Edmonton, Travel | No comments yet.
Life in Edmonton
By: Zdenko Kahlina
Driving in Edmonton
Don’t drive here if you don’t have to. Edmonton and Calgary have the worst vehicle accident rates in the country. There are many explanations, but it all boils down to – people here are very bad drivers. This blog is meant to be a warning for the Edmonton tourists and visitors.
So, are you sure you wanna drive in Alberta? Oh right, you can’t get anywhere without a car… Be very careful in Edmonton Traffic. There is a very interesting mix of passive / aggressive driver attitude everywhere…. including the foot traffic. Edmonton is clearly the winner of poor drivers. I hope you don’t have a road rage problem!
Edmonton has some of the rudest and most ignorant drivers in the country. They don’t let you in and they think that the speed limit isn’t more than a suggestion. Everybody drives pick-up trucks here and 90% don’t know how to drive them. Edmonton drivers need to get back to learning the rules, and these rules need to be enforced. And most of all, Edmonton drivers need to understand that driving is a complex operation within a complex system that’s not to be taken to lightly. As it is now, getting into traffic has become like getting shot off the end of an aircraft carrier to fly a sortie in hostile territory. You never know where the next bogie is. And really, it’s not so much the danger of driving here as the annoyance of dealing with idiots.
I once mentioned in front of my young coworkers how drivers should sometimes practice driving. They didn’t understand me… ‘Practice, what practice… we already have driver license! We don’t need to practice driving’, they proclaimed. Wrong! Even experienced drivers should sometime practice driving to correct their own (bad) habits. Not to mention practicing driving in winter conditions and learning how their car respond when using brakes on a slippery roads.
Alberta’s worst driving habits and risky practices:
- Impaired driving
- Distracted driving
- Misjudging personal ability
There are some others as well, so just keep on reading as I will try to describe them here.
The Basic Rules of the Road
The basic rules of not changing lanes in an intersection, entering an intersection without being able to exit the intersection, parking left of center (and passing left of center). Stopping rules such as the basic 2-way vs 4-way are not understood nor complied to. The basic “driver to the right has right of the way” (intersection) is not understood nor adhered to. Also, Edmonton’s Civil Engineers do some interesting things that are not done elsewhere in North America-leading to further confusion. The police “seem” to becoming passive as well… I know the justice system has restricted them as well… but it seems they have given up to a degree. People do the things they do because they can. That’s the bottom line. If you consider all modes of transportation: Air, Sea, Rail, and Road transport (cars)…. the only way they keep the systems moving well is by operating them in a UNIFIED MANNER. All operators operate nearly the same way.
The Rules of the Road are intended to do the same thing. This is the safest, easiest, and quickest way to operate a very complex system such as city streets. And yet, the private automobile has become one of the most common ways to express individuality… and a common place to express their daily frustrations.
If you decide to get around Edmonton by car, please take the following into consideration:
It’s called a turn signal.
Signal lights are regularly left unused, shoulder checks are unheard of. Please use it when attempting to make a turn. It’s simply a matter of being respectful to other drivers. Oh, and it IS perfectly legal to turn right on a red light if the coast is clear (unless the intersection states otherwise). Please remember that.
It’s called an accelerator.
Use it! Your vehicle does have the capability of speeds faster than 35 or 40 Kmh. More importantly, if you are a slower driver, please stay off the freeways as much as possible … and especially out of the left lanes. Again, this applies to everyone (resident or not) in traffic. Many people aren’t aware that there is a traffic law here which states slower traffic MUST stay in the right hand lane. If you are in the left lane & traffic is speeding by you on the right, then you are in violation of this law!
In Edmonton there are speed limits posted quite visibly, yet while driving the speed limits you will find many people honking and extending middle fingers to you. I suppose speed limits were only posted as a guideline, not as a rule in Edmonton. Strange. Downtown driving is beyond heinous. The one ways have no pattern to them, unlike Calgary who has a one way every second block. Beware of Edmonton police enforcement on speeds. Edmonton police are cracking down on speeders very aggressively at all times. We also have lots of photo-radar speed traps and traffic cameras on most major intersections. People who choose to ignore posted speed limits risk receiving hefty fines, demerits, or the suspension of their driver’s license.
It’s no secret that aggressive driving is a problem on Alberta roads. Tailgating is a common precursor to other aggressive road behaviors. Sure, like everywhere else, there are the aggressive drivers and the really stupid ones (stop in the middle of the road to let a passenger off). But what makes this a more dangerous/annoying place to drive is the fact that these ubiquitous aggressive drivers and stupid drivers are mixed with a disproportionately large number of overly courteous drivers. These ‘courteous’ drivers make an extra effort to be courteous to the people they see. What they do not realize is that they pose a BIG hazard to people they do not see, usually from behind. Worse yet is that they are usually self-righteous, and have no desire to change their ways.
