THE GRIDLOCKSMITH, traffic safety activist, "Roads Scholar," former "Road Warrior" who lost a brother (aged,15) on the road in 1969, has compiled many observations and ideas about traffic safety after 3 decades of driving for a living. "Are you part of the problem, or part of the solution? Set a safe example in traffic." You, too, can be a gridlocksmith. "Road-Peace is a step toward World Peace." - Earl Shoop

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Location: Silver Spring, MARYLAND, United States

Looking for what's logical, efficient, kind and fun... Traffic safety became a personal issue when my youngest brother died on the highway. I observed traffic unsafety while driving for a living(30yrs). Spread the word about "Road-Peace" as a step on the road to World Peace. Since those wise and gentle enough to create World Peace will not treat each other as we now do, in traffic, the road is a good place to focus our efforts. see

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

When "No" Means "Yes"

Darwin Award

please note:

There almost certainly
will be a merge
in the area ahead

Why Is This So?

Because, where there once was a short acceleration lane to aid merging, there is now an abrupt merge into what has become a "passing lane." We will not see the return of the old acceleration lane, but we can do something about the misplaced "passing lane."

We should acknowledge the goodness of our fellow drivers. Many of them saw that traffic from a busy highway would need to merge into their flow. To expedite that merge so that traffic would not back up onto that highway and create a dangerous situation, they moved to the left to make room. Then, the knuckle-heads (you know who you are) decided that the right lane, with all that room, was perfect for passing! By doing so, they have made the situation worse.

The authorities have tried to handle this with signs that warned that "This Lane Is Closed To You" at certain times. Valiant effort.

One might be tempted to call for signs instructing drivers in the "slow lane" to yield to merging traffic. But, since the problem involves drivers who engaged in improper passing, will signs deter them? As I am fond of reminding scofflaws, (especially those in the diplomatic community) "The laws of physics are self enforcing."

Slow Lane Rumblestrips

As you rushed to catch a plane at BWI, you had your teeth jarred by an impressive set of them. Imagine the effect they could have in the "slow lane/passing lane." Gentle strips in the right lane will allow drivers to stay in the lane if they maintain the proper speed to allow merging.

Hmm. Here's another thought about signs... "Slow Lane Must Allow Alternate Merge."

Well, friends, this is a think tank, after all. What are your thoughts?

Monday, January 23, 2006


(revised: 3-30-2006)

This could be the slogan for those who want
to remind others who may have forgotten
to buckle up for safety.

What follows is the complete text, with
only a small adjustment for the link to
darwinawards, of a letter (email, actually)
that I sent to the famous Heloise of
"Hints From Heloise" fame:


A friend who *always* buckled up totaled
her car one day. Unfortunately, she had
forgotten to buckle up. She spent months in
the hospital and expects to have painful
reminders for the rest of her life.

Here is my silent but effective technique
for reminding folks that it just might be a
good idea...

With a friendly wave and smile, I get the
other person's attention. Then, I hold my
seat belt up to my face and present an
exaggerated kiss upon the belt.

Their response is usually quite positive.
Sometimes, they even roll down the window
to voice their thanks for the reminder.

For those who are unmoved, I only shrug and
recall that darwinawards are meant for such people.

Thanks for being such a wonderful resource
for us all, Earl Shoop

"Are you part of the problem, or part of the
solution? Set a safe example in traffic."
-The GridLockSmith

Saturday, January 14, 2006


I suppose I should say a word about
GRIDLOCK. That word is.... PREVENTION!

As we all know, traffic flows along streets
that form a grid. When traffic volume
exceeds the capacity of the streets,
traffic snarls. Many a driver snarls.
People with a great desire to be
somewhere else start to focus even more
sharply on, "Get me outta here!"
Frustration leads to poor decision making.
Perhaps the most common bad decision in
heavy traffic is to advance into an
intersection without any certainty of
getting out before the lite changes.
Imagine that drivers are blocking *all* the

This is gridlock. Once established, it takes
much time to get traffic flowing, again.

