How to Be a Gentleman Behind the Wheel

by Brett & Kate McKay on April 25, 2013 · 93 comments

in On Etiquette

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We’ve covered the art of being a gentleman at work, on the field, in the air, and at a party. But there’s one area of well-mannered comportment that often gets ignored: how to be a gentleman on the road.

Bad behavior behind the wheel has its roots in the same thing that plagues internet civility: anonymity. Once we slip into the driver’s seat and close the door, we feel sealed off from the rest of the world; we’re “king of the road,” and the sense of being in a protected pod sometimes gives us license to act in ways we would be ashamed of at more public, face-to-face gatherings.

We could all use some friendly reminders on auto etiquette from time to time. It’s a set of “manners” that truly meet at the intersection of safety and civility. Being a gentleman behind the wheel not only makes driving less dangerous for everyone, it also makes what can be a chore at least a little more pleasant.

Some of what we’ll talk about today is already enshrined in law, but often gets ignored. Other indiscretions may technically be lawful but make one’s fellow drivers nuts. There are hundreds of things one could touch on — what we present below are those points that seem to be most often forgotten when we’re zooming down the road.

On the Highway

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Don’t drive slowly in the left – passing – lane. This is one of those indiscretions that not only is a scourge to everyone’s dad’s blood pressure, but is against the law in many states. The left lane is for passing – slower traffic keep right! Driving slowly in the left lane forces people to pass on the right, and it can also form an impenetrable “roadblock” for the person behind you if you’re going the same speed as the car in the other lane.

If you’re stuck behind a car in the left lane that won’t move over, it’s common to want to tailgate until they get the message. Try flashing your headlights instead. For whatever reason it feels a little more uncomfortable to do this rather than tailgating – it’s less passive-aggressive I guess – but it’s safer than riding their bumper. And if you’re the offender, lost in belting out “Total Eclipse of the Heart” while cruising at 60 mph in the left lane, get over as soon as you see someone coming up behind you, and mend your ways ever after (both in your driving and your music choices).

Maintain a consistent speed. One thing left-lane putterers will do to add insult to injury is to accelerate once someone behind them gives up and tries to pass on the right. Then a little while later they’ll slow down again. Many times it’s not even a conscious act; they just aren’t paying enough attention to their surroundings. I remember one road trip where we must have passed, and been passed, by the same car 50 times in 500 miles. Cruise control is your friend.

Do the zipper merge. This is admittedly something I’ve been doing wrong all my life and was completely unaware of before researching this article. When you’re cruising a two-lane highway and see a sign saying, “Lane closed ahead,” and instructing you to merge, what do you do? Probably start immediately getting over to the lane that will remain open. You’re a gentleman – you plan ahead! Then, when that lane starts backing up, you curse at the scalawag who speeds past in the open lane right up to the last possible merge point. “That scoundrel!” you mutter. “I hope no one lets him in. And that someday weasels rips his flesh!”

Ah, but here’s the twist. That scoundrel is actually doing it right! This is an instance where it’s possible to be too courteous.

The safest, most effective way to merge when a lane ends on the highway is the zipper merge. Everyone uses both lanes of traffic until they reach the cut-off point, when they each take turns merging. You can see how it’s done here. This reduces congestion and traffic back-up by as much as 40%. And as these kindly Minnesotans explain, one of the other benefits of the zipper merge is a marked reduction in road rage; next time you see someone driving up to the merge point, instead of becoming enraged, shake your cane and shout, “Huzzah! Carry on good sir!”

On the Streets

Don’t block parking lot entrances/exits. When you’re rolling to a stoplight, try not to come to a stop in front of parking lot exits and entrances. If a person is trying to turn out of one, they’ll be ever so grateful for the space you leave that allows them to make a move. 

Let people into traffic when appropriate. In addition to letting people out of a parking lot when you’re coming to a stop, it can be gentlemanly to let someone in front of you when the light turns green and traffic starts rolling again. But just let one guy go; the people behind you deserve to get where they’re going too. And it’s not truly courteous to stop and let someone in when there isn’t congestion and you’re not slowing down for a traffic light; stopping suddenly in moving traffic can be dangerous for the person behind you who isn’t expecting it.

Don’t forget the thank you wave! If someone is kind enough to let you out of your neighborhood/parking lot, don’t forget the thank you wave! It’s an acknowledgement of their unnecessary, but very welcome courtesy. Not giving a wave says, “Of course you stopped – I’m entitled.” Call in the weasels this time!

Don’t text (or talk on the phone unless absolutely necessary). This gets enough attention these days that I don’t think I need to say too much. Don’t do it. It’s dumb. It kills people. Having spent half my life with a cell phone and half without, I can remember a time when you didn’t have to be in touch with people while you were driving. You still don’t.

Use the horn sparingly. The beep is the equivalent of some guy shouting “HEY!” in an all-pedestrian society. It’s your car’s yell. And like all yelling, it’s jarring, and unless it’s truly needed, can come off as rude. Of course, there are geographic variations in the accepted use of the beep. In New York City it’s just your car’s way of periodically clearing its throat; in Tulsa, I can probably count the number of times I’ve heard a beep in the last few years on one hand. But in general, use your horn sparingly. Employ a loud beep to alert someone else of danger. If the light’s turned green and the person ahead hasn’t moved, give them a 5-second cushion before issuing a short, light beep – one that says, “Go on old chap,” rather than, “Get moving you filthy animal!”

