First let me begin by thanking all the considerate drivers in our area.
I leave for three to four months at a time to do disaster work throughout the United States. It is always a surprise to me how in that period of time things can change as much as they do: new stores, new people, new roadways. While I have found drivers throughout the country to be fairly similar, it seems we do have a few unique traffic problems.
The bulk of these dangers can be seen on Highway 49. With the new two lanes opening up between Alta Sierra and La Bar Meadows roads, it seems people have found a new way to either be more competitive or downright impolite, resulting in dangerous conditions. Some that arise are drivers cutting off the car next to them, then hitting their brakes because of the additional speed. I’m not sure why these people think that they will get farther faster, since the cars that are in front of them are still doing 55 to 60 mph so they’re not really getting to their destinations any sooner.
I’ve also noticed that the speed limit signs on the four lane have been raised to 60 mph, creating a new average speed of 70-plus. I do miss the CHPs south of Alta Sierra slowing down the traffic with their radar, but they seem not to be there anymore (maybe funding).
The other thing I have taken note about is that people are not turning on their headlights in the two-lane stretches between Grass Valley and Auburn. Even the CHP and the sheriff’s officers do not abide by this. Maybe they think that it will either wear out their bulbs or that the oncoming cars can see them anyway. What I don’t think they realize is that it’s the cars coming from the side streets that can’t see them lost in the shadows. I live block off Highway 49 near Alta Sierra and I fear getting on the roadway, as I won’t be able to see the oncoming cars. Canada went to a mandatory headlight requirement a few years back and reduced accidents by about 20 percent.
It’s great that we have opened Highway 49 up a bit, but at the same time I never felt we had a traffic problem — only a courtesy problem. Perhaps if people are just a little more polite and conscious of their fellow drivers things, along our danger corridor will be lessened.
I’m hoping that when I come home next time the roads will be a little safer.
Robert Walker lives in Grass Valley.