Unpopular opinion: Blame yourself for bad traffic in Western Washington

Aug 4, 2018, 9:06 AM
pay per mile, road usage charge, seattle traffic, memorial day 2019, Labor Day...
(AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)
(AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)

Though many would like to point the finger at authorities for the traffic mess the region finds itself in, KIRO Nights hosts Zak Burns and Gee Scott note that there’s another equally guilty culprit — you.

All of us, really.

“I know we like to blame SDOT, WSDOT, all our departments of transportation for our traffic woes,” Zak said. “And certainly they are partially to blame. But we have to start looking inward a little bit more.”

Both KIRO Nights hosts Gee and Zak were recently stuck — in separate cars — in the same traffic jam around Tacoma. Cars came to a sluggish crawl.

RELATED: Traffic is a symptom of larger problem

“Suddenly, we are stuck in this traffic jam in Tacoma,” Zak said. “I always find it fascinating to see exactly what caused this. What is the reason for this?”

It turns out, there were two cars involved in an accident. The drivers had pulled over to the side of the road on a rather wide shoulder.

“Plenty of room; you didn’t have to slow down whatsoever,” Zak said. “But guess what everybody did? They slowed down just to take a little peek. What did that cause? A massive, massive backup. The minute we passed the accident, the lookie-loos had nothing to lookie-loo at, and the entire traffic jam just went away. That is completely human behavior. Nothing to do with infrastructure. Nothing to do with what WSDOT has done. Nothing to do with what SDOT has done. We are creating so many of our own traffic jams.”

Human behavior is the elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about. Simply put, there are a lot of bad drivers out there slowing things down for everybody else. It’s easy to blame WSDOT for bad traffic. It’s not so easy to confront your neighbor or the person one lane over who is blatantly on their phone.

“Folks are on their phones,” Gee said. “I actually took a picture (of the accident), so I can blame myself. I took the picture because I was mad. I was real mad that there was bad traffic for no reason.”

“Traffic in our town, a lot of it is caused by us,” he said. “We have rubber necks … and another thing that is hurting us — we are on our phones. We are checking social media, emails, text messages that are going on right now. It’s slowing everybody down. Instead of going 60 miles an hour, you’re going 54.”

By the way, Washington does have a pretty strict distracted driving law.

Gee’s observation lines up with a recent study out of the University of Alabama at Birmingham which states distracted driving is slowing things down on the road. Not to mention another study that ranked Washington state with the fifth worst drivers in the nation.

“And we refuse to zipper merge,” Zak added.

The zipper merge phenomena in Washington has prompted multiple reminders from KIRO Radio traffic reporter Chris Sullivan. One brewery even became so frustrated by it, they painted instructions on their delivery trucks.

“I know we get angry at others, but we should really start blaming ourselves,” Zak said.

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Unpopular opinion: Blame yourself for bad traffic in Western Washington