Don’t daydream at the light. On a related note, don’t zone out a stoplight, thinking about how you might look in a pair of Chuck Norris action jeans. Be ready to go when the light turns green.

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Don’t “block the box.” The box is the middle of the intersection. People block it when the congested traffic in their lane is moving slowly through a green or yellow light, and when it turns red, their car becomes stranded at the center of the intersection with no room ahead to move up. Gridlock in the cross street results. Don’t try to squeeze through an intersection or crawl through a turn when you’re probably not going to make it all the way (and no, unfortunately, riding the bumper of the car ahead of you as closely as possible will not magically pull you through). Sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and wait out another light cycle.

Pull over for a funeral procession. This is an older tradition that I think is still worth preserving – it doesn’t take that long and it shows respect for the deceased, the bereaved, and the circle of life. You can recognize a funeral procession as a line of cars all with their headlights on in the middle of the day. It’s often led by police cars and/or a hearse, but not always. The idea here is to keep the line altogether, without other cars getting in-between. Obviously safety is always a top concern – if there’s not a shoulder to pull to, don’t do it. But do it when you can.

Don’t blast your music. Yes, saying this makes me feel about 80, and everyone enjoys listening to their tunes as they cruise with the windows down. Just don’t make it so loud that it overpowers the folks in a car next to you at a stoplight. Turn it down a few notches once you start going slower and enter a neighborhood where residents could hear you. And turn down the dial once you pull into a parking lot – especially for church. Being subjected to your Nickelback is no way to begin a worship service, although it may have folks begging for salvation.

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Don’t take up more than one space. I understand that you don’t want anyone to ding your sweet 1994 Camaro, but if you’re concerned about its safety just park far away from other cars at the back of the lot. Sure, you’ll have to walk a little farther, but your personal concern for your car should add inconvenience to your own life, not to others.

Leave ample space between you and the cars next to you. Nobody likes to come out to their car to discover that they’ll have to perform an elaborate shimmy to get back inside it. Even if you have to back out and back in again to get the ratio of space on each side right, take the extra minute to do it.

Keeping Your Cool in Any Situation

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Road rage can frighten your passengers, cause you to make dangerous driving decisions, lead to a personal confrontation with another driver, and raise your blood pressure. It can also lead to awkward face-to-face encounters later! I’ve heard stories of people flipping off or riding the bumper of someone else in anger, and then both pulling into the same church or office parking lot. Doh! I have an AoM sticker on my car, and as the weather warms up and windows get rolled down, a few times people have pulled beside me at a stoplight, confirmed their suspicion by seeing my mustache, and asked, “Hey, are you the guy who runs the Art of Manliness? I love that site!” It’s made me more aware of my driving; I don’t want someone to say, “Hey are you the Art of Manliness guy? You just cut me off, you summabitch!”

Follow these tips to keep your cool when you’re behind the wheel.

Offer others the same compassion you lavish on yourself. Almost all of us have had a time where we sped, rode people’s bumper, changed lanes like a crazy man, and so on. When we did it, we didn’t feel bad! We had to get to a wedding/birth/job interview, and we couldn’t possibly be late. We attribute our infractions to the circumstances. Yet, when we see other people doing the same thing, we chalk it up to their clear character defect – what a jerk! Yet maybe they’re on their way to the hospital too, eh? Grant others the same kind of leniency you give yourself.

Don’t try to “punish” people yourself. If a driver does something that ticks you off, you may be tempted to ride their bumper, flash your brights, or prevent them from getting over to your lane to show your displeasure and get some “revenge.” But just like launching a rhetorical takedown of someone on the internet, all this does is make the person more angry and more sure that they’re awesome and you’re the dillweed. But unlike on the internet, there is real physical safety at risk when you stick up for your pride on the road. Showing such a scalawag that he was able to get under your skin and affect your mood just means that he “wins.”

If someone really is driving dangerously, don’t go for short-term satisfaction in harassing them yourself, but instead call the police. They’ll pull them over further down the road.

Offer the “I’m sorry” wave. The gentleman driver isn’t perfect. When you do something unintentionally to inconvenience or endanger someone else, own up to it and give the old “I’m sorry” wave.

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What are your guidelines for being a gentleman behind the wheel? What do you wish fellow drivers did less or more often? Share with us in the comments!

{ 93 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jeff April 25, 2013 at 3:07 pm

How’s about don’t use the turning lane to merge with traffic.

You need to cross the road, and rather than wait for a clearing in the far lane, you turn into the turning land and attempt to merge into traffic

2 Zach April 25, 2013 at 3:07 pm

Use your turn signals!

3 Scott April 25, 2013 at 3:33 pm

Do not direct traffic – it is against the law and dangerous.

This is when a “kind” person stops at an intersection when they do not need to stop. They wave on someone, typically a person that needs to make a left turn. The danger is that the “kind” person may be blocking the view of the driver trying to make a left turn. The left turn driver drives out into traffic and is hit by someone who was approaching the intersection unaware someone was directing traffic.

