Driving with aloha means letting long lines pass

We are told to “Drive with aloha,” but no one ever explains what that means. Haoles and malahine (foreigners and newcomers) learn that aloha can be hello or good bye, like shalom (peace). But that is an oversimplification. The best literal translation is shared-breath or connectedness. We are all in the same canoe. So how does that apply to driving? It means driving in a way that benefits everyone who might be affected. One might yield to another who does not have the right of way in a situation where that will expedite traffic for several others.

A driver waiting to make a left turn may have many cars waiting behind him. Stopping for a few seconds, if it is safe, can let many others pass and avoid congestion. On the other hand if the left turner is waiting safely in a left turn lane, stopping for her might not be aloha at all because by stopping unnecessarily you might create a risk for others who are proceeding safely. There are many other scenarios I could posit, but you have to make your own judgment each time as to what the aloha-behavior would be.

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One non-aloha behavior that particularly annoys me is obstructing traffic. In particular those who drive slow but refuse to yield the road.

An example: A truck, with police escort, hauling a 110,000 pound bulldozer driving 10 miles at less than 15 mph and never using an opportunity to move aside and let others pass. There were eventually 100 cars in line.

Extreme example: A young man on a big front end loader; going less than 10 mph, taking the entire lane. I checked and by the time I passed the queue I had gone over two miles in the opposite direction. What if someone needed to get to the ER?

More often it’s just an ordinary driver in an ordinary car with no particular place to go and all day to get there.

I have been pestering our legislators for two years to adopt a law from mainland states that requires slow drivers to pull over and yield when they can. This bill is a way to save lives that will cost nothing and actually save money by eliminating the cost of injury and property damage.

It will increase highway capacity, too. It is one of the few places where the “If it saves one life” argument cannot be rebutted. Unlike proposed motorcycle and pickup truck passenger rules, there is no public constituency against it. The California version (CVC21656) includes on a two-lane highway where passing is unsafe because of traffic in the opposite direction or other conditions, a slow-moving vehicle, including a passenger vehicle, behind which five or more vehicles are formed in line, shall turn off the roadway …, “in order to permit the vehicles following it to proceed. … a slow-moving vehicle is one which is proceeding at a rate of speed less than the normal flow of traffic ….”

When slow drivers create long queues several things happen that are undesirable.

1. Drivers get impatient and try to pass where it is unsafe risking deadly head-on collisions.

2. They also tailgate. As the queue gets longer the spacing between vehicles becomes unstable. When one driver brakes or swerves each succeeding driver must duplicate the maneuver, reaction delays compound and inevitably someone crashes.

3. The queue becomes a moving wall interfering with cross traffic; oncoming drivers are unable to make left turns. Traffic in that direction is also impeded causing the same problems in the other direction.

4. Driving unnaturally slow is boring; drivers in queue become inattentive, distracted even drowsy.

5. Traffic delay wastes lifetimes better spent.

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If you agree, contact your state representative or send an email to my address below and I’ll return a petition for you to circulate. Save some lives.

Ken Obenski is a forensic engineer, now safety and freedom advocate in South Kona. He writes a semi monthly column for West Hawaii Today. Email obenskik@gmail.com.