Virginia – home of the dumbed-down “reckless driving” statute (drive faster than 20 MPH over any speed limit and you qualify; see here) has actually done something sensible for once, with regard to its traffic laws.
Flashing yellow “proceed when clear” signals are replacing Thou Must Sit And Wait red lights at left turn lanes. This means that when it’s safe to do so, you may legally make your left turn at any time. Previously, you were required to wait – and wait – until you got the often all-too-brief green arrow. If you didn’t make it to the green in time, it was time to wait for the next cycle. Even if there was no reason – other than it being against the law – to turn left when the light was red.
Somehow, a non-Clover prevailed over the Clovers – and, behold! Traffic flows. There are fewer delays at signals, because cars don’t stack up as much. And the most deliciously insidious bennie – and here I really ought to shut my mouth – is that this flashing yellow business openly encourages (gasp!) the exercise of initiative and individual judgment. It nudges people in the direction of paying attention.
This is a dagger pointed at the black heart of Cloverism, which demands rigid – mindless – obedience to “the law” (whether the law in question makes any sense or not).
Like the law that demands drivers sit at interminably red lights at 2 in the morning, when it’s obvious there are no other cars within a quarter-mile of the intersection (except, perhaps, the lurking cop car waiting with its lights off for someone to exercise initiative and judgment).
If the “proceed when clear” standard takes root, Cloverism may be undone. All the shibboleths – that mayhem (Oh, the humanity!) will ensue if people are trusted to exercise judgment; if they are trusted at all – will be exposed for the frauds sensible people already know them to be. Like the fraud that – for years – was used to deny honest citizens their right to carry a concealed weapon. Clovers shrieked like estrogenated banshees that there’d be raging gun battles in the streets; that “gun violence” would erupt uncontrollably once guns were no longer “controlled.” This did not happen. In fact, the reverse happened. Wherever laws forbidding concealed carry were relaxed, there was less rather than more “gun crime.”
It turns out that most people are sensible and can be trusted – and not just with guns.
Said sensible people understand that there is no reason – other than Clover’s presumption of general ineptitude, possibly extrapolated from his own self-appraisal – for a competent driver, who has functioning eyes, to stop and stand idle, wasting time and gas waiting for a mindless signal to tell him what his mind already knows.
And if left turn lanes (where a driver is crossing against traffic) can be managed with “proceed when clear” flashing yellows, the same principle could be – should be – applied to right turn lanes, which merely involve merging with the flow of traffic.
And not just that.
Why should it be illegal to not come to a complete stop at a stop sign, when there’s no reason to stop completely (other than it being “against the law”)? If there are no other cars waiting at opposing stop signs, if there is no cross traffic bearing down, it does not make sense to bring one’s vehicle to a complete stop before proceeding. It wastes time, it wastes gas, it increases wear and tear on your vehicle. Stopping completely only makes sense if there are other cars present. Often, there are not. In which case, stopping completely is as absurd as idling away in a left turn lane waiting for an automated signal to tell you it’s ok to proceed.
Drivers should be encouraged to think. To use their eyes (and their brains) and proceed accordingly. Basing traffic laws on passivity and mindless obedience tends to result in … passive and mindlessly obedient drivers (i.e., Clovers). People who sit and stare into space, or diddle on their iPhones, instead of paying attention to what’s going on around them.
So far, Virginia’s cautious foray away from Cloverism has not resulted in more wrecks. Just as “shall issue” laws making it easier for honest people to carry a gun haven’t resulted in a “wild West” shoot-’em-up. People seem to grok. This is good.
If this most heterodox notion of trusting people to use their heads takes root, who knows what might happen.
No doubt Clovers are anxious.
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