Here is one example: Jaywalker stands by the road waiting for it to clear. Courteous Driver sees pedestrian, slams on brakes, stops. Meanwhile, cars in the other 3 lanes of traffic keep going because it’s not a crosswalk, and cars behind Courteous Driver almost hit him/her. Jaywalker looks at Courteous Driver with incredulous look, before he/she finally gets it and moves on. Yes, I have been the Jaywalker before, and also the car behind. Obviously this is something that really annoys me!
So combine these self-righteous morons with the fact that people in general don’t know the rules (erring on the side of gross traffic inefficiencies) and the cities are too cheap for road upkeep (or clear of snow in the winter) while providing horrible public transit, thereby necessitating everyone and his children to drive (driving age=16).
Drinking and driving is an incredibly self-centered thing to do, especially here in Alberta, where penalties are very high if you get caught. There are a bunch of other options after you had a drink or two. Like taking a taxi or a bus, or asking a friend for a ride – anything rather than risk depriving the world of someone… it’s never just the people in the vehicle who are affected by impaired driving! Remember this!!
Think of all the ways you can be distracted while driving: cell-phones, GPS devices, tablets, e-readers, laptops, onboard computers, built-in DVD players. And that’s in addition to old ‘classics’ like food, hot coffee, makeup and bickering kids in the back seat. Everyone here in Edmonton seems to be texting or talking on a phone while driving. It’s against the law!!! And it is very dangerous! Research has shown that drivers talking on cellphones are just as impaired as drunk drivers!
Road rages abound in Edmonton, but you are unlikely to get shot- just screamed at or tailgated or threatened. Be careful of tailgaters in general. No one realizes that in Alberta you are supposed to leave roughly a meter in sight from behind the back tires of a car in front of you and your front end. If you haven’t floored the gas by 1 sec after a light turns green some psycho behind you already has his horn blasting. I’d say more drivers here are passive – aggressive rather than courteous! They do things like cutting you off, slamming on their brakes to scare you and driving right next to a car in front of you so you cannot pass.
Driving in the left lane
One thing I have noticed in Edmonton was that folks here drive in the left hand lane of the highways and city streets – slowly. Is the law here ‘keep right except to pass’ like other provinces, or is that not a law here? I have seen emergency vehicles struggle to get through the left hand lane which are clogged by slow moving vehicles. What is it with the left lane anyway? Why is it better and more interesting than right lane?
In most of Europe anyone moving too slowly in the left lane are given a flash of the headlights from the driver behind. Invariably, the slower driver will move over to let the faster driver through. I wouldn’t even try that in Edmonton as it would most likely result in being at least given the finger, or being retaliated against with some dangerous maneuver.
Pedestrians crossing the road
That’s another thing. Kids (and many adults) here dart out into traffic because they’re not taught otherwise from the word go. I grew up in Croatia (Europe), where traffic has always been wall-to-wall. It was drilled/instilled into us kids to always use a crossing and to “look right, look left, look right again”… before crossing the road. Not once, EVER, were I or any of my childhood friends involved in an accident – don’t ever recall seeing a car/pedestrian one, either. That’s not to say such accidents don’t occur, that’s why they’re called accidents, but their likelihood of occurring is much less. We weren’t fed the false impression that stepping out into the road would automatically cause traffic to stop, as is the case here with school buses with their flashing lights and swing out stop signs. To this day, people there use crosswalks and always maintain a supreme awareness of traffic around them. I’m not suggesting abolishing speed limits in school areas, they exist in Europe too, but road safety begins at a very early age. A severe shift in thinking is so needed in Canada.
Edmonton also has tons of seniors who drive on the highways under the speed limit. Watch out for North Central Edmonton and be sure to lock your doors. People also come up and tap on your windows at stop lights asking for money. Watch out for those red light cameras. They send you a ticket if you’re even over the stop line and out of the intersection (stopped). They also catch speeders during green lights.
Parking is crazy too. You park at the end of a parking lot away from everybody else and they will park next to you with the entire parking lot empty. Heck even the police speed here! Beware of parking troubles in the core city; bring coins for meters and or lots. And DO NOT leave anything in your car that’s visible to thieves. If people hear a car alarm, they ignore it and keep going about their business.
Edmonton’s streets are notorious for having potholes. It’s one of Edmonton’s most painful annual rituals. Freezing and thawing create gaping holes in the asphalt. A couple of days into a spring like thaw, drivers are already heralding 2014 as a banner year for potholes. “They’re everywhere,” said Andy Tekleabe, a cabbie awaiting passengers outside the Crowne Plaza downtown.
One message at the end: If you’re NEW in Edmonton, please don’t drive here!! For your own safety!
Follow Zdenko on Facebook !