Believe it or not, the person directing traffic is at fault. However, they typically drive off thinking that either of the other two drivers was not careful.

Don’t be that “kind” person.

4 Fred April 25, 2013 at 3:36 pm

Something to note should you find yourself driving overseas and someone flashes their brights at you to get you out of the left lane (at least in Germany). Not moving is a good way to get rear-ended at high speed.

5 Jack April 25, 2013 at 3:40 pm

I would include, in addition to avoiding using a cell phone while driving, avoid calling someone who is probably driving at the moment. There seems to be that urge to call someone who is running a few minutes late to an appointment, but it’s very possible that they are stuck in traffic and it’s really a bad time for them to be messing with a phone.

6 P April 25, 2013 at 3:41 pm

I’ve always felt tempted to park right against the driver side door (without touching) of the person who parks on two spaces…then again, I guess it does qualify as a form of road rage…

7 Adam April 25, 2013 at 3:52 pm

The zipper merge is a foreign concept in my town. I use this fact to my advantage to get ahead in traffic. I often imagine the frustrated reactions I probably get but hey, as mentioned it’s the way to go.

8 Lance April 25, 2013 at 6:16 pm

I think the zipper merge is foreign everywhere. Oh and it’s not discourteous to use a lane until it ends. Of course a driver needs to plan accordingly for a lane to end but tragic should flow smoothly when a lane ends of everyone used the zipper merge!

9 Martin Wagoner April 25, 2013 at 6:25 pm

The problem with merging isn’t when people do it correctly, it is with the person who was in the non-ending lane to begin with, but uses the merging lane as an advantage to get ahead a few car lengths. Or the person who has had plenty of opportunities to merge, yet still races to the end to get the same extra car lengths.

It’s those people that cause backups because they are forced to brake, which causes everyone to brake. In today’s society it seems like almost everyone is the type; I have even seen people blatantly use bus lanes to avoid traffic. It’s ridiculous that anyone can simply be given a license.

10 Jon Shilling April 25, 2013 at 7:04 pm

1. Learn how traffic circles work. One would think it’s a pretty simple concept, but apparently not.

2. Merge onto the freeway at the right speed!!!!!!!!!! Don’t be the person I want to disembowel for attempting to merge at 45 MPH. Also, don’t be that person who merges too fast and bulldozes across three lanes of traffic.

3. Make room for people trying to get out of a semi-truck’s blind spots. They, like you, would very much enjoy not being flattened by a semi-truck attempting to change into the lane you currently occupy.

4. If there is a passing lane and you still insist on tailgating me, THERE. WILL. BE. BLOOD.

11 Melika April 25, 2013 at 7:06 pm

@ Jeff: that is a perfectly acceptable maneuver, especially in high traffic areas like cities and their suburbs. In those instances if someone waits for traffic to “clear”, they will spend their lives waiting. Turn signal on, quick jump into the center lane, then wait for traffic on the opposite side and merge when clear. Works well where I’m from and nobody gets hurt.

I would like to take the OP to task on the “pull over for X”, be it a funeral or emergency vehicle. It is dangerous, extraordinarily annoying, unnecessary, technically illegal, and tends to cause fender benders and/or traffic jams stunt done by unthinking people who want to prove to the world how considerate they are regardless of the problems it causes. Maybe out in Bumkins Nowhere it is appropriate (doubtful), but NEVER do that in a city or on a highway – I don’t care what your mom told you or what people “used to do”. Funeral processions are not in a hurry, what they need is to stay together at a steady speed. Pulling over makes you (and all the other people who follow you) a hazard that grieving people don’t need to navigate. I’ve been there, it isn’t helpful in the least, quite the contrary for a number of reasons. There are only four courtesy rules to follow with funerals:
1) never merge into the funeral procession, (unless you realize you forgot all about great aunt Sue’s funeral and need to join in) especially just to pass on a two-lane.
2) never cut off a funeral procession at cross roads (allow the procession to continue through a light even if you get the green)
3) never pass on a 2-lane (OK on 4-lanes or more), mostly because of #1
4) always try to yield the right of way, ie. respect the turn signal.
Ditto for emergency vehicles. They don’t need an line of hazards on the shoulder & even though they like to speed, in most places it is illegal for them to disobey any posted law (including running lights & traveling the wrong way on a road). Most people hit the brakes to get onto a shoulder, which only causes traffic to slow (& possibly accidents), thereby slowing down the ambulance. The best thing to do is maintain your speed & slow down if/when the vehicle passes.Only get over onto the shoulder if the EV is passing on your left & you are in stopped/slow traffic & there is no room on the left, or you are by yourself on a country road and want to feel helpful. In cities, it is often easier for EV to pass in the right turn lane (esp. when turning right) or shoulder, so automatically doing this generally puts them in a bind. By all means, for a number oCight lane if you are on a 4-lane. Whatever you do, don’t just stop in the lane. Keep moving so that traffic can keep moving, so the EV a block behind you can keep moving. The only time to stop at a green light because an EV might turn is when it is coming from the opposite direction, the EV is next to you, or you can hear sirens on the cross street.
I know there will be a lot of people with emotional ties umberis practice. Trying to prove how considerate you are by doing something inconsiderate doesn’t work. It sounds nice in theory, but in practice it is usually best to keep moving to clearber oCoad effectively.

