Are You a Rude Driver?

nevergettoworkTraffic wouldn’t be so bad…if it weren’t for all the drivers. A bad or rude driver can be the bane of any commute. But have you ever wondered whether you fall into that category yourself at times?

Here are ten simple rules that will ensure that your driving is both safe and courteous. See how many of them you currently follow.

1. USE YOUR SIGNALS

Signaling is how you communicate with other drivers. Many people stress the importance of good communication in the workplace, and yet refuse to communicate on the road, when actual lives are at stake.

Let other drivers know of your intentions when you’re changing lanes or making a turn. This doesn’t mean flicking your signal for a tick or two AS you make the turn, it means activating your signal up to one block away so the driver behind you knows that you are about to slow down.

Even if you are in a “turn only” lane, your signal should be active. If the lane is marked “turn only” on the pavement, this information may be covered by cars waiting for the light, and newcomers and visitors won’t know it’s a turn-only lane until it’s too late. But if every vehicle in the lane is signaling the same turn, it’ll be pretty obvious what the lane is for.

2. HONOR THE SIGNALS OF OTHERS

Some drivers treat a signaled lane change as if it were a request to block your intended lane instead, especially on the interstate. What happens is Driver A is the left lane and signals that he’s switching to the right lane. Driver B is in the right lane and doing about the same speed as Driver A. But upon seeing the signal, Driver B suddenly speeds up so that Driver A can’t “get in front” of Driver B. In most circumstances, several drivers in a row follow.

This is extremely rude and pretty dangerous. A driver trying to move over may be on the verge of missing his turn or exit. S/he may not realize you are blocking the attempt and try to move over anyway, particularly if s/he’s in a hurry. But safety aside, this is the traffic equivalent of shoving someone aside at the bank or supermarket so you could go first, particularly if they were already ahead of you.

When someone ahead signals a desire to join your lane, simply stop accelerating – braking isn’t necessary – long enough to let them in. Racing ahead so they have to change lanes behind you won’t even cut seconds off of your travel time, so what’s the point?

3. AVOID TAILGATING

No, I don’t mean the party you throw off the back of your truck in parking lots.

I’m referring to following another vehicle too closely. You should follow this rule for your own sake if not for others. 99% of the time or more, a rear-end collision will be ruled as the back driver’s fault for not allowing a safe lead distance.

A lead distance is considered full four seconds to pass the same landmark as the preceding vehicle (which is a greater distance at greater speeds), or approximately one car length (ten feet) for every 10 MPH of your current speed. Yes, this means if you’re doing 70 on the interstate, you should allow for 7 car-lengths in between you and the preceding car.

This is the only thing that will give you enough time to react if something happens to the preceding driver. If you’re just 10 feet behind him and going 65 MPH, and he’s a reasonable distance from the next driver, he will have time to stop to avoid a collision if you encounter a traffic jam or accident or lane closure. You won’t.

4. MIND YOUR BLIND SPOT(S)

Every vehicle has one or more surrounding areas that cannot be seen by mirrors alone, especially towards the rear flank of the driver’s side. Always look to make sure this area is clear before changing lanes, or you may be cutting someone off, or worse – colliding. A failure to check one’s blind spot is the cause of many accidents, possibly more than speeding.

Also, just because a middle lane is clear doesn’t mean it’s safe for you to move into it. Someone two lanes over may also be moving to that lane the same time you are. I’ve avoided dozens of accidents by checking both lanes to my left or right instead of just one, and it’s a good thing too because in every case, the other driver wasn’t.

And never EVER change across two lanes at the same time. If you’re close to missing an exit, at the very least pause in the middle lane to look over with enough time to turn your signal off and then back on so other drivers know of your intent. In a worst case scenario, you can always return from a later exit.

5. STAY RIGHT UNLESS PASSING

Slower traffic should always stay to the right, particularly on the Interstate. Unless you are currently passing, you should never be in the left-most lane. If you are consistently moving faster than the cars to your right, you can stay in a left lane, but if someone approaches at a higher speed behind you, it’s more polite to move over, even if you have to (temporarily) get behind someone a bit slower than you’d like.

If someone ever passes you to your right on a highway, you’re doing something wrong. You should immediately move to your right (when it is safe to do so).

