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Sunday, 8 June 2008

Traffic lights and traffic customs

The local paper reported more complaints about the West End arrangements, this time from the pedestrians' viewpoint.

They've taken the pedestrian lights out of service - the ones 100 yards or so east of the new complex - and installed push-button pedestrian lights as part of the new arrangement. Well, 'complex' would be the right word, because they are very complex. A protester says it isn't clear which button controls which crossing.

I still have to report that I personally have been treated well by the new lights, and still have not had to wait more than a few seconds.

While talking about traffic, I'd like to mention a local custom that must be puzzling for outsiders who haven't read the mid-Somerset edition of the Highway Code.

The UK Code gives priority at junctions to traffic going straight ahead, over traffic turning right. The Mid-Somerset edition apparently lays down the opposite. Many a time I've been waved on when waiting to turn right, and many a time I've had to wait while a car turns to the right as I want to go straight across the cross-roads.

This state of affairs is fine as long as everyone plays by the same rules. After all, in some parts of the world I am told everyone drives on the wrong side of the road (i.e. the right hand side) and it all works well. But I have a cautionary tale to tell.

Many years ago - yes, this local custom is hoary with age - I was driving from Street to Bruton and arrived at the Fosse Way crossing, going straight across. A three-wheeler Robin Reliant was coming from the Bruton direction and wanted to turn right. The driver pulled over to the right of his lane and signalled right - all strictly by the book. I continued across - all strictly by the book. But then he turned right and drove right across my bows. I had no time to stop, and his Reliant took a nasty crunch on the passenger side.

Fortunately he wasn't hurt. He got out, most annoyed.

Fortunately for me, a whole van full of police was following me, bound for the Bath and West showground. They deputed one of their number to walk over and deal with the accident. The Reliant driver angrily told him what had happened. All I said was 'It happened exactly as he described.' The policeman then patiently explained to the poor driver that in such circumstances the national Highway Code took precedence, and indeed said that I would be within my rights to sue!

One more thought about driving. What do you do when you are driving at the speed limit, and another impatient driver tailgates you? You can't speed up to put a safe distance between your vehicles. I recently hit on the ideal solution. I gradually slowed down, until we were both crawling along. (Incidentally the couple of yards between us was much safer at that slow speed. Then I took off, and regained my proper, and legal, speed. The other driver took the hint, and kept his distance.

I pass that on to fellow-sufferers from Home Sapiens Tailgaterus.

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