How to Spot Aggressive Drivers

I was reading about the new High Occupancy Toll or HOT lanes on Interstate 95 and had the following thoughts:

  • If the weekday commuters total between 250K and 300K on that I-95 stretch, then the typical commuters from Broward to Dade must number at least 200K. I’ve never seen numbers on that.
  • I agree with the concept that commuters would pay heavy tolls to avoid traffic.
  • Biggest obstacle will be safety, as confused and aggressive drivers will likely lead to terrible accidents initially.

The question is, when those terrible accidents occur initially, who would be in position to bring pressure on the FDOT to abandon the program. Truckers unions? Liberty City residents who are unable to participate given the location of the limited entry points? This is a classic case of the main group being affected [commuters], being so heterogeneous, that they are unable to effectively organize an opposition to the higher tolls which will affect them. Those commuters don’t have enough in common each other beyond their commute. I can’t think of any constituency which would be in a position to block this, but then again, I thought McCain had a shot.

The more I think about the idea, the better it gets. Imagine someone deciding to use the lanes and pay the toll. Then imagine that 3 miles into the 7 mile stretch, they notice that traffic in the free lanes is moving just fine. So they make a note not to pay the toll on certain days. But everyone else in the HOT lanes is going through the same decision process. So the next time, all those who noted the good movement in the free lanes would then have also selected the free lanes, now making them crowded again and causing them to revert back to the HOT lanes the next time. Beautiful.

So if the program is here to stay, how do the rest of us avoid those potentially dangerous drivers? Avoiding the young and the elderly on the roads is always a prudent first step. But beyond the obvious, is there another way to identify the type of drivers who put the rest of us in harms way?

Yes, avoid cars with bumper stickers. See the post from the always interesting Marginal Revolution blog.

That’s the surprising conclusion of a recent study by Colorado State University social psychologist William Szlemko. Drivers of cars with bumper stickers, window decals, personalized license plates and other “territorial markers” not only get mad when someone cuts in their lane or is slow to respond to a changed traffic light, but they are far more likely than those who do not personalize their cars to use their vehicles to express rage — by honking, tailgating and other aggressive behavior.

It does not seem to matter whether the messages on the stickers are about peace and love — “Visualize World Peace,” “My Kid Is an Honor Student” — or angry and in your face — “Don’t Mess With Texas,” “My Kid Beat Up Your Honor Student.”

…Drivers who do not personalize their cars get angry, too, Szlemko and his colleagues concluded in a paper they recently published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, but they don’t act out their anger. They fume, mentally call the other driver a jerk, and move on.

“The more markers a car has, the more aggressively the person tends to drive when provoked,” Szlemko said. “Just the presence of territory markers predicts the tendency to be an aggressive driver.”

Article referenced is copied in full at end of post.

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What you need to know before tolls open on Interstate 95

BY LARRY LEBOWITZ

The state’s grand experiment converting the underenforced High Occupancy Vehicle or HOV lanes into High Occupancy Toll or HOT lanes on Interstate 95 is finally ready to begin.

Tolls will officially begin in the northbound express lanes between downtown Miami and the Golden Glades interchange at 6 a.m. Dec. 5. On a typical weekday, 250,000 to 300,000 vehicles ride through this stretch of I-95.

The idea is that the tolls will rise, especially during the weekday afternoon rush hours, when traffic is heaviest and fall when vehicles are freely flowing.

For more information, check out our daily Q&A or call 1-877-959 -3368 or click on http://www.95express.com.

Q. Why is the state doing this?

A. Because it can’t widen I-95 without taking a lot of homes or building a wildly expensive elevated tier of new lanes above the current roadway. Because growth outstripped road capacity decades ago. Because the HOV lanes didn’t work well. Because the U.S. Department of Transportation is ponying up $63 million in ”seed money” for new approaches to a nationwide urban congestion problem and to enhance more public transportation options.