6. STAY IN VIEW OF TRUCKS, AND RESPECT THEIR SIZE

Big rigs have far more blind spots than your average sedan. The rule of thumb is if you can’t see a truck’s mirrors, that truck can’t see you. This could set you up for being run off the road, or worse, smashed into a barrier. Even if you can see a truck’s mirrors, don’t assume the driver can see you unless you can see HIM in one of his mirrors, or at least the driver’s side window. Only move into a truck’s blind spots when you’ve already been in view for awhile, and don’t linger in the blind spot. Move on.

Be aware that tractor-trailers are much heavier than your own vehicle, and their inertia affects their maneuverability. If one is in front of you, it’s best to assume it will be able to stop in case of an unexpected obstacle (see #3 above). If one is behind you, it’s best to assume it won’t be able to suddenly stop if YOU should come across an obstacle. Hopefully the semi driver will be observing rule #3 as well, but you share the responsibility of not cutting directly in front of a rig when you pass one. Allow for some lead room before joining its lane.

7. NEVER BLOCK AN INTERSECTION

Sometimes traffic is so heavy that even when your light is green, traffic from another intersection has backed up to your present location. If there isn’t room for your vehicle in the road beyond the intersection, don’t cross to the other side. This applies whether you are going straight or making a left turn.

As aggravating as it can be to remain stopped at a green light, if you enter the intersection, you will now be blocking the path for the cross-street when those drivers should have the right of way. Then their lane in turn will back up further until it blocks additional intersections, and this is how you get gridlock.

It’s both illegal and rude to sit parked in the middle of an intersection. Wait until there is ample room across from you, even if it means waiting for one (or more) cycles of the light. Otherwise you will be ruining everyone else’s chances of advancing as much as your own. Ironically, the reason your own lane is blocked may be because someone up ahead ignored this very principle. Don’t perpetuate the same mistake.

8. DON’T ASSUME OTHER DRIVERS ARE DOING AS THEY SHOULD

To be the safest (and most courteous) driver you possibly can be, you’ll have to assume that most drivers don’t follow any of these rules, or even obey traffic laws. The sad truth is that most drivers DON’T follow most of these rules.

Even when you have the right of way, such as at an intersection, it’s best to monitor other drivers. People make mistakes. Sometimes people deliberately run stop signs or red lights. Even when you have a green light or the right of way, it’s best to ensure your cross-traffic is stopped or at least slowing before you cross in front of them. This way even if someone ELSE makes a mistake, you can avoid an accident.
9. NEVER CONTINUE TO USE A LANE YOU KNOW IS CLOSED AHEAD

This is one of the rudest things one human being can do to another. In the case of traffic jams caused by construction or accidents closing one or more lanes, there are invariably two types of people:

Those who politely wait in the open lane(s) even if traffic has slowed to a crawl or stopped, and those who barrel on ahead in the closed lane(s) only to rudely shove their way across when they finally run out of real estate.

In truth, the only reason the open lane is going so slowly is because of the rude individuals pushing their way into the lane up ahead. If everyone joined the slow lane at the BACK of the lane, it wouldn’t be half as slow as it has to be to let in those who plow ahead as they deserve special treatment and are too good for traffic.

10. RELAX

Most of the reason for poor driving is driving in a rush. I don’t simply mean speeding, I mean a variety of faux pas (many of which are listed above) committed simply as a result of impatience. This includes plowing ahead in a lane you know is closing, speeding through a yellow light, running a red light, using a “rolling stop” at a stop sign, cutting off those who signal a change into your lane, and tailgating to name just a few.

I challenge you, pick two days out of your work week to try an experiment. One the first day, drive impatiently and aggressively to see how quickly you can get to work. On the second day, remain calm, let people in front of you, approach intersections and exits conservatively. Monitor the exact time both trips take you.

You’ll probably be surprised to discover than even the most aggressive driving will barely shave 2 or 3 minutes off of your driving time, even for an hour commute. My dad and I have both tried this experiment and come to the same conclusion. Waiting at intersections is the primary thing that will slow your drive. Letting others in front of you, even over and over, will not significantly slow you down.

It’s not worth aggravating everyone around you, not to mention putting yourself and others at physical risk just to save a few short minutes. If you’re running fifteen minutes late, all the aggressive driving in the world won’t help you shave it unless your route is 99% Interstate.