Happy new year! Here’s a New Year’s resolution from the Road Warrior to help us all on the road:

–Be smart with cellphones. People must go hands-free while using their cellphones while driving. Almost always the driver I encounter who’s having trouble maintaining speed or staying in his/her lane is driving with one hand while holding a cellphone in the other. Even going hands-free can be distracting to a driver, so you might consider waiting to make or take that call.

–Change carpool-lane hours. The current hours of 7 to 9 a.m. and 3 to 6:30 p.m. on Highway 101 in Sonoma County often leave the carpool lane wide open and the other two lanes jammed, especially south of Highway 12 in Santa Rosa. We know the government wants to encourage us to carpool and reduce air pollution, but  it seems more pollution is created with cars idling than getting to their destination. Caltrans says its data support the need for the carpool hours now in force, but ending the morning segment at 8:30 and starting the afternoon hours at 3:30 would help move traffic.

–Let the other driver in. Some drivers just won’t make it easy for others to merge onto 101. They won’t slow to create an opening or speed up to highway speed so that the other driver has less time and space to merge. Some even speed up, pass the merging car and then take the exit in a risky, high-speed maneuver. Why not just slow, let the other driver merge on and then exit?

–Use your turn signals. The frequency that drivers don’t use their turn signals makes one wonder if the drivers even know about them. Signal and let others know what you’re going to do. Don’t just suddenly move over into my lane or suddenly brake and turn into a driveway or onto a side street. Give other drivers some warning.

I’m sure you have other suggestions to improve driving in Sonoma County. These are just my big four. Feel free to leave additional ideas in the comment field below.


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  1. Steve Klausner

    Everyone gets out of their cars and rides the SMART train. More room for me on the Hwy.

    January 1st, 2013 11:03 am

  2. Ben G

    One thing that I have noticed since moving to Sonoma County (and California in general) is that the highway entrances and exits are very poorly planned. Santa Rosa seems to be the best (and I mean worst) example, with multiple entrance and exit ramps sharing the same lane, and often this lane is too short to begin with so that drivers can’t get up to highway speed before they are forced to merge.

    Too many times drivers exiting the freeway are forced to cross drivers entering the freeway. This leads to incredible traffic jams and is a safety hazard. With so much time and money spent over the past several years to reconfigure and improve the highway, it baffles me that so many of these interchanges weren’t fixed at the same time.

    Basically this is almost every exit/entrance between Golf Course Drive in RP and College Ave in Santa Rosa, just to cite one infamous stretch of 101.

    Why were millions of dollars spent on 101 improvements, only to leave these weak links in the system? Somebody should be fired.

    And, like you suggest, the HOV lane only makes it worse. I usually support HOV lanes when the demand is there (such as in the bay area), but here in Sonoma county it only hinders the flow of traffic. If nobody uses it, nobody uses it, and let’s do away with it. Or at least change it to an Express lane (where you pay a small toll to use it, and the toll changes dynamically based on the demand — this has worked great in Atlanta where they changed portions of their HOV lanes to Express).

    January 1st, 2013 11:26 am

  3. Chris

    Is there enough space/time to go over this subject? Here’s what I see EVERY day:
    1. Drivers think right turn on red means green…guess what folks, it doesn’t! You are supposed to come to a complete stop and then turn but I see dumb drivers treat it just like a green.
    2. Pulling out from a side street, some people will look right at you as you’re oncoming and still act like “so what?” and pull out in front of you causing you to slam on your brakes.
    3. Motorcycles who zip and zag thru cars even when we are going speed limit or even slightly over limit. Why?
    4. As article states, people don’t know how to merge to save their life. The people in the right lane instead of braking to allow the mergers to come on will swing over to the middle lane, cutting in front of drivers in center lane.

    January 1st, 2013 11:33 am

  4. Joe

    These are my big 4 also, but only if people would follow simple instructions.

    January 1st, 2013 12:01 pm

  5. Bruce Witt

    I would like to see Cal-trans install signs on Hwy 12 interchange over Hwy. 101 that say “Through traffic merge left”. I drive a heavy plumbing truck that takes forever to get up to speed when I come off of Hwy 101 and merge onto Hwy12 going east or west. I have seen these signs in the Redding area on Hwy 5 and it seems to make the traffic flow better and safer. If Cal-trans won’t put up signs maybe we could all move over to the left anyway?