Q. So, how will it work?

A. It’s an electronic tollway. Solo drivers must have a SunPass to use the express lanes on the left-hand side. It is a straight seven-mile shot, with no exits, from downtown to Golden Glades. Car poolers and others don’t need the SunPass (more on this later).

Q. What if I want to exit before the Golden Glades interchange?

A. No can do. You must stay to the right in the four ”free” local lanes.

Q. Aw, c’mon. Really?

A. Really. Dodging between the candlestick lane markers is incredibly dangerous to all of the vehicles behind you in the express lanes and especially for the drivers you’re about to cut off in the ”’ree” lanes. Besides the obvious safety issues, drivers could face reckless driving violations starting at $100.

Q. Can’t they make another entry/exit point — say, somewhere between the 95th and 103rd street exits?

A. Good question.

Original plans called for an entry/exit merging point between the 95th and 103rd Street exits in Miami Shores. But all of the computer models and engineering studies found that it would have only made congestion worse. The area was too tight to support all of the weaving, so it was eliminated.

Q. OK. So when do I need to get over to the right to avoid getting stuck in the toll lanes?

A. If you’re approaching from the south, stay to the right near the exit for State Road 112, also known as the Airport Expressway, and Interstate 195, a k a the Julia Tuttle Causeway.

If you’re coming from the west on State Road 112, watch the signs right after the tollbooth. Local traffic that needs to exit before the Golden Glades must stay to the right. The express lane begins on the old HOV ramp to northbound I-95 on the left.

Q. Can I get in the express lanes from the Julia Tuttle Causeway?

A. Not legally. If you live in Miami Beach and want to use the express lanes to get to the turnpike or the Palmetto Expressway (State Road 826) or points north, you maneuver south from the beach side and enter I-95 north via Interstate 395, a k a the MacArthur Causeway. Translation: The Express won’t be worth it to most people whose journey starts north of 23rd Street.

Q. How much are these toll lanes going to cost?

A. Once they’re in effect, the tolls will vary.

It’s basic supply and demand. The state is trying to provide a reliable 45 to 50 mph trip in the express lanes. When traffic is light, the toll might be 25 cents to get from downtown to the Golden Glades. When the lanes are full, the price will rise. It could cost $2.65 — and possibly rise as high as $6.20 when traffic in the ”free” lanes is at a standstill.

Q. How often will the price change? And how will I know when it does?

A. Prices could change every five to six minutes depending on traffic. The price will be posted on electronic signs as you approach the express lanes.

Q. What happens if the price changes after I enter the toll lanes but before I exit?

A. Your price is locked in as your vehicle passes under the SunPass readers hanging over the lanes. If the toll rises $1 two minutes after you enter the lane, it’s not going to affect you.

Q. How will I know I haven’t been charged the wrong amount?

A. SunPass customers should frequently check their accounts online to make sure they are being charged appropriately.

Q. When will they start charging tolls?

A. At 6 a.m. Dec. 5.

Q. What happens if I get stuck in the toll lanes and don’t have a SunPass?

A. Once tolls are in effect, cameras will snap photos of vehicle license plates that enter the lanes without a SunPass. Violation notices starting at $100 will be mailed to vehicles’ registered owners. You’ll also owe the toll.

If you get in the lane and don’t have a SunPass, don’t try to exit before Golden Glades.

When you get home, call SunPass toll free at 888-865-5352, explain what happened and offer to pay the toll. They’ll probably let you slide for a one-time violation and urge you to buy a SunPass. Don’t try it twice.

Q. How do I get a SunPass?

A. The new $5 mini SunPass is available at local Publix supermarkets and CVS, Navarro and Sedano’s stores.

You can still buy the old, chunky white plastic transponders — which cost $25, plus another $25 to open a prepaid toll account — from the state. Both will work on I-95, the Miami-Dade expressways and the turnpike. For more information, check out http://www.sunpass.com or call 888-865-5352.