12 Melika April 25, 2013 at 7:15 pm

I just got to say, those weird words in my last post weren’t placed my me. I don’t know what happened there. Just in case:
” By all means, merge into the right lane if you are on a 4-lane.”
“…emotional ties to this practice.”
“…best to keep moving to clear the road effectively.”

13 Tom April 25, 2013 at 7:22 pm

The zipper merge is a fine theory, but you rarely see it. If someone is using the lane that is ending to pass the cars in the other lane, then they are not doing the zipper merge. They are doing the I’m-more-important-than-everyone-else merge and the I-don’t-care-if-everyone-else-has-to-stop-so-that-I-can-get-there-quicker merge.

14 Joe April 25, 2013 at 8:09 pm

I wish people would calm down. It’s not that serious, the ten seconds you feel like your losing won’t matter in ten minutes. You don’t know what’s going on with other people in other cars. Clearly some people are jerks on the road, but you returning the attitude isn’t helping and you’re not going to change them, only reinforce to them that everyone else is a jerk, they may as well continue themselves. Just calm down, you’ll get there.

15 Dan S April 25, 2013 at 8:11 pm

As a pedestrian I would like to add: Don’t Block Crosswalks, and Look for Pedestrians Before Turning.

16 Andrew April 25, 2013 at 8:52 pm

Don’t be too chivalrous, when it creates confusion.

In the State of California (not sure about other states), when you come to a 4-way stop at the same time as another car, this is what the law says you do:
-If two cars are in intersecting lanes, the one on the right goes first. That means, if the other driver is to your left, you go first; if he’s to your right, he goes first.
-If the other car is across from you, whoever is going straight has the right of way; whoever is turning left has to wait.

With that said, if you have the right of way, just take it. When I’m at a stop and the other driver has right of way, and they try to wave at me “you go first!” I don’t think “what a friendly driver!”; I think “Dude, just go!”

At that point, I usually insist that they go first, and don’t move until they’ve gone. It’s their right, and I don’t want to run the risk of us both “giving up” at the same time and entering the intersection at the same time (that would be even more confusing).

Either that, or I take it and dash across before they change their mind!

17 Erik April 25, 2013 at 9:16 pm

The one that torques me most is when someone rides my blind-spot. It’s similar to when two people are going slowly side-by-side, in that those behind can’t pass. What makes it even worse is if you aren’t paying attention you could forget that there’s a jerk hiding in your blind spot and you could crash into them if you change lanes.

18 Erik April 25, 2013 at 9:18 pm

I also hate it when people don’t know how 4-way stops work. It happens a lot in my town and I don’t know why.

19 Curran April 25, 2013 at 9:53 pm

The one problem or pet-peeve I often have is when folks are turning left onto a two lane road and they choose to merge into the far lane rather than taking the near lane. I understand some situations such as a quick right turn are coming up, but I still feel that the left lane should be used first and then the driver should merge into the right lane if need be. In my experiences, it has prevented accidents in a four way stop light where a driver is not paying attention to their light and flys through in the right lane.

20 Josh April 25, 2013 at 11:00 pm

Use turn signals and leave enough space between you and the car in front of you for someone to change lanes (most of us have had a situation where we realized our exit was coming up, but couldn’t get over because of a wall in the lane next to us).

21 Bill Koch April 25, 2013 at 11:06 pm

I’d like to echo Andrew’s post on stop signs: everyone should know the right-of-way rules for stop signs. An entire article could be written about this (I’d kind of like to see one).

In my case, around here so few people know the rules for stop signs that I’ve started going whenever another driver “waves me on” – even if I insist that they go first, it isn’t going to make them learn anything.

22 Daniel April 25, 2013 at 11:17 pm

Rather than speeding, leave your house a few minutes earlier. Speeding just says that you selfishly care more about saving yourself a couple of minutes (or less) than you do about potentially endangering other people’s lives.

Also, please do not make a left turn across a double yellow line. This is illegal and it can be very dangerous for oncoming traffic. Also, oncoming cars that turn a corner might not see you or be able to predict your turn.

23 Ric April 25, 2013 at 11:52 pm

I’d like to encourage people to use the indicators properly.

Use them to indicate something you are going to do shortly – don’t put them on as you turn!

Roundabouts (at least in Australia): use them like any intersection as you approach then indicate left when exiting. You cannot indicate straight!

If we are in heavy traffic and you indicate you want to move into my lane I will slow down to let you in – don’t push into my braking space!

((Rather obvious) Confession: this is mostly just venting!)

24 Paul April 26, 2013 at 1:11 am

Just about any article of this kind can be summed up in one phrase:

Treat other people the way you would want them to treat your mother.

25 Nusy April 26, 2013 at 1:25 am

Be a gentleman, but do not give up your right of way. It makes people confused, and makes it a lot more likely that you misunderstand one another, and end up in a fender-bender.

Learn how to use traffic circles / roundabouts. Learn it, live it, love it. It’s more efficient than the crazy 4-way stops.

About parking in the more remote edge of the parking lot – don’t do it, especially if you want to protect your car. Sure, it probably won’t get nicked by a carelessly flung out door… but it’s less likely to be covered by security cameras, hence it’s more likely to be broken into or stolen.

