Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Week 5 Driving Lessons - Blind Curve Hwy Merging


Song:  Ghost Riders In The Sky

Group:  The Outlaws


For this week's driving lessons for Alex...
I concentrated on blind curve highway merging.

There exists a highway merge near Reno
that I consider to be the most carelessly designed highway merge in all of the Reno area...
and in the top ten most dangerous of all highway merges I have ever driven on in my life.


So why did I have my son practice on this highway merge all week?



Because:

 I had him practice his highway merging extensively on other merge points
before I had him attempt this one.

I have been drilling him extensively on the principles of safe merging...
through an hour of concentrated DAILY practice
just on this and the next exit...
back and forth from one to the other...
over and over.


By having him practice on this merge...
all others will be easy.


This is a skill builder...
and so...
a true confidence builder.

As you will see...
I will point out the dangerous nature of this poorly designed merge...
and Alex's necessary steps to mitigate this...
and all other dangerous merges.


One of the entrances to this highway merge.



It is not only this incredibly short takeoff and merge point 
coming directly off a runway curve which makes this merge so dangerous.




The highway is on a decline just coming out of the mountains...
leading to a greater average speed of the vehicles on the highway.

And...
the visual identification of a target vehicle to slip in behind is cut short
due to the nature of the blind curve the entrance is set upon.

Don't worry...
to ensure safety during Alex's training...
I have him call out his target as soon as he sees an opening...
by type of vehicle and color (ex...blue truck).

I am watching at the same time...
and I give him clearance to initiate his merge.

I also have him monitor his mirror for last second changes in speed or lanes...
and I guide him to slow and drive to the far right in case of misjudgment
(it happened once...a car passed to the right of another just before the merge point).


However...
the worst part is the VERY short must merge runway.

This is the earliest point of maximum acceleration 
since we had just come out of the sharp road curve.



There is also no escape shoulder until much later than that which would provide 
an extra buffer of safety for a misjudged highway entry.

This is the kind of design stupidity which deeply frustrates me 
every time I see the lack of caring in the glaringly obvious design flaws
I have experienced throughout my life...
especially that of decreasing radius turns in...
not only poorly designed mountain roads...
but even in some cities (two way roads need steady state radius turns).

I know many have been surprised by the steadily increasing 
centripetal forces experienced on a decreasing radius turn
when it is perfectly obvious an INCREASING radius turn
is how all such turns should be designed (one way turns)...
(think spiraling in a snail shell (decreasing radius turn)...
instead of outwards (increasing radius turn)).  

The GOLDEN RATIO is known to ALL engineers.

The effects of each of the directional forces are easily seen and experienced...
and yet...so many are built BACKWARDS
(going into the snail shell instead of going out of it).

Just on this one merge...
there are four obvious design flaws.

Since I know ALL engineers know better...
it means that other priorities than safety took precedence...
and this is what drives me mentally berserk every time I see one.

And yes...
I have complained to authorities before.

There are so many primary engineering flaws seen everyday 
just driving around neighborhoods and through the cities...
but when it may cost somebody his or her life...
especially a child's life...
it infuriates me.


However...
the only thing I can do is to protect my son from 
the incorrectly prioritized engineering of some of our roadways.

Safety was not the prime concern of this highway merge.


I have to train Alex to be able to navigate
through the effects of brain dead engineering or political or financial expediency...
because he will not know when or where he may be surprised by one.


To protect against this...
his first line of defense is one of observation.

He must be able to identify target vehicles to merge behind quickly and accurately...
and to know what the merge will take by looking at the design of the road.

His second line of defense is having had already practiced a worst case scenario...
following the sacred principles of safely navigating such idiotically 
designed flawed merges...
over and over...until it had become second nature...
so as to allow him to adapt to any new or changing situations safely.


I had picked this particular area to train in
 because of the specific lessons learned through repeatedly driving it.


From this train wreck of a highway merge design...
Alex then drives to the next highway exit.


Just as the first one...
this has a blind curve...
however, this one is vertical.

I have taught Alex to first stop behind the line...


and to then creep forwards until he may clear the blind curve
(look far enough down the road to ensure no cars surprise you)...


to once again come to a stop...
and clear his left...
his right...
and his left once again...
before he rapidly clears the intersection
(on all blind curves...once it is visually cleared...
a more rapid than usual acceleration is necessary due to 
the decreased visual clearing distance).


He then goes through a four way stop...


he must then change lanes and clear a roundabout...


and prepare for another highway merge.


