Renner: Welcome to Dickinson
Without a doubt, Dickinson is suffering some growing pains. There are many disgruntled longtime residents that have legitimate complaints.
It seems to me that the city itself and the local newspaper try to curb criticism and encourage welcoming acceptance and tolerance. I tend to agree with this philosophy but there are many areas in which there is a sense of tension. One area of tension that is a concern of mine is the traffic situation. Anyone who has ever driven with me understands why this would be a great concern of mine.
As in most cases in life, tension comes from a lack of communication or a lack of sharing pertinent information. In an effort to smooth these tensions in traffic, I have put together a little fact sheet for all those out-of-state licenses plates that are making a sincere effort to blend into Dickinson traffic.
"We," refers to the people who have been driving in Dickinson for years before the Bakken oil boom, and "You," pertains to the newcomers to our streets. You may have a hard time believing this but some of us have never driven in traffic larger than Bismarck or Fargo. Some of us who have ventured to Minneapolis thank God every day that we came back alive.
Eighteen is the number of cars we were used to seeing at any stoplight at one time. We never sat at a traffic light for more than one signal sequence at any given time, including rush hour. Sitting through four light changes to turn left is even more frustrating to us than to you. We are just not use to it. Sorry, but it does makes us tense.
Lights, as in traffic. Let's review what the colors mean. Red is for Stop, green is for go and yellow is for caution. Caution means "careful thought and lack of hurry in order to try to avoid risks or danger." This may be a shock for you, but some of us watch the green light and anticipate yellow so we actually break coming up on a green light knowing that the light will turn yellow by the time we get to the intersection. We know this is causing tensions because we have seen four or five cars at one time actually speed up and rush through the entire duration of a yellow light and the first 15 seconds of the red lights. We have also seen the tension in the form of various hand gestures and horn honking, which is another condition of traffic that we aren't use to hearing, except in parades.
Crosswalks. Not every intersection has a marked crosswalk. We find it polite and responsible to yield to pedestrians. You may be in a hurry and it may be very annoying to wait for pedestrians to cross the street. But think about it. Thanks to the person walking across the street there is one less car on the road.
Odometer. This is the device in your car that adds up lots of extra miles while you try and find a route to the store or work where there isn't road construction. Good luck with that. The pedometer is the device in your car that tells you what speed you are driving. Every once in a while you should check to see if your odometer reading matches the speed limit signs. This brings up the interesting fact. We take our speed limit signs at face value. In other words, 25 mph means 25 mph. We do not assume that the signs were accidently printed 10 mph less than they were intended to be. Therefore 25 mph doesn't mean 35 mph is the intended speed.
Middle Finger. Because you believe all our speed limit signs are 10 miles below the accepted speed limit, there are times when you will be passing us on the right lane going 35 mph while we are creeping along at 25 mph. When this happens please do not wave your middle finger at us. Some of us take driving the speed limit seriously.
Elderly. Our elderly citizens built and supported Dickinson during several oil booms and busts. They have worked hard and many still give their time and resources back to our community. They have earned our respect. Please show them some, especially while driving.
Tailgating. The accepted distance between cars varies of course, depending on traffic. What you must understand it that many of us are use to double that distance just for extra safety precautions. So when you are tailgating us, we are really feeling like you are in our personal car space. Basically you are too close for our comfort. Oh, and we may break just to annoy you.
Out the window. Littering is another thing we take seriously. It is, in fact, a finable offense. Please do not through your litter out the window. A half a cup of coffee that lands on the street and the next car drives over creates a coffee bomb. The sound of the cup popping is unfamiliar to us and the liquid brown that splashes up on our window interferes with our view. Throwing out fast food bags with fast food in them can cause mustard and pickle blockage on windshields. But besides the obvious, like beer cans, I have also have seen various articles of clothing just lying in the middle of the street including one tennis shoe, a cowboy hat and a bra.
Driveways. Our driveways have a purpose. We did not run out of cement when we were pouring the sidewalk. There is purposely no curb so that vehicles can drive in and out of driveways. Please don't park your vehicle blocking any driveway partially or completely. The statistics are very high that the minute you block a driveway, even for a minute, that is the minute someone needs to dive in or out of the driveway.
Intersections, especially unmarked. Unmarked intersections are confusing. We approach intersection cautiously, carefully watching who approached the intersection first and who has the right of way according to the Rules Of The Road booklet we studied to take our permit test. We aren't familiar with the rule, "The biggest and fastest vehicle always goes first.
Center lines. One solid, yellow center line on your side of the road means that you should not pass. Two solid, yellow center lines mean that no one should be passing. It appears that some of you believe the lines were painted as guidelines or to use up the yellow paint budgeted for the current fiscal year and not for safety reasons. These solid center lines are all too often ignored and the consequences are deadly in some cases. Here are two important questions to ask before passing on a two lane highway: Can I return to my lane before meeting an approaching vehicle? Can I see the road ahead clearly? That was taken from the North Dakota Department of Transportation, Rules of the Road 2011-2013.
Knee driving. Please do not steer your vehicle with your knee. Most of us don't always keep our hands at 10 and 2 o'clock. We are all guilty of one-handed steering. We find it very unsettling when the person in the driver's seat is talking on their cellphone with one hand, taking a bite out of a burger they are holding in their other hand and their turn signal is blinking.
Intoxicated. Never drive while intoxicated. We understand that this is the closest you probably ever lived to a bar. We also understand that you worked long hours and need a break. We have nothing against that. Any distance you drive while drunk is putting your life and someone else's in danger.
New drivers. In North Dakota, 16-year-olds can have a legal driver's license and 14-year-olds can have a restricted license. What this all means is that we have some very young drivers on the road. These new drivers grew up in here. Dickinson is their town. They are driving to and from their school. They are driving to and from their mall. They are driving to and from work. They are talking on their cellphone, they are texting and driving and their sound systems are set at concert-decibel loudness. They believe they are invincible and they will live forever. They should know better, but they don't. That means it is up to all of us to watch out for them.
Signal lights. We call them blinkers and we would appreciate if you would use them. We know it seems a waste of time to constantly turn them on and off when you are weaving back and forth between lanes and in between cars going the speed limit. Some of us base our driving decisions on knowing where you are headed. Seeing your signal light blinking helps us to decide if we should be changing lanes too or if we are safer staying in our lane all the way from Applebees to Walmart.
Obey the basic signs and come to a complete stop. Yield signs mean slowing down or even stopping if necessary. Remember, we take our signs at face value. In wide-open spaces, these detours seem redundant. Even if you can't see the reason or purpose for it
Next of kin. We really do not want to be notifying next of kin, yours or ours. Everyone, please drive safely.