The best solution (Here comes that word...)

"As patience is a virtue,
Impatience is a sin.
If you can't get out of the intersection,
For gosh sakes, don't go in."

Wednesday, January 04, 2006


Although badly mangled, the lone survivor managed to live an almost normal life...


We drive sometimes by a scene
That imparts a feeling, serene.
Of course we should mention
That the effect on attention
Can have results, quite mean.

To safely obsess the view,
Here is what to dew
Pull over and park.
Enjoy until dark.
Or, whenever is good for yew.

-The Gridlocksmith (of "Lame Poets R Us")

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Our patience will achieve more than our force.
- Edmund Burke


(last revised: July 20, 2009)
These posts should always be considered as drafts.
Your comments make a difference, here. -gls


No sane driver wants to run RED lites. Why would anyone
want to risk being in the middle of an intersection just as
someone else is approaching from the side at full speed?
The Darwin Awards are not that hard up for candidates.

So, if people don't want to run RED lites, why does it happen?


When the YELLOW lite comes on you are not certain exactly how
much time remains before the dreaded RED lite.
You must judge whether to stop, or proceed through the YELLOW.
The thought processes can become dizzying:
how long does this particular YELLOW stay on?
if I slam on the brakes, will something in the back come hurtling into my head?
will my car be struck from behind?
is the pavement wet or dry?
With all this thinking going on out there, it is a wonder that we don't accidentally
run RED lites more often.

The "Dilema Zone" (ie: Do I Stop or Speed Up?) as it is expressed
by at least one traffic engineer, is a source of driver stress that
we can do without.

It would be nice if we at least had a marker that said to us, "If the YELLOW comes on when you are at the speed limit, at this very spot, then you should proceed. If you have not made it this far, you should stop." There could be problems, such as weather, of course. Any more ideas?


Cameras may not be the best possible solution to RED lite
runners. Aside from the expense, which is considerable, the
safety factor is questionable. Uncertain drivers sometimes will
stop at YELLOW lites, risking rear end collision. Don't believe it?
"Red-light cameras are blamed for a somewhat higher rate of
rear-end collisions caused by drivers braking suddenly at
intersections when lights turn yellow. "--WASHINGTON
POST EDITORIAL (Monday, February 27, 2006; Page A14)

Moreover, driver reaction has been cynical, many claiming that the YELLOW might be shaved to create violations and gain revenue.
The public can hardly be blamed for skepticism if officials do not
more aggressively seek our input.

If the public had been asked, it is likely that someone would have suggested count down signals such as we now see for pedestrians. Or, rumblestrips to mark the "Go-Zone." Or... How
about a system that requires no investment in new equipment at all? One allowing drivers to know exactly how much time remains before the lite turns RED, and whether to proceed or stop at the intersection.


Let's give drivers a break. If we double the YELLOW time there should be no excuse for running the RED. Plus, to make sure drivers know how long the YELLOW will last, clearly mark the half point. This will not need to extend the time of the cycle. It can be accomplished by simply advancing the YELLOW to overlap the last part of the GREEN.

With this overlapping system, when the driver sees the YELLOW lite
come on, there will be twice as much time and distance to judge
whether to stop or go. (If you are twice as far from the intersection
when you see the lite, aren't you twice as likely to not even think of
speeding up?) When the GREEN disappears, the halfway point has been reached. If the motorist has not gone at least half the distance, stopping is the obvious choice.

The benefits from such a system include:
  • fewer driver errors from confusion and frustration.
  • Fuel savings will be enhanced as drivers, knowing further in advance, will elect to coast to the intersection.
  • Traffic flow could improve as left-turners see their opening sooner.
Can we call it "Mellow Yellow?" (That's right..)

Perhaps this could be tried, first, where red lite cameras exist. Then, those who are ticketed will not be able to complain about the shortness of the YELLOW lite.

What are your thoughts?

(last revised: July 20, 2009... older comments refer to earlier version)