    January 1st, 2013 12:12 pm

  6. Ben G

    Additionally, the other HOV problem that I see is that most of the time the second passenger is too young to be a licensed driver, e.g. it’s a mom and her kid. While this is technically legal, is goes against the purpose of the HOV lane which is to encourage carpooling to reduce congestion and improve air quality. The law should be changed to state that the second person MUST be a licensed driver, otherwise the goals of the law are not met.

    I estimate that this change would take about 1/3 to 1/2 of the cars out of the HOV lane, further proving that almost nobody uses it to actually carpool.

    My guess why we don’t see more usage of the HOV lane is because the public transit systems around here suck. This makes it a pain to carpool with anyone unless you happen to work within a few blocks of one another… there’s very poor transit connectivity (and frequency) otherwise.

    January 1st, 2013 12:42 pm

  7. Wilson

    If you have a line of cars backed up behind you (especially when on one of our numerous connector country roads), speed up or pull over and let them pass. You can be ticketed for obstruction of traffic if you are holding up three or more cars.

    If you find yourself uncomfortable or afraid while driving, whether it be the speed of the other drivers or the weather or any other road condition, get off of the road. Call somebody to get you. The life you save may be your own.

    January 1st, 2013 12:44 pm

  8. wangofango

    Presuming you don’t have physical handicap limitations in your neck, TURN YOUR HEAD TO LOOK before changing lanes or backing up. Don’t just glance in the mirrors, TURN YOUR HEAD. That way you may see the other car backing up into you while you’re backing up in the parking lot, or onto a street. Or spot the other car that’s changing lanes into “your” anticipated spot.

    January 1st, 2013 1:06 pm

  9. Bill

    Part of the problem with letting people merge is there is a line of cars; bumper to bumper trying to enter the freeway. Can’t CalTrans see this is a problem. Turn on the (already installed) merging signals. Any excuse CalTrans has doesn’t hold water when you look objectively at this situation.

    January 1st, 2013 1:29 pm

  10. John Q P

    Two things: People feel like they are all better drivers than others, and that the rules don’t apply to them. Secondly, if driving in Santa Rosa felt like there were consequences to breaking traffic laws, they would try harder to obey them. I’ve been around and remember driving as a teenager, worried about breaking a rule and getting caught, now I see people breaking traffic laws in full view of police with no reprecussions.

    January 1st, 2013 1:37 pm

  11. Dennis Hart

    How about not driving thru RED LIGHTS?? It’s rare that someone doesn’t just drive right thru in Santa Rosa. And why doesn’t the SRPD enforce this law?? I’ve seen them sit in the same intersection as 1-2 cars just keep on going after the light is red. Why isn’t there a much stronger fine or punishment for red light running? Assault with a deadly weapon? A car intentionally rushing thru against oncoming traffic. I sure don’t want anyone in my family becoming a victim! What’s up with this?

    January 1st, 2013 1:49 pm

  12. Joey

    Many drivers get into the fast lane and seem to not pay attention to the cars behind them. If you are in the fast lane, and see nobody in front of you for a long distance, look in the mirror and see if you are causing traffic to back up. This happens everyday driving North on 101 from Marin in the afternoon.
    Despite what some drivers think, you do not have the right to drive whatever speed you want…drive at least the speed limit or just a little over if you’re in the fast lane.
    If you are driving on 37 or Lakeville, again drive the speed limit. in the evening too many drivers seem to be afraid of driving in the dark and drive 45 in a 55. If you can’t see in the dark, stay off the road at night. You’re just screwing up the traffic.

    January 1st, 2013 2:58 pm

  13. J. Longtooth

    Never, ever tailgate.


    Yeah, you! You read what I just wrote?


    January 1st, 2013 3:09 pm

  14. Tom

    If you’re in the left lane, be considerate and let faster traffic move by.

    January 1st, 2013 4:40 pm

  15. Leah

    Actually get to the speed of traffic before attempting to merge onto the freeway. Going 35-40mph while getting on the freeway is NOT acceptable.

    January 1st, 2013 9:50 pm

  16. JOhn

    People not being able to merge properly is one that bothers me immensely. Moving here has taught me what people are talking about when they complain about people on the road.

