Let’s talk about etiquette. No, not the social type, typical of diligent parenting and describing polite and proper social behaviors. Instead, driving etiquette. Driving etiquette is simply being a good driver, a safe driver, a considerate driver. Why is this important? First, driving can be dangerous, so if a person drives without due consideration for others, safety can be compromised.
Second, driving can be stressful and that sometimes brings out rudeness in otherwise nice people. This rudeness can lead to further compromised behavior, and unsafe conditions. Driving etiquette is mostly good common sense, but in our fast-paced world with people on their cell phones and distracted in dozens of ways, it takes awareness and real effort to be a courteous and safe driver.
21 Unwritten Rules
Almost everyone learns the fundamental procedures from a parent, friend, the local DMV rule book or a Safe Driving class. But there are also some additional important unwritten rules and guidelines that every driver should follow that will make you a more considerate, safe and responsible driver:
A Freebie: The Left Lane is the Passing Lane
The left lane is not the default “I’m in a rush lane.” Once you pass a car, move to the right. Move aside for faster cars. Always remember, slower traffic should keep to the right.
#1 Remember That You Are Not Racing
You don’t have to jockey for position just to be out in front.
#2 Don’t Drive Much Slower Than the Speed Limit.
Driving slower than the speed limit will make the drivers behind you nuts, and may prompt irrational behavior. Do observe speed limits but a good practice is to go with the traffic flow to keep everyone happy.
#3 Give Others Room to Maneuver
Observe other’s traffic signals warning you that they are changing direction.
#4 GetUp to Speed Quickly When Entering Traffic
It is especially important to accelerate when entering an on-ramp.
#5 Don’t Assume That Everyone Else Will Get Out of Your Way
Don’t assume that everyone sees you merging. It’s not worth a crash.
#6 Don’t tailgate. Tailgating Frequently Leads to Rear-end Collisions
According to the National Traffic Safety Administration, more than 20 percent of all accidents in the U. S. each year involve rear-end collisions, causing 2,000 fatalities and nearly one million injuries. Instead, leave at least one car length between you and the driver in front of you. That space will give you time to react if they stop short or need to swerve.
#7 Stay Out of Other Drivers’ Blind Spots
If someone can’t see you, you are not protected from their actions. Simply speed up or drop back a little to achieve better, and safer, visibility
#8 Allow Others to Merge into Traffic
Move over into the next lane to allow others to merge if necessary.
#9 Don’t Respond Angrily to Aggressive Drivers
Don’t engage in road rage, for example if someone who cuts you off or tailgates aggressively. Keep your cool, just take a deep breath and don’t respond at all. Move over if necessary. According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, aggressive driving accounts for 56 percent of fatal car crashes.
#10 Never Drive With Children or Pets in Your Lap.
Driving with anyone in your lap is a recipe for disaster.
#11 Your Car Horn is Not a Musical Instrument
Nor is your horn a thermometer for your emotional state. Use the horn sparingly because it can irritate others. A quick beep can signal “I’m here,” or it can prompt a move when the car ahead of you is paused too long at the stoplight.
#12 Use Your High Beam Sparingly.
Blinding the on-coming driver by using your high beams won’t be good for you.
#13 Avoid Distractions
Distractions can cause taking your eyes and your mind off the road and can take your hands away from their auto-guiding functions:
- Avoid hand-held cell phone use. Texting is a big no-no. Don’t watch movies on the smart console or surf the internet.
- Prevent the effects of tiredness by operating a vehicle well-rested or turn the wheel over to someone who can be fully alert.
- Listing to the radio is fine, but don’t crank up the volume to the point you can’t hear on-coming emergency vehicles. Use all your senses to drive safely.
- The front seat of a car has become America’s largest restaurant dining room. However, eating and drinking while behind the wheel can be a serious distraction.
- Your passengers can sometimes be distracting. Ask them to help you pay primary attention to the road. Handle backseat drivers with humor.
- Personal grooming while behind the wheel is a definite no. This means no hair brushing or combing, or applying makeup while in the driver’s seat
#14 Help Others Enjoy Kindness
Be kind on the road by acknowledging good behavior with a nice wave, and a smile
#15 Always Give Way to Emergency Vehicles
Don’t wait for an emergency vehicle’s siren and the flashing lights to move over.
#16 Help the Stranded or Injured if you can
Don’t pull onto the shoulder of a freeway just to make a phone call or to take a stretch break.
#17 Speaking of Exits
Prepare for an exit in advance. Watch for exit signs then move into position and adjust the vehicle’s speed to take the exit properly. A hasty cross-over into the exit lane can result in serious consequences. Only use the exit lane to exit
#18 Never Drink and Drive
Never drive while impaired.
#19 Don’t Toss Cigarettes, or Other Trash Out the Window
The roadways are not commercial-size trash cans, and stuff thrown out can distract other drivers.
#20 Defer to Other Drivers
This is not the literal “my way or the highway” setting. If someone wants to get over, let them over. If they want to pass, let them pass.
#21 Use the Turn Signals When Appropriate
Give adequate signal time for the cars behind you. Also, check for cars before turning or switching lanes. Just because you signal doesn’t mean that they’ve seen your intention to move.
Maintaining Roadway Safety
No one should want to be responsible for an injury, fatality or serious damage. Plus, there is abundant satisfaction in being a courteous driver. Two keys for operating a vehicle safely are first to drive cautiously to protect yourself and any passengers. Second, to drive with intention, knowing where you are going and how to get there.