And the most important of all: be mindful of cyclists. If you have to park to the right of a bike lane, CHECK before you open the door. “Dooring” a cyclist, even if inadvertently, is extremely dangerous, and can be fatal to the rider. Keep an eye on bike lanes. If the cyclist has to ride alongside, keep at least 3 feet when passing (in CA, it’s actually the law). If the road is too narrow for a car and a bike to go side by side, it’s very likely that traffic laws allow the cyclist to take up the entire lane, and ride in the middle. In this case, take them over by moving COMPLETELY over to the other lane. They are not riding in the middle because why not – it’s a safety concern!

26 Jacob April 26, 2013 at 1:40 am

Although I’m usually impressed and informed by AoM posts, I’m disappointed that this article mentions nothing about respecting bikers. As a gentlemanly bike commuter in LA, I can assure you that many men out there need to be reminded that we are not, in fact, the enemy, and we have all the same legal rights as a car. Please gentlemen (and those not quite there yet), give me my bike lane when one is designated and don’t try to force me out of a lane you’re legally obligated to share with me. Much appreciated.

27 Maria April 26, 2013 at 2:46 am

I would like to add three things.

1. If there’s a designated turn lane and you’re in it, then turn! If you’re in the wrong lane, you can always turn around somewhere down the road. Similarly, if you’re in a non-turn lane and you wanted to be in the turn lane, keep going straight, do not turn!

2. If you’re stopped at a red light, don’t keep creeping up until it’s green! You’re not going to save any time, just wait patiently for the green.

3. Please don’t do any U-turns at a busy highway light, or any busy road for that matter! There will probably be a nice convenient parking lot you can turn around in, or perhaps a nice short block you can go around. Save the U-turns for dead ends.

28 Steve April 26, 2013 at 3:31 am

If the highway or freeway is backed up, don’t try to get ahead by passing on the shoulder. It keeps the highway congested, and if we all did it, there would be chaos.

29 Marco April 26, 2013 at 6:25 am

How timely… a few friends and I were just discussing this very subject on an FB post. One fella actually installed a dash camera, with split screen feature, so he can video tape offensive drivers that he encounters on a daily basis. I’m not a big fan of the growing “personal surveillance” movement that has each of us acting as our own little Dept of Homeland Security, so this tactic creeps me out a bit.

No, your primer on gentlemanly driving is more my speed. Instead of focusing on the offenders, try to improve your own behavior on the road. We could all use a reminder every now and again to help spread a little more courtesy in a world in which discourtesy and boorishness has become nearly epidemic.

30 Patrick April 26, 2013 at 6:32 am

I definitely agree on the funeral procession rule. My wife and I attended her grandmother’s funeral back in February, and when we left the church, practically no one in traffic had any regard for the procession. Though we were able to leave the church in a line, it was quickly broken up by people turning into our lane and interrupted at red lights despite the procession taking precedence (as far I’m aware). I found it to be pretty disrespectful, not to mentino aggravating when we got cut off from the rest of the group and didn’t know how to get to the cemetery.

31 Ryan April 26, 2013 at 7:38 am

Don’t “follow” someone who is going over the speed limit——-just so “you” can be the one to get out of the speeding ticket should you and the car in front of you blow past the police. Go your own speed, and let the other car go theirs. Be a man!

32 Lukas April 26, 2013 at 8:05 am

Turn on emergency light when slowly backing out of parking so that others see you’re moving out. It’s useful because a lot of times you don’t see the traffic through parked cars on your sides.

Also when I was a beginner and did something dumb and dangerous accidently, I used to flash emergency lights for a couple seconds. Was my way of saying “I’m sorry”, though I’m not sure everyone understood that.

33 David April 26, 2013 at 8:25 am

“kindly Minnesotans” ?

hahaha, as a Minnesotan I can tell you that “Minnesota Nice” does not exist on the road.

34 Eric April 26, 2013 at 8:25 am

Dan – right! Be a gentleman to pedestrians too! The worse situation tends to be the car turning right into traffic. Head is glued to the left, watching for an opening, oblivious to activity in the crosswalk. Second worst is car turning left out of traffic. Head is glued forward, watching for an opening. Pay attention!

Speaking of crosswalks, stop behind them. A pedestrian will be OK, but a cyclist could get in the crosswalk before you see him. Technically might be his fault, but that’s not a huge comfort to his family.

Some of the comments above apply to middle-of-the-road crosswalks. Only stop for a pedestrian if there’s going to be a long wait if you don’t. Otherwise you’ll be waving at each other “no, YOU go ahead…” Exception: if it’s raining, give pedestrians the right of way! You’ve got a roof; you can let them run to their cars while you sit.

And speaking of raining, watch out for puddles forming on the outside curb, and slow down or steer wide if there are pedestrians in the sidewalk.

35 Peter April 26, 2013 at 8:34 am

Moving out of the left lane “when you’re going slow” isn’t as simple as it sounds. If I’m in the left lane doing 70 mph when the posted limit is 65, and some guy comes up behind doing 80, I will pull over when and if it’s convenient. The left lane doesn’t give you the right to drive as fast as you want.