    Going to work and back is not a race. There is absolutely no reason for a medium traffic merge to turn into a complete stall. The only reason it does, the only reason it turns into total chaos every time a lane ends, is that people in this area are so prideful regarding their spot in line that they can’t seem to bring themselves to have an ounce of common decency for the other people on the road. That doesn’t just go for those who don’t let anyone in as they merge – I always leave two car spaces in front of me at this merges and count how many cars pass it up thinking they can get ahead. Take the opening and get it over with. That one space isn’t going to make a difference, and fighting just means that no one goes anywhere – including you. It takes longer than just merging. I don’t understand why this is so difficult for some reason. It really makes me wonder if we need harsher requirements for driver’s licenses.

    January 1st, 2013 11:18 pm

  17. John

    Oh, and this Joey guy above? He’s part of the problem. Assuming that other people don’t have the ‘right’ to drive at a speed they are comfortable with and consider safe just because you disagree is a good example of the attitudes that kill people around here. The basic speed law says to drive whatever speed is safe for the current conditions. If the car in front of you thinks pitch black windy roads require a slower speed, suck it up and wait for a passing lane.

    January 1st, 2013 11:21 pm

  18. Robert Arnold

    The left lanes on 101 (or any 4 lane HWY) are reserved for passing. If nobody is directly in front or to the right of you, move to the farthest right lane. Leave the left lanes open for you or others to pass safely.

    The signs that say, “Slower Traffic Keep Right” are in black and white, which means they are mandatory. In other words: Lead, Follow, or get the Hell out of the way!

    January 2nd, 2013 7:36 am

  19. Dar

    Keep right except to pass (the number one lane, the left-most lane, is not a “fast lane”, but rather a passing lane).

    Use your TURN SIGNALS.

    While I could go on and on and on about the horrible driving around Sonoma County/California/the U.S., I would be extremely satisfied if people would follow these two suggestions.

    January 2nd, 2013 9:18 am

  20. Leah

    Number 1 – Pay Attention!!! to the road, not your phone, not your GPS, not the stack of papers you have propped on your steering wheel (yes i have seen this!) If you are paying attention you should notice that you are driving 15 mph UNDER the speed limit, or holding up traffic, or that the light is red.

    Number 2 – Make gap – take gap! I leave you a gap, speed up and take it, I WILL NOT slam on my brakes and come to a complete stop to let you in. Pay attention, notice the gap and merging becomes much smoother.

    Number 3 – Do not stop flowing traffic to let some one from a side street or parking lot in. If traffic is slow, its a nice thing to do, when traffic is flowing at the speed limit, and the car in front of you is stopping at every side street (when there are not stop signs) to let those other cars in, you’re not being nice to the mile of cars backing up behind you.

    Number 4 – at night – don’t be a jerk, if you are behind someone and you can see their tail lights at pretty much full size, don’t turn your brights on. I drive to work at 3am and at least 3 times a week, this happens to me.

    January 2nd, 2013 10:08 am

  21. Patrick

    List fails without including full-automating all cars on the road.

    January 3rd, 2013 9:10 am

  22. George

    To sum up-
    “Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac?
    -George Carlin

    January 3rd, 2013 9:12 am

  23. DZerach

    You can’t control others’ driving in the moment. Learn and practice sound judgment and defensive driving skills to avoid the REAL hassle of injury and property damage. Every trip is a chance to practice taking your ego, personality, and sense of self-righteousness OUT of your DRIVING for your own benefit.

    January 3rd, 2013 11:38 am

  24. Ben

    The carpool lane has got to go! Can someone please start a petition to get it repealed! I get so frustrated when the government does not do the will of the people.

    January 3rd, 2013 4:19 pm

  25. Volt Guy

    No way! Keep the carpool lanes as is. I’m getting a Volt next week and look forward to silently speeding past you all people on my way to work each day! zoooooooom

    January 3rd, 2013 9:15 pm

  26. Bunga Gunga

    I say keep the carpool, otherwise it’s just gonna be another cluster **** lane. Maybe if some of these dummies would leave a little more following distance traffic wouldn’t be so bad. You can always get a motorcycle, then you can use the carpool.

    January 4th, 2013 11:44 am

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