By Lee Caskey
July 08, 2005
Late Saturday morning I received a phone call from my sister telling me to come out to my parent's house immediately. My mother is near the end of her battle with cancer and my family wanted me there. On my way out North from town I considered myself lucky to have smooth flowing traffic as I drove at the speed limit, until Cannery Creek. I came up upon a caravan of at least four cars following an older white van going 30-35 MPH. This pace continued all the way out to my parent's house at almost 13 mile where the speed limit varies from a nominal 50 MPH to 45 MPH through the curves at Ward and Refuge Coves, then 40 for construction, going back to 50, and finally 55 MPH! I didn't know what to think and am ashamed to say that I lost my temper and was shouting profanities within my vehicle at the inconsiderate person behind the wheel of that van many cars ahead of me as I puttered along in a ridiculous parade fashion. All I wanted was to get out to my mother!
After a little research, I confirmed that there is a law against exactly this type of driving. Alaska Administrative Code, Title 13, Chapter 2, Section 50, Paragraph (b) (13 AAC 02.050) states: Upon all roadways outside an urban district, a vehicle other than an emergency vehicle proceeding at less than the maximum authorized speed of traffic must be driven in the right-hand lane or as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway, except when overtaking and passing another vehicle proceeding in the same direction or when preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into an alley, private road, or driveway. However, on a two-lane highway outside an urban district where passing is unsafe because of oncoming traffic or other conditions, the driver of a motor vehicle proceeding at less than the maximum authorized speed of traffic and behind whom five or more vehicles are formed in a line shall turn off the roadway at the nearest place designated as a turnout or wherever sufficient area for a safe turnout exists in order to permit following vehicles to pass.
There it is, plain and simple! Yet more and more I see this law being broken by all kinds of people. Tour buses, scooters, tour vans and even local people who should know better. Tour businesses and their operators, please take note that this island is not Disneyland and real people live (and die) here. So while you are driving along at a leisurely pace giving tourists sightseeing tours, please be mindful of the people that live and work here. I've noticed a business has recently been renting scooters to people so they can go sightsee around town, but these little things have no business being out of town where they cannot maintain the speed limit safely. Renters should be instructed to be considerate of traffic or better yet, restricted to the old city limits between Wolf Point and the Coast Guard Base. If someone or their vehicle cannot maintain a speed within -5 MPH of the speed limit, they should give way to those who can! Which brings up another sore subject that I'm sure has been mentioned before: The Horse Trolley.
They do not belong on Stedman Street at all! Already the Stedman Street Bridge is an awful hazard of parked buses and wandering people. Driving along Steadman recently it also occurred to me that that whole corridor is double yellow lined, illegal to pass in. Yet this has become the way of things. That corridor is a main roadway and to force lines of traffic to lope along at walking pace or try to pass on a crowded city street is both ridiculous and dangerous. Often times there is no room for the trolleys, that are at least two to three car lengths long, to pull over and allow people to pass. Sometimes, even when there is an opening they do not and continue on.
I do agree with the previous writers about the consideration and care that should be taken when driving with regards to people, kids and pets on the road and other drivers entering the roadway. However, when those elements are not present there is no excuse for driving below the speed limit, not giving way and impeding traffic flow to the degree that I have been seeing lately.
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