36 Native Son April 26, 2013 at 8:38 am

Agree with the comment on the “zipper merge”, in the Golden State the”zipper merger” is almost inevitably someone who appears to believe their high-end motorcar entitles them to blow by in the right lane and then bull their way into traffic when the barricades or cones are in the road. Definitely more “Dim” than “Dash” behind the wheel.

37 Charles April 26, 2013 at 8:47 am

Drive with your headlights on. Its safer because people can see you better. If you don’t want to do that, at least turn them on during sunset so you’re easier to see.

38 Lawrence P H Bradley April 26, 2013 at 9:17 am

Please be considerate of pedestrians by not parking where a driveway intersects a sidewalk. If there is insufficient room in a driveway park somewhere else. Blocking a sidewalk may force pedestrians into the street which is particularly dangerous for visually impaired persons and children.

39 James A. Brown April 26, 2013 at 9:23 am

Four-way stops are tough, particularly when there are dedicated left-turn lanes involved. The rule seems to be, “Stop until a single car passes in front of your vision, then book it.” So a north-bound car going straight waits until an east-bound car passes by, then the driver bolts forward . . . except a south-bound car that was wanting to turn left (and follow the east-bound car) nearly gets T-boned.

My personal rule: When in doubt, drive as if the other driver will feel that they get to go first.

40 Shane D April 26, 2013 at 9:25 am

I agree with Tom – the zipper merge is a fine theory if everyone is doing it. Unfortunately, in practice, that’s not usually the case. It’s usually 95% of drivers merging early in anticipation and 5% trying to get ahead. This results is an unfair backup for people who are being courteous to other drivers. One of my favorite solutions to this is creating an early end to that lane – essentially blocking off that lane with my car and preserving my spot and the spot of those who have been patient and courteous. I’m sure it counts as road rage, but I’ve been hailed as a hero by other drivers behind me.

41 mickeysix April 26, 2013 at 9:36 am

Scott in comment #3 is spot on. “Don’t be that “kind” person.” — because it’s a false sort of kindness. I think of it as “don’t give up the right of way.” It’s confusing and possibly dangerous and illegal, as he mentioned, since such “charity” doesn’t just involve two cars; it involves everyone around them who probably have no idea that a random act of (un)kindness is being performed.

Actually, a great cardinal rule for ALL driving situations is “Don’t break the flow.” That sentiment is the underlying philosophy behind most of the points outlined above.

42 Nick April 26, 2013 at 9:57 am

Two comments I’d like to make, coming from the view of an experienced tractor trailer driver:

1. the “zipper merge” is the most efficient time saver for everyone when traffic is moving very slowly, let’s say below 25mph. When you’re coming up to an accident that emergency responders have already secured or construction on the highway, just stay in your lane all the way up to the cones and “zipper” up there. IF it’s an unexpected obstacle, like say a disabled vehicle on the shoulder or an accident that happened before any responders have arrived, get over as soon as is safe to do so.
Decades ago, when there was a lot less traffic on the road, truck drivers were actually instructed to help control traffic but driving next to each at slower speed so that it would produce a safer “zipper merge” at the accident/construction zone. Nowadays, they’ve abandoned that concept.

2. A lot of conservative drivers will grab the center lane on a major highway with 3-lanes (like Philadelphia, PA for instance), even though they’re not passing anyone. They feel safer because if someone needs to merge onto the highway, or if the right lane ends somewhere ahead, they won’t have to worry about actually looking for those potential problems – in other words, it relieves them of the responsibility of actually paying attention while they’re driving. While there is some truth in that and, in some situations, is the right thing to do, the law is still stay right pass left; even when there are 3 or 4 lanes to work with. I’ve heard a lot of these kinds of drivers complain about cars and trucks breathing down their necks while they’re just riding that center lane at a leisurely pace or upset that someone passed them on the right. I can’t answer for the four-wheeling-motorist, but the problem for us truck drivers is most of the time we are confined to the right two lines of those highways (you’ll see a sign on the left or directly above the road that says “no trucks trailers buses in left lane”), which means that the center lane IS the trucker’s passing lane. Not all of the 18-wheelers that are behind you are bullies, we’re just dads and husbands trying to provide good homes for our families. There are some truckers that are bullies out there, and though it seems unmanly to back down and get out of his way, it’s a fight that you can’t win. Let the cops take care of him. Have one of your passengers write down the license plate and the company he works for and make a complaint to his company, tell them that the driver was putting the lives of your family in danger – believe it or not they do care about this stuff, and will take steps to affect a change – or call the state police then and there, they are more than happy to pull us over and give us a stern talking to.

So, please, as a courtesy to those who are delivering every product that you purchase at any store that you buy from, if you’re not passing someone stay to the right, all the way to the right.
And remember, trucks are moving as fast as they can safely do so. If we’re in the left lane, not passing anyone, there’s probably a good reason for it. Just be patient, we’ll move over when it’s safe.