I had also taught Alex to pick his target vehicle to merge BEHIND as a default decision...
and for him to only go in front if there are no cars to merge behind...
and only, of course...with plenty of lead room.




He then RAPIDLY ACCELERATES to match the target's speed...
and to flow behind...
all the while ensuring there are no changes in the positions or speed of any
other vehicles in the meantime by monitoring his sideview mirror 
(with quick glances to the mirror...not a steady view so as to take his eyes off
the forwards view as he makes his way forwards).

SOOO many people do not know how to correctly merge onto a highway.

They think that the highway cars must merge with them...
and so, they enter at a greatly slower speed than the highway speed.

This is extremely dangerous to the other drivers all around...
or behind...the snail paced idiot.


Alex knows that he must merge without causing the cars on the highway
having to even slow down.

He also knows to always strive to drive in the bubble...
to try to keep away from all other cars if possible...
with at least a 3 second following distance...
and by not driving next to other cars if possible.



As the two highway exits are very close together...
each hour of daily practice yields numerous highway merges
to reinforce his skills.


On our way back home after one of his practice sessions.


I also taught Alex how to keep his windows clean when he fills up the car   :)


Since Alex has been doing so well with his merges...
starting tomorrow...
and for the rest of week 6...
I will be teaching Alex how to drive on more narrow and curvy mountain roads...
using his mountain gears, and the turnouts if he is driving too slowly.

We will then return to highway merging for a while.

I will use this set of highway exits as the golden highway merge practice session...
but I will have him practice many other sets of exits between our lessons with these two.

I will also frequently return to highway merging throughout his lessons in the future.


------------------


Tomorrow...
after Alex is finished with his math class at UNR...
we will start his driving lesson up Mt. Rose...
and on to the Lake Tahoe lookout...
and back.

We will be driving this particular route for a solid week...
as there is so much to learn...
and in preparation for some of his other weekend long drives.









Monday, August 29, 2016

Alex's Long Drive To Ripon, CA


Song:  Into Dust

Artist:  Mazzy Star





Yesterday...
Alex had driven over 415 miles
over a period of over 8 driving hours...
from our home in Reno, NV...
to our old home in Ripon, CA...
and back.

We departed home at 2 PM...
and had gotten back near midnight.

Our trip was nostalgic for all of us.



Alex had done very well in passing slower cars...
and then merging back to the slow lane.


Just beyond this highway exit...
was all new territory for Alex.



We made our way over the summit...


and all the rest was downhill until the Sacramento plains area.



We made our way through Sacramento...


and on into Ripon.


Ripon was a sleepy little town of 10,000 when we first moved there.

It was an oasis built in a sea of almond orchards.


This was our old house.

Alex lived here from 3 months old...
until he was almost 11 years old.



 We stopped in our old neighborhood park.


We then drove to another neighborhood park at which Alex also loved playing.





We then drove to Alex's old elementary school.







The blue cougar paws led the kindergarteners to the cafeteria.





This was Alex's Kindergarten class.

I had posed for a picture in front of this classroom with Alex on my knee... 
on his first day of Kindergarten.




We soon left his old school...
and Alex drove to Modesto (a neighboring city)...
so we could eat at a restaurant that was one of our old favorites.



El Rosal...
an excellent Mexican restaurant.


Alex tried the shrimp fajitas...
and I had a four item combo plate.


We then drove a little ways to where Alex was born...


Modesto Memorial Hospital.



We then got back on the highway...
and made our way North.


We fueled up in Ripon...
and continued North to Sacramento.


Near Sacramento...
the traffic had slowed down to almost a crawl.

Fire trucks had blocked the left lane...


and they were putting out a fire which had started in the median.

It was almost out here.

I had initially seen it almost a mile back.
The flames seemed to have risen 30 - 40 feet in the air.


We soon hooked into highway 80...
and made our way over the Sierra Nevadas.



About one hour from home...
Alex stopped in at a rest stop so we could use the bathroom and stretch our legs.



We are getting ready to leave the rest stop.


In Reno...
it was almost midnight...
yet, I was strangely hungry.

I had Alex pull into a Jack in the Box so I could get a burger.

This was Alex's first time to drive through... a drive through.


Alex had gotten some valuable experience on his long drive.

He now knows he can drive long distance...
and how his body reacts when doing so.


Now, most of our long drives for the weekends will be substantially shorter.


For the rest of this driving week...
Alex will be practicing his highway merging.












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