Many angry people said on Saturday that they had no idea it was coming.

Metrobus back.jpg

Sign on back of Metrobus warns of new law, among other things. (Robert Thomson)

But here's what the letter-writer said in response to my column:

Dear Dr. Gridlock:
I don't feel you fully addressed Michael McConihe's question regarding the ticket he received in D.C. after he turned right after pulling around a bus stopped (by his estimation) 30 feet from the intersection. You reply that on the back of buses there's a sign: "No right turn in front of stopped bus." What does that mean, exactly?

I would define that action as turning right DIRECTLY in front of a bus (maybe even from the next lane over) when that bus is stopped at an intersection. A law banning that action makes sense, because presumably there are pedestrians who are trying to cross the street going or from the bus, with visibility blocked by the bus. However, this is not the action Mr. McConihe described.

Does this mean that I can no longer pull around a stopped bus, no matter how far it is from an upcoming intersection, in order to get into the right lane to make a turn? And how are we Great Suburban Unwashed expected to keep up with D.C.'s newest ordinances, anyway? Will I only find out that D.C. has banned minivans when I'm pulled over and given a citation? Is there no warning or grace period?
March Dodge
Chevy Chase

There was a grace period back in December. Here's a link to the text of the new pedestrian safety law so you can see the details on what exactly is banned. You can see in the photo how that's condensed in the warning sign on the back of a Metrobus. Also, you'll see that I zoomed in on the wording. It certainly isn't that prominent to a driver sitting in traffic behind a bus.

Tell me what you think on how much information drivers need before they hit the road. Comment here, or join me at 1 p.m. for a Live Online discussion of all transportation topics. You can submit questions for that now, by using this link.

By Robert Thomson  |  March 26, 2007; 9:25 AM ET
Categories:  Driving  
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