Keep the rubber side down,
Nick

43 Jasper April 26, 2013 at 10:30 am

Lots of good ideas in the comments. As I drove in to work this morning on the interstate, a route I seldom take, I couldn’t help but wonder at my fellow commuters. I was in the middle lane of a three-lane highway, going about 67 mph in a 60 mph zone. In 27 minutes of driving, I did not have to pass one single person… EVERYONE was flying past me like I was standing still. I have no doubt that I could have been in the far left lane doing 100 mph and I’d STILL have someone trying to drive it up my tailpipe! I understand the thinking behind the law that says slower drivers need to stay out of the left “passing lane,” but at what point do we say that enough is enough and we law-abiding citizens are not going to have our driving behavior dictated by those who flagrantly disobey the speed limit? I mean, fer cripe’s sake, what’s the big hurry? If I am driving, say, 70 mph in the left lane of a 60 mph highway, certainly enough over the speed limit to get a speeding ticket in any state in the nation, do I REALLY have to move out of the way of some jerk just because he left home two minutes late? (Not that I engage in such lane-blocking practices, by the way… I purposefully avoid the interstate commute as often as possible because it’s just so darn stressful …)

44 Blake April 26, 2013 at 10:44 am

This is all good advice, but I’d like to add that all drivers should be familiar with their state or country’s rules regarding horseback riders on the road. In most places, equestrians are legally considered pedestrians, that is, they have the right of way. Leaving aside the actual laws, use your common sense when approaching a rider on the road. Don’t speed past them; give as much space as possible when passing; and most importantly, stop and wait if the rider is having trouble controlling their horse. The animal should be standing still or walking in a straight line on the shoulder of the road. If it is backing up, turning in a circle, moving sideways, or otherwise agitated, blowing your horn or speeding past could cause a fatal accident. Most road-riders have pretty safe horses, but all animals can be unpredictable.
As an avid equestrian, it is occasionally necessary for me to ride my horse on the road to get to trails. I can’t count the number of times I’ve had people zip past me. One guy came so close, I could have reached out and kicked his car. Thankfully, my horse didn’t bat an eyelash, but if he’d hit us, it could have caused quite a mess. I think most people know the damage a deer can do to a vehicle; a horse weighs 5-10 times as much.
Anyway, just my two cents. Stay safe!

45 MB April 26, 2013 at 11:41 am

Brett–this was an excellent article. Helpful, humorous, purposeful, and well-written. Thanks so much.

46 Kevin April 26, 2013 at 11:52 am

I cannot stand people who travel in the left lane more slowly than the flow of traffic. It generally seems to be people of my race too (African American), which is odd. Maybe it is just in my location (Southern North Carolina), but I often wonder if the whole “the left lane is the passing lane” thing is not taught in my race/culture.

47 Philip April 26, 2013 at 11:58 am

Unless you happen to be a first responder, stunt pilot or drug dealer, driving is the most dangerous thing you do every day. More people are injured or die from car wrecks (no such thing as an “accident”) than any other non-health related cause. Cars cause more bodily harm than extreme sports, industrial accidents and scary black guns.

The two most common causes of accidents are speeding and backing. Avoid both at any cost.

When driving, your first thought should not be “convenience”, but safety. After all, protecting others is a cardinal virtue of manliness.

48 Jason April 26, 2013 at 1:13 pm

If you are in the right lane and someone is passing you on the left only a few MPH faster than you, don’t speed up. That person is me. If I have to go faster than 5 over the speed limit because you sped up to keep me from merging, I’m going to be cursing at you. Just keep your speed until that person passes. I don’t want to be in the left lane any more than I have to and you make me look like a jerk for not getting out of the way of the people behind me.

49 Aaron April 26, 2013 at 1:35 pm

Yup, turn signals are definitely a big source of frustration for me whilst driving. I try to always use my signals, even if there’e no one else in site. It takes minimal effort to turn them on and it’s a good habit to get into, as they let people know what you’re doing and draw more attention with the flashing lights.

Another one I see a lot around town: stopping at an intersection where you don’t have a stop sign. Unnecessary and dangerous, as people behind you aren’t expecting you to stop in the middle of the street.

On the flipside of that, don’t assume the crossroad has a stop sign just because you’re sitting at one. Pay attention and actually look to see if there is a 4-way stop sign or not :)

Of course lastly: Always keep an eye out for motorcycles! Can’t count the number of times I’ve almost been forced off the road or backed into while out riding.

50 Joost April 26, 2013 at 4:28 pm

I’m not sure if its appropriate to call this courtious, but the following fact occurs very often, and it would save lives if you at least know about it.

Sometimes after a train has crossed a road, there is a whole line of cars waiting to cross at both sides of the rails, and just after the train crossing, there is a turn left. Imagine what happens if you wish to go in that road. When the red flashing lights extinguish, you take off, cross the train intersection, and you wait for the oncoming traffic to pass, so you can go left. The problem is that behind you, there may still be a line of cars, and those cars may have followed you. One of those cars may be waiting on the train rails waiting to be hit by a possible following train! Before them there is a line of cars waiting for you, and behind them there still is a line of cars waiting to take off.

My suggestion would be: never stand still on the rails, leave some room for the fools who do, and if a train comes, dont go left.

51 Reid April 26, 2013 at 4:33 pm

I feel the distinction needs to be made between the “passing lane” and the “fast lane”. There is no “fast lane”, and i get frustrated when I’m using the passing lane, to pass a slower car, and a motorist going well above the speed limit decides to tailgate and flash his lights at me. What to do then?

