In Letters: The Palm Beach County driving melting pot

The intersection of Central Boulevard and Indiantown Road, the top location for collisions in Jupiter, Wednesday morning, September 2, 2015. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)

The intersection of Central Boulevard and Indiantown Road. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)

We have some debate going on in the Letters section over Snowbirds and traffic.

It started with this letter from reader R. Calem from Boynton Beach – by way of New Jersey – who said, “While I have enjoyed spending the winter here in our new home, I am really looking forward to getting back to New Jersey, with the rude and aggressive drivers.”

Calem says she is a Snowbird who “became one of those who come down to Florida for the winter — one of many who clog up your roads, take your parking spots in malls, and generally annoy you between November and April.”

She had some harsh criticism for the way we drive: failing to yield or rolling through stop signs.

And the responses rolled in.

“We have visited New Jersey and thank God we return safely after fighting the drivers on Routes 287, 202 and the Garden State Parkway, or even the little towns just to get in and out of a grocery-store parking lot. Did it not occur to you that the snowbirds from New Jersey might be the reckless drivers here in the winter?” wrote Alice Tuthill of Tequesta.

“These are drivers who come from every state in our country who have elected to become permanent Florida residents, and they bring with them the bad habits they learned elsewhere — along with the natives, who should know better,” Doris Ellenbogen of Palm Beach Gardens said.

Garden State Parkway

Garden State Parkway

There’s no denying that the increased traffic between November and April does wonders to put people on edge. Those who live here year-round have to make quick adjustments. That drive that took us 15 minutes in July might take over 35 minutes in January. And to Ellenbogen’s point, many drivers come here from other parts of the country and bring their native driving habits with them, which might be fine where they are from but when the divergent driving habits are mixed together in the I-95 pot, sometimes they don’t mesh well.

For example, I personally would like to know where the drivers come from who think that driving 58 mph in the lane closest to the HOV lane – the high-speed lane – is acceptable. How many times have you been driving down I-95 in that lane only to encounter a driver going under the speed limit, seemingly oblivious to the traffic trying to vault around him without plowing into each other in the process?

This is the driver I would like to address, Florida native and Snowbird alike.

It’s called the high-speed lane. It is for drivers who are maintaining the speed limit, which on I-95 in most of Palm Beach County is 65 mph. In Florida, drivers who wish to drive slower are required to utilize the farthest right-hand lane, also known as the “slow lane,” and not maintaining the flow of traffic carries a minimum fine of $121 if you’re pulled over.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with driving a bit slower; South Florida traffic can be nerve-wracking to navigate. The problem is compounded by the right-hand lanes that suddenly become “exit only” lanes, and I imagine some of the drivers who are driving in the wrong lane are doing so to avoid getting caught in an unintended exit.

But driving in the high-speed lane any slower than the speed limit can cause serious accidents when other drivers have to try to get around you to maintain the flow of traffic.

We can debate the traffic levels in the summer versus the winter, and year-round residents and Snowbirds can continue their bickering, but this one shouldn’t be up for debate.

If cars are passing you on both sides, please move to the right, for your safety and the safety of your fellow road warriors.

  • Kristyn Wellesley, Digital Editor