The 10 Commandments Of The Garden State Parkway
Stretching from the very top of the state to the very bottom, the 172.4 mile long superhighway known as The Garden State Parkway is not only the busiest toll road in the country, but a way of life for us here in Ocean County.
That being said, there are some rules that travelers should follow when traversing the Parkway. So, I present to you, the 10 Commandments of the Garden State Parkway
Be Prepared For Summer
As the main artery from north Jersey to south Jersey (and yes, maybe even Central Jersey if it does actually exist. But that's a debate for another time), there are a few things that we can count on during summers here in Ocean County, but none more than Parkway traffic.
Starting the Friday leading into Memorial Day weekend and running through Labor Day, the Parkway should be avoided at all costs Friday afternoons through Monday evenings in the summer.
Not from Ocean County and don't know any routes around the Parkway? Sorry, we're not giving up our secrets.
Pick A Speed And Stick With It
I'm not even going to pretend that 90% of the drivers on the Parkway don't speed. Even if the limit was raised, an awful lot of people would still be going well above the posted signs.
Whatever speed you're going though, own it.
Few things are worse than being behind someone who is happily zipping along at, let's say 68 miles per hour just for fun, and they then drop down to 60. And then up to 75. And then back down to 65.
Cruise control is your friend.
Get. Out. Of. The. Left. Lane.
I take back one of the things that I just said above. There is something worse - being behind that person in the left lane.
This falls into the category of, "for crying out loud, how do people not understand this??"
There are signs saying "Keep Right Except To Pass" along just about every single highway in New Jersey, yet I still see drivers every single day who are hogging the left lane either when there is traffic building up behind them or the other lanes are practically empty.
I've heard stories of people getting pulled over for "left lane camping", but I have legit never seen it happen in my years of daily Parkway driving.
This leads right into our next commandment...
I'm not going to say that this is the single most dangerous thing that Parkway drivers do (more on that in a minute), but it's top 3 for sure.
Going back to the previous entry on this list, how many times have you been in the left lane legitimately passing slower traffic when someone comes flying up behind you?
Just about every day? Yeah, me too.
Do you know what happens when one car is tailgating and the one in front of them has to slam on their brakes?
Put The Damn Phone Down
This. This right here tops my list of the most dangerous thing that people do on the Parkway.
There is nothing, not a single thing that you can tell me that excuses it.
"It was just a quick text"
"I've been doing it for years, so I can do it safely" (yes, someone actually said that to me once)
"I was just checking"
No. No, no, and no.
I see it every single day, no exaggeration. A car starts drifting out of their lane, then quickly corrects. You see the brake lights come on, then off, then on, then off.
I honestly feel that it's just a matter of time before I see a true tragedy firsthand because of someone texting while going 65 miles per hour.
Local Or Express? Know Your Lane
A new traffic pattern at the Asbury toll plaza is making this a little better.
Emphasis on "a little".
You still get people who apparently realize at the last minute that they're about to get into the express lanes but want to be in the locals, or vice versa.
Nothing is better than being that guy just behind the person who is zipping across two lanes of traffic to bail out of the side that they were about to end up in.
Which leads me to...
Pick One: E-ZPass Or Cash?
Being that my daily commute takes me through the Toms River toll plaza, this is another one that I see just about every day.
Much like our item above, there always seems to be that person who either realizes, "oops, I don't have E-ZPass" at the last minute, or the light goes on in their head that they don't have any change to toss in the toll booth so they lane hop at the very last minute (without signaling, natch).
Look at the photo below - you have two miles to get in the correct lane. That's an eternity on the Parkway.
There's even a helpful diagram. It doesn't get much easier than having a picture showing you where you need to be.
Bring Your Patience With You
New Jersey has some truly legendary traditions - beaches, pork roll (yes, I said "pork roll", not "Taylor ham"), and roadwork.
And here in Ocean County, boy do we know roadwork.
It seems like projects take so long to complete that by the time they're done, crews have to go back to the beginning and start to fix the aging roadway.
It's an endless loop of orange cones and flashing yellow lights.
It's just a way of life here in Jersey. Breathe in, breathe out, serenity now.
Watch The Cars Ahead, They May Help You
See a couple cars ahead of you suddenly hitting their brakes and slowing down?
Does it feel like they may know something that you don't?
If you know what to look for and you pay attention, those brake lights could have just saved you a bunch of money. Chances are that they were all slowing down because they just spotted a speed trap.
I speak on this topic with a particular expertise.
You see, I almost got killed on the Parkway from flying debris.
I truly believe that the one thing that literally saved my life (twice) was the fact that I didn't panic.
If I'm being honest I don't know where the reactions of steady control came from. These things happen in such a blink of an eye that you truly don't have time to formulate a plan of how to best respond.
And that's the thing about the Garden State Parkway, with untold thousands of travelers every single day, bad things will happen out of nowhere.
When they do, don't panic.