Maybe some drivers shouldn’t be on the road

It will never happen, of course, but Mary Divine’s Pioneer Press article on flashing yellow arrows is yet another argument for requiring drivers to prove every few years they belong on the road. We require that for pilots, for example, why not drivers?

If you don’t know what a flashing yellow arrow means by now, do you belong on the road?

It’s been eight years since Minnesota started using the flashing yellow arrow traffic signals, and eight years since news organizations told listeners, viewers, and readers what they’re for.

“In my experience, if a signal is flashing, that means everybody has to stop, and then you take turns,” motorist Cindy Tregilgas tells Divine. “That’s what I had been used to, so I wasn’t quite sure what to do. It’s that split-second thing. I stopped, and then I thought, ‘Oh, I’ll take my turn to go now,’ and somebody was coming.”

Coincidentally, the intersection at which confusion reigned was one of the very first traffic signals in the state to get the flashing arrow eight years ago.

Tregilgas pushed the Minnesota Department of Transportation for a better location of signs to explain the arrows.

Washington County complied for a few years but then stopped, probably because eight years should be enough time for drivers to learn the rules of the road.

“I’ve got some younger kids who are driving now, and they are taught in driver’s ed what the flashing yellow arrow means,” said Washington County Engineer Wayne Sandberg. “Most drivers have seen this, and they understand what it is. In fact, it’s the No. 1 request we have in Washington County that people want more flashing yellow arrows. I consider it, at this point, ubiquitous to driving. It’s well-known, it’s understood, and, therefore, you no longer need the educational component that these signs were trying to accomplish 10 years ago.”

If kids who are new to driving know the rules of the road, why don’t people who have more experience? Because we don’t have any system in place to require them to.

Think about your last driver’s license renewal. You wrote a check. You looked in the vision device and faked your way through, you posed for a picture. In essence, it’s just a shakedown for your money.

What if it actually served a purpose? What if we required people to take a 20-question test on a computer? Answer 15 correctly, you get a license. Fail any of them, and you immediately take it again after the system explains to you which ones you got wrong and what the correct answer was.

If you still fail, do you belong on the road at all?

“Really, I think the root of the problem is that when the federal government came out with these signals, they did not mandate signs,” Tregilgas said to the newspaper. “Each state can do whatever they want, which leads to chaos, of course.”

We require drivers to know what a red light means. There’s no reason we can’t require them to know — and prove they know — what a flashing yellow arrow means before they’re allowed to drive.