Q. Is there any way to use the toll lanes for free?

A. Yes. Take a bus. Or participate in a registered carpool that has at least three people. Or ride a motorcycle. Or buy a hybrid and register it with the state. Or get a job as a firefighter, paramedic or police officer. (Emergency vehicles can use the toll lanes without paying as well.)

Q. If I own a hybrid, what must I do to get toll-free access?

A. First, register the hybrid with the state of Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. Download the application at http://www.flhsmv.gov/dmv/HOV.html for a special decal. Fee: $5 a year.

Then, visit the South Florida Commuter Services website at http://www.1800234ride.com or call 800-234-RIDE for an application to register for the express lanes exemption.

Q. What must I do to register my car pool for free access?

A. Visit the South Florida Commuter Services website at http://www.1800234ride.com or call 800-234-RIDE to register. Provide name, home and work addresses and phone numbers, work schedule, driver’s license number and license plate number. All car pool participants must sign the form. Riders only need to provide home and work information.

You’ll have to renew the special ”3+” decal every six months, or your car pool will be considered inactive and your license plate removed from the eligible list.

Q. What if I have a SunPass but am registered to use the express lanes for free?

A. If you’re using a new ”mini” SunPass, the commuter services agency will send you a deflector shield that you will need to place over the unit as you approach the I-95 tolling area. Older SunPass users need to place the transponder in the special shield bags.

Q. Why are the express lanes only on northbound I-95 in Miami-Dade? Traffic’s awful on the southbound side, especially in the morning rush hour.

A. This is just the first phase. Crews are already working on the southbound side. It will require a lot more construction work and extensive road closings and delays next spring to raise two bridges at the State Road 112/Interstate 195 interchange. The southbound tolls are likely to start around this time next year.

The last phase, in both directions between the Golden Glades and Interstate 595 in Broward County, won’t be finished until late 2010 or 2011, depending on funding.

Q. What about those traffic signals that have been sitting at the end of the on-ramps, unused since 2004?

A. They are going to start working soon and will surely prove to be as wildly unpopular as the express lanes were in July when the roadway was reconfigured.

Originally, the DOT was saying that the ramp meters would start at the same time as the tolls. But agency leaders retreated a bit. After all the accidents and chaos that followed the roadway reconfiguration in early July, DOT decided it might not want to try to introduce two new revolutionary changes at the same time.

DOT is not committing to a date, but anticipate that the lights will start flashing — only on the northbound entry ramps between Northwest 62nd Street and Golden Glades — in early to mid-January.

The idea is to create a steady flow of vehicles entering I-95 that will improve not only the merging onto but the exiting from the interstate. The signal will pretty much remain green when the interstate is flowing freely and pulse red every few seconds when it’s heavier. The DOT insists that traffic will not be backing up on the ramps and into the arterial feeder roads.

Q. That’s crazy. Don’t they realize too many South Florida drivers treat red lights as optional nuisances?

A. A lot of people think the ramp meters won’t work — largely because there won’t be enough police officers and traffic court judges to enforce all the tickets. After an initial shakeout period, ramp metering programs have proven effective in a lot of North American cities with even worse traffic congestion than South Florida.

Q. Does the road seem narrower?

A. Yes. The state restriped and reconfigured the existing roadway to create a consistent sixth travel lane in the seven-mile corridor — four free local lanes, two express. Most of the old lanes were narrowed from 12 feet to 11 and the remainder was carved from the center median and right shoulder areas.

Q. So what happens if there’s an accident or a breakdown in express area?

A. If your vehicle will move, pull it to the left shoulder, close to the center wall and dial *FHP (*347) on your cellphone.

An operator will dispatch a Road Ranger for help. Wait in your vehicle with the doors locked. Do not stand behind your car or next to the lane of moving traffic. The tolls are supposed to help pay for extra Road Rangers and troopers assigned specifically to the corridor.
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About Jorge Costales

- Cuban Exile [veni] - Raised in Miami [vidi] - American Citizen [vici]
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