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Why the ginormous gaps?

Original post made by efficient on Sep 19, 2009

OK, just a minor question but I noticed that every time I want to go through a left turn signal, the other cars leave these 3-4 car length gaps in front of them. This only lets 2-3 cars get through the signal before it goes to red again. Back in New York, we use to leave a 1 car gap, and usually every waiting car got through. Fender benders were rare (I've seen more out here) because the cars only went 10mph in the turn and could break on a dime if necessary. What is it about these gaps out here? Thanks for reading my rant.

Comments (20)

Posted by austina, a resident of North Whisman
on Sep 20, 2009 at 7:43 am

I am also a former New Yorker and have observed the same driving patterns you mention out here in California. California is all about competition, New York is about cooperation. California is younger and has a lot of growing up to do.


Posted by Dave, a resident of Shoreline West
on Sep 23, 2009 at 1:56 am

Where do you drive? I notice 2-3 cars still turning after their light goes red.

And certainly no one is driving "10mph" out here.

Something is wrong with your math if cars going 25-35 mph move through an intersection slower than cars going 10mph.


Posted by Efficient, a resident of another community
on Sep 23, 2009 at 9:15 am

Aha, your comment is very enlightening Dave. I was referring to cars following each other closely through a turn. They start at 10mph into the turn then accelerate toward the end. This way cars all snake through the green together and no one gets left behind. I can see it the way you describe too. Sit back, wait for the car in front of you to go through the intersection, then gun it to 35mph. The only problem: you get through, and the guy behind you doesn't. Like Austina said: competition v. cooperation.


Posted by BD, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Sep 23, 2009 at 1:29 pm

Maybe Californians are more patient. I never thought about this as a competitive thing at all! I'm not trying to stop someone else getting through, and I don't think the person in front of me is, either!

I'd feel uncomfortable starting to move through a recently-green light if the car ahead of me hadn't already pulled ahead a bit. If everyone hit the gas at the same time, it would work - theoretically - but it just doesn't feel right.


Posted by Barry Jones, a resident of The Crossings
on Sep 23, 2009 at 2:11 pm

People are busy gabbin' on the phone and don't notice that traffic is moving. It's not the place that's changed, it's the times.

What I want to know is why do some people turning left on Castro and Mercy try to wrap around the guy turning left from the other side?


Posted by Bruno, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Sep 23, 2009 at 2:18 pm

Nobody would stop you if you wanted to move back to NY. Personally, I don't have the same problem when driving. I'm more upset at people not turning on a red after coming to a full stop. I bet in NY they zip right through them don't they? Oh, us stupid Californians! I'm surprised you have enough strength to live amongst us.


Posted by Anne, a resident of Blossom Valley
on Sep 23, 2009 at 2:27 pm

I have also noticed that people are as 'focused' on getting through the light on a left turn. I'm sure you've also noticed that having a left turn lane with a light is much less common back East. Usually one is fighting for your life to get through a break in traffic. I do agree that people are slower to move when the light turns green, but I will gladly take that in exchange for no honking of horns! I think people are more relaxed here and i think it should be appreciated..


Posted by Dawn, a resident of another community
on Sep 23, 2009 at 2:50 pm

I don't care where you live, or have lived, being an "unconscious" driver just seems worse here. Some people, not all, act like no one else is on the road, or has anywhere to be. The slow response to get through a light is one of my biggest pet peeves, as well as driving in the number one lane on the freeway going 5o miles an hour. The whole reason for the "Slower Traffic Keep Right" law is for safety. You are not supposed to pass on the right, yet you see it all of the time. Frustrated people trying to get around the ding dong that can't see the 20 cars lined up behind them. It's safer to get over!


Posted by austina, a resident of North Whisman
on Sep 23, 2009 at 5:45 pm

To Bruno,
A right turn on red is illegal in NYC. Not allowed at any time. Also, don't take it so personally. It was only a comparison and observation. Did I say one was better than the other? Both California and New York have positives and negatives.


Posted by Elisa, a resident of North Whisman
on Sep 24, 2009 at 7:53 am

Who cares? Different places in the country (and world) have different driving cultures. Adapt to the local culture and get on with your life.


Posted by JT, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Sep 24, 2009 at 2:12 pm

Yeah, adapt and get on with your life. NEW YORK RULES!!!!!!!


Posted by Dawn, a resident of another community
on Sep 24, 2009 at 2:25 pm

LOL, JT!

I'd love to get on with my life, if the brain dead people would just get out of the way!


Posted by Angela Hey, a resident of another community
on Sep 24, 2009 at 3:43 pm

Californians have to leave space for pedestrians if they are the first in line. In California, pedestrians have right of way. I suspect some drivers are distracted by cellphones and passengers. A gap of 2 - 3 cars is excessive.

However, it is prudent to leave a gap of half a car in front of you as a defensive measure in case someone rear ends you.

Also you save gas and brakes if you try to slow down well in advance of a stop light that may turn red. This typically applies to when you go straight - as up Page Mill or along El Camino. Cruise slowly up to a stop light in a low gear with minimal braking (just enough to warn with the brake lights). Try to keep the speed even so those behind you don't have to constantly accelerate and brake. You can probably get 2-3 miles extra per gallon doing this.


Posted by Bruno, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Sep 24, 2009 at 4:00 pm

Austina,

Why wouldn't I take it personally? I've lived here all of my life and I'm tired of transplants complaining about how much better they had it in New York or Boston. You say, "California is all about competition, New York is about cooperation. California is younger and has a lot of growing up to do.". Give me a break! That just sounds like East Coast elitism to me.


Posted by Barry Jones, a resident of The Crossings
on Sep 24, 2009 at 11:46 pm

"However, it is prudent to leave a gap of half a car in front of you as a defensive measure in case someone rear ends you."

This is paranoia in my opinion. Similar to those people who come to a 4 way stop and even though no other car is present at the intersection spend a lot of time looking both ways in case some crazed person is planning to run the stop sign to left or right. You're supposed to drive and fill up the space, not planning for the 1 in a million situation that might never show up.


Posted by Carules, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Sep 25, 2009 at 9:00 am

Please go back to NY and leave our state to those of us who appreciate it. I'm sure you miss your weather.


Posted by Efficient, a resident of another community
on Sep 25, 2009 at 9:17 am

My word! Sensitive much? I was going to come back in say some nice things about California that I would write in a NY paper, but I've lost that lovin' feeling...


Posted by Dave, a resident of another community
on Sep 25, 2009 at 10:01 am

Everything I know I about New Yorkers I learned watching Marathon Man


Posted by Charles, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Sep 25, 2009 at 10:34 am

I have lived in Santa Clara county since 1951 and have only been in Mountain View for about 6 years. All in all I prefer driving in Mountain View to other parts of the county simply because people here seem to be more cautious. If that slows things down a little bit maybe it will help some of the Type A personality crowd calm down some.


Posted by Gloria, a resident of another community
on Sep 28, 2009 at 4:27 pm

Someone has serious anger issues and should seek professional help.


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