It seems beyond dispute that no one knows how to drive in Northern California. And no one is ever going to fucking learn. Ever. There's a monsoon that's been raging for a week or so now, a monsoon that brings out the worst driving instincts in everyone. As if a bunch of holiday shoppers tooling around in SUVs over the worst-designed, most confusing freeway system in America weren't bad enough, now there's rain and lightning and big huge trees in the road.
I don't have a solution for this. Rain seems to frighten drivers into horrible decisions, and complete irrationality. If you consider that 38% of drivers faced with a potential crash situation do absolutely nothing to avert the accident (source: SJ Merc article I picked up off the bottom of the Storytelling cart), it's hard to be optimistic that there won't be a lot of fender-benders, bumper-dumpers, grillie-willies, and carburetor-incapacitators in the immediate future.
Still, there's one thing we all, as drivers, could do for the general good of driverkind. We could stop trying to merge a mile early for the Caldecott Tunnel.
There's *four* lanes. Four whole lanes. There doesn't need to be a merge until the line of cones forces cars rightward. Yet motorists begin darting right once they hit the Orinda city limits, artificially restricting themselves to two lanes far earlier than need be. Why is this? Elementary-school prejudices, incorrectly applied to freeway driving.
To wit, many motorists are concerned with Cutting. That shameful line-avoiding tactic prohibited with the immortal "no buts, no cuts, no coconuts" admonition. And when many of these motorists see blissful cars zoom along in the two left lanes, while they stop-and-go in the far right lane, they think the spectre of Cutting has reared its ugly head over Highway 24. Their hands grip the steering wheel, their eyes flit from mirror to mirror, and they hug the back bumper of the car in front of them to prevent any dirty
mergers Cutters from merging after they waited in line patiently.
Only, it's not Cutting in line, because guess what, there's no line. There's no line because we're all going different places. On a big road. And since we're all going different places, it's not a race, either. The car in front of you isn't winning, and you're not beating the car behind you, either.
Gene also adds that, paradoxically, the best strategy for getting through the tunnel quickly is actually to move to the second-fastest lane, right when the incline begins, just past the Orinda exit. This is the point where many drivers, wanting to get in on the fast-moving left-lane action, but unwilling to risk being seen as Cutters, dart all the way over to the far left lane. Then, after a frantic mile of driving, they immediately veer back to the safety of the right lanes once the "Left Lanes End 1/2 Mile - Merge Right" sign appears. At that point, Gene counsels, move left one more lane. Ignore the horrified looks, and the muffled screams of "No Coconuts!" coming from other vehicles.
I fully believe the merge could occur at a smooth 25 MPH if all the lanes were just filled. And you should have to take the driving test again every five years. And SUVs shouldn't have the same emissions standards as light trucks. And my kitchen should be full of cookies.