Column: Keys Disease

Now that it’s about time for my annual turn-signal reminder column, recent events on our main traffic artery here in the Keys have prompted a comprehensive article. Please clip and save this one for future generations of U.S. 1 drivers who will be here long after you and I perish as just two more traffic statistics. Here is the first complete “Keys Disease Florida Keys Driving Guide.”

TURN SIGNALS: Just because your vehicle may be equipped with a lever on the steering column that controls your directional indicators (otherwise known by their technical name, “blinkers”), there’s no actual need to ever move that lever to activate them. They are considered optional by most Keys drivers (locals and visitors), and most choose not to exercise that option. The exception to this is when the driver plans to stay in one lane with no intention to turn for miles. Then, the turn signal is recommended so that other drivers are kept guessing as to your intentions.

TURN LANE: It’s time to review the proper procedures for making a turn off the highway. First, make sure you have entered the appropriate “turn lane.” If you are making a left turn, the right-most lane is appropriate. Likewise, if you’re making a right turn, the left lane or middle “suicide lane” would be correct. When making a turn, please review the above TURN SIGNAL procedures.

TURNING ONTO HIGHWAY: When turning onto U.S. 1, please be sure to wait until the appropriate moment, such as when your turn into traffic will affect the largest number of drivers. If other drivers are forced to hit their brakes when you enter the highway, chances are they were already driving too fast. If you happen to be driving a long vehicle, such as a truck towing a boat, a motorhome, or a sightseeing bus filled with out-of-towners, feel free to back up as much traffic as needed until you’re able to properly affect drivers coming from the other direction. One last tip: the center “suicide” lane is there to be used as an acceleration lane. The proper use would be to enter the lane and hit the gas, accelerating to a speed that’s faster than the moving traffic. Move into the correct lane, and then slow down until traffic is backed up behind you.

TRAFFIC LANES: The left lane is typically reserved for motorists who drive faster, while slower traffic is required to keep right. Obviously, this arrangement doesn’t work in the Keys. An egret or some other piece of scenic environment might require a driver to slow down or even come to a complete stop, even in the left lane. Even if it’s on the hump of the Seven Mile Bridge and the driver has to stop and video the sunset (this actually happened, by the way — I saw it with my own eyes). Needless to say, lanes of traffic can host vehicles in all speeds, from park to barely subsonic, here in the Keys.

PEDESTRIANS AND BICYCLES: If you attempt to traverse any length of U.S. 1 by foot or bicycle, you are a fool. Stay away from the highway. Motorists don’t care about you. To them, you are nothing but road hazards and speed bumps. If you do decide to ride your bike close to the highway, please remember that you have the right of way at all times, and that all motorists are observant and really will see you and stop for you. After all, the fact that you had the right of way will really give you aid and comfort as they pry your mangled body off the grill of the Escalade with Michigan tags that just hit you.

Here at Keys Disease Central, your driving safety is our top concern, unless there’s something good on YouTube. Please review the above procedures, and see how many you are following. If you do follow any of the above techniques, there’s a good chance that, sooner or later, you will be recognized by our local law enforcement officers and “cited” for your observance of the aforementioned practices. These “citations” can result in the accumulation of “points” that you can redeem for a future of self-financed taxi rides. Remember that driving isn’t a right, it’s a privilege—and it’s sure been a privilege to share the road with people who drive like those in this column.

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