New freeway signs provide better direction

by Caitlin Johnson

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Driving is one of my least favorite things to do. I’m positive the worst drivers in the county have a radar letting them know when I’m on the road so they can torment me with their terrible driving skills. I could attribute part of this to my undiagnosed road rage, but it’s easier to just say, “It’s not me, it’s them.”

However, some of the interstate insanity may be caused by subpar road design. Fortunately, the Cali- fornia Department of Transportation is developing a way to alleviate the confusion experienced on some San Diego freeways. If you recently drove east or west on Interstate 8 near Old Town, you may have noticed the freeway shield logos embedded in the pavement. These logos are part of a project initiated by Caltrans in an attempt to reduce the amount of accidents around the I-8 and I-5 junction.

The area has been troublesome because drivers are unclear about which lane leads to which freeway, and last-minute lane changes have no doubt contributed to the problem. According to 10News, the interchange holds the highest rate of collision in the region.

The problem stems from confu- sion as well as carelessness. We have all been there, or have at least seen it: Distracted drivers nearly or successfully causing an accident because they are too busy playing with an iPod, eating, texting or doing something other than paying attention to the road. At the last minute, they realize they need to take the approaching exit and quickly swerve across all four lanes, cutting off multiple cars in the process. I shouldn’t have to explain how dangerous this is. Distraction on the freeway does not come from a few plastic logos embedded in the pavement; it’s because many drivers simply aren’t paying attention and end up making rash decisions.

The large icons in the middle of the road are quite noticeable and supporters of the project hope they will steer drivers in the right direction (pun intended).

However, opposition has already surfaced. Critics claim the logos are not only an eyesore, but a potentially dangerous distraction to drivers. Commenters on 10News. com fear the new signs will be more detrimental than beneficial in the long run. One user wondered if this will pave the way (again, pun intended) for the sale of advertising space directly on the roads.

As much as I would love to see the McDonald’s logo every quarter mile when driving to the beach, as of now, there are no such plans in development. I decided to make the drive myself and see what all the fuss was about. After reading the complaints, I expected to see neon signage Las Vegas’ gaudiest casino could be proud of. I was somewhat disappointed; the logos are no more distracting than the overhead freeway signs or the countless billboards already lining the interstate.

The project is the first of its kind in California. I recently spoke with Caltrans’ Public Information Officer Hayden Manning, who said “It has been used in other states and it seems to work.”

He explained the logos give driv- ers more time to know which lane they need to be in and are designed to reduce the amount of collisions in the area caused by confusion from the split. Manning said traffic will be monitored for the next two years to determine the effects of the logos.

Manning said the icons cost $20,000, not including labor and freeway closure expenses. This is a relatively small amount of taxpayer dollars funding the solution to a serious issue that needed to be addressed. If successful, the project will be implemented in other accident-heavy parts of the county. With so many drivers and tourists unfamiliar with the area, this new sign will surely prove beneficial in the long run.

The next time you or your friends are driving, keep an eye out for the signs. They are there to help. It will not completely prevent driving accidents in the area, but it’s a good start to help direct drivers to where they need to be. Promoting safety on the road begins with us. Practicing awareness and defensive driving will allow us to prevent accidents.

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