Safe Driving Tips from SCJ Traffic Engineers

A roundabout project by SCJ at SR 3 and Log Yard Road, Belfair, Washington.

The filmmaker Ava DuVernay said, “When you’re in your lane, there’s no traffic.”

If only it worked that way on the interstate!

Navigating heavy traffic is challenging any time of year, especially when driving at night or through unfamiliar places. And whether the traffic gods hear our pleas for help is hit or miss, to say the least.

Brad Shea, engineer with SCJ’s Transportation Design group

So we asked some of the folks who help design our roads, our transportation designers and planners, for their sage advice for safer driving.

Brad Shea, a roundabout expert on our Transportation Design team, says when it comes to safety, it’s important to understand the most common situations when accidents occur. Learn to recognize when you’re in one of those situations and have a plan to avoid it.

“So at a roundabout, assume the person next to you is going to get in the inside lane even if they plan to turn out of the roundabout and give them space for that last-minute lane change you know is coming,” he says.

Aaron Knight at an ITE-IMSA conference

Equally important, if you and another driver are stopped at an intersection and they’re waving you on, giving you the right of way, don’t assume they’ve made sure it’s safe for you to go. And be cautious of waving other drivers into an intersection when you’re trying to give them the right of way.

Aaron Knight, an engineer in our Gig Harbor office, didn’t hesitate when reaching for his top tip. “Use the full merge lane,” he said. “If traffic is backed up where a lane is ending, wait until the end to get over instead of changing lanes a mile before the end.” This is known as zipper merging.

Lisa Reid (right) with Chelsea Lee on site at the Delridge project

By the same token, if the lane next to you is ending, let the cars in that lane merge. Not doing so reduces road capacity and extends the backup.

In addition, when the roads are wet, adding extra space between your vehicle and others helps offset increased braking times. During a heavy downpour or the first 30 minutes of rain, slow down and turn off cruise control. And learn to detect and react appropriately to hydroplaning.

Lisa Reid, PE, Seattle Office Principal, concurs with Aaron. Her sole piece of advice: ZIPPER MERGE. Or as WSDOT says, “Merge late, cooperate.” And remember to indicate!


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