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Signs of the times

Signs, signs everywhere signs, but nobody paying attention.

I'm talking about the signs in the construction zone for the Belknap Street project, especially the ones at the intersection with Tower Avenue, the ones telling drivers not to turn onto Belknap in either direction. Yeah, those.

If I were a betting person, (which I'm not because I'm about as unlucky as black cat holding an open umbrella indoors walking under a ladder), I could make some cash playing the odds of how many drivers are going to make an illegal turn from Tower onto Belknap per traffic light cycle.

The average is three in each direction, in case you're wondering.

I am tempted to park myself (not my car) on the corner holding a huge sign that says "Hey, dummy — read the signs." I don't think they'd get it. I'm sure they'd be asking what sign, or thinking they are reading the sign, but what's it mean?

Maybe somebody can loan me a megaphone. I swear, I'm to the point where I'll devote a day from my busy schedule to stand there and tell people who turn that they're making an illegal turn. I hear there's a pretty big fine for making these turns and that there are a few who can vouch for that.

I'd love to see a couple of police officers stationed there for a day, doing nothing but handing out citations, but I'm sure we'd hear plenty of complaints and questioning why they aren't out stopping real crime.

It's not just that corner and the illegal turns, or the hold up in traffic, or any dangers it might pose — all of that is part of the bargain every time we get behind the wheel. It's the whole problem of too many drivers simply not paying attention, anywhere.

My hubs says it's distractions, like cell phones, music, eating in the car or kids misbehaving, but I don't really buy into that. He was a professional driver. He knows signs are there for a reason, every one of them, and he reads every one of them. I think most people don't. For most people, the signs become part of the scenery they've seen too many times.

I believe it's a symptom of a larger problem — too many taking too much for granted, not the least of which is relying on somebody else to know what's what. I see it when I go to my granddaughter's dance recitals. There is always one or two little dancers who know the routines pretty well, and all the other girls are watching them and following a step or two behind. It's OK, they're little girls and it's a dance recital.

I've seen it at event receptions, when clear instructions for the direction of the buffet line are given, whether it's two lines down each side of the banquet tables moving in the same direction or one line circling around the tables, all it takes is a few to go the wrong direction and everybody follows. No big thing, it's just a reception line.

But when people get behind the wheel of a machine with the potential to harm or kill, it's not OK to just follow the lead of the driver in front of you and take it for granted they know what they're doing. I despise the new roundabouts for this reason and actually go out of my way to avoid them if at all possible. Too many people do not understand how they work and are trying to watch everybody else for their cue. All it takes is one driver to enter or exit incorrectly and you have a half dozen more doing the same thing.

Even the order of procession from a fully loaded four-way stop seems up for grabs now. Few people know exactly who goes first, or my pet-peeve, the driver who is supposed to go waving somebody else to take their turn — maybe it's just because I'm a woman that it always seems to be a man who I believe thinks I don't know my own turn.

I'm not sure what more can be done to inform the public. It's been on the news, it's been in the papers prior to this, it's all over social media and there's plenty of signage from both directions.

Maybe a flashing red light right next to the "No Turn" symbols would help, but I have my doubts, it's just another flashing light in another construction zone.

So don't be surprised if you see me standing out there with a megaphone. Maybe bring me doughnut and a cup of Colombian brew from Kwik Trip.

Judith Liebaert writes for Positively Superior and the Duluthian. She is the author of "Sins Of The Fathers," a crime novel set in Superior and inspired by a true cold case. Find her online at judithliebaert.com.

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