52 Robert April 26, 2013 at 7:52 pm

In theory, the “zipper merge” should be more efficient, but in practice I have yet to see it work. Drivers in my state of Hawaii usually see it as an opportunity to get ahead of everyone else by zooming ahead and bulldozing their way in at the last minute and bringing the target lane to a stand still.

53 kirk April 26, 2013 at 9:17 pm

I don’t at all agree that the moron who speeds ahead knowing he needs to merge is doing it right. Especially when there is open spaces to merge. That annoys me the most and while I’m polite and such so many ways I will never let those guys over.

If someone if merging onto the highway and I cant move over and traffic is bad I will slow down and wave to get in.

I absolutely hate the most that people don’t use turn signals. In ohio people used them and people waved if you let them over. In Atlanta they almost never use turn signals and will never thank anyone for anything. I pray for blizzard to come (because they don’t know how to drive in the snow) when they do this stuff.

54 Bryan April 26, 2013 at 11:15 pm

Not respecting cyclists — bad form, unbecoming, makes a gentleman look like a bully. After all, a car weighs tons. A bicycle…does not.

55 Janus April 27, 2013 at 1:12 am

I think two simple rules are capable of describing many facets of good driving behavior:

1) Do not take anything personally while driving.
2) Avoid, as much as possible, willfully taking action that causes another driver to need to drastically alter his velocity

The first, for example, means that someone else’s speed, unless they are tailgating/cutting you off/etc., doesn’t affect your life. If someone is going faster than your comfortable driving speed in the left lane, what does it matter to you? Stay on the right. If you are in the left, move to the right. This is where the speed-changers come from. People who take the actions of other drivers very personally — they assign themselves enforcers of the law and will actively thwart other drivers’ attempts to pass them. They drive slow in the left but speed up as others move to the right to pass.

And an important thing to realize here is that current speed limits on interstates are largely arbitrary. The theoretical safe speed on a highway didn’t suddenly change with the National Maximum Speed Limit law from the 70′s, nor did it revert higher when state petitioned their way out of it. I only drive the the legal limit, arbitrarily set by politicians for self-proclaimed non-safety goals (i.e., the environment), when it coincidentally intersects with the de facto speed limit.

As for my second rule, this is relevant for merging, turning, etc. As a courtesy, when I see a driver waiting to make a right turn into my lane, I will yield the right when possible (i.e., I will move to the left lane to give them time to turn). What irks me is when drivers make right/left turns into my lane and drive so slowly that I need to apply the brakes or change my speed to accommodate their poor driving skills. If you can’t make a turn without causing another driver to alter his velocity, then just wait.

56 Dave April 27, 2013 at 3:06 am

Shane D: Hear hear! I’ve done that many times and gotten thumbs up from other drivers many times. For those who didn’t understand it: When it’s your turn to merge, you stay in the lane you’ll be moving out of but beside the space you’ll be merging into. That’s the easiest way to keep things moving smoothly, ’cause no-one gets to zoom up ahead and slow down everyone else.

Also: when an emergency vehicle passes, PULL OVER and stop. Here in L.A. these idiots tend to stop in the middle of the damn street!

57 Ryan April 27, 2013 at 6:17 am

What about the idiots who just have to be first in line, they fly around everyone into on coming traffic just to get in front and slow to a crawl, or the people who love to weave in and out of traffic speeding around everyone I assume to save time but then they mysteriously obey the lights, if you are trying to get down road run the red light otherwise you aren’t saving time if I come to the red light and you are right there mere seconds in front of me after endangering everyone.

58 Darvel J. Silda April 27, 2013 at 6:45 am

There are some people who believe that there is no such thing as an accident. As a former paramedic, I would like to point out to those individuals the fact that they have no way of knowing if the other driver is having a heart attack, stroke or seizure, or some other condition such as hypoglycemia that is causing them to drive the way they are.

59 Robert April 27, 2013 at 7:05 am

The number one rule should be don’t tailgate, not “don’t drive slow in the left lane.” I may be driving 65 in the RIGHT lane. However, some idiot is frustrated because he can’t drive 85 in the left lane. Therefore, the idiot veers into the right lane and tailgates me. There should be a special place in hell for all taligaters.

60 Logos April 27, 2013 at 9:27 am

@35 — You should not linger in the passing lane if you’re not passing someone, and it’s not your job to enforce the speed limit. The police do not require the assistance of upright prigs such as you. Let them ticket speeders and raise revenue for highway maintenance. The only thing you’re accomplishing is creating more stress and danger on the road.

61 Alan April 27, 2013 at 11:07 am

If you drive a small car, park where we can see the thing, don’t nose all the way in so we think we’ve spotted a gap!

62 Theresa April 27, 2013 at 11:09 am

The only thing that he failed to mention is that when someone does offer you the courtesy of pulling out ahead of them is that you move ahead and pick up speed instead of falling asleep at the wheel and force the courteous driver to follow you under speed!

63 Nick Schneider April 27, 2013 at 12:52 pm

You forgot one very important one, to always remember proper use of turn signals. If you need to turn or merge, letting people know that you plan to do so well before you make your move is one of the most courteous things you can do on the road, and helps avoid accidents. People who don’t use turn signals at all, or just turn them on as they start to turn or merge is one of the most infuriating things to me. If I’m in heavy traffic and someone is polite enough to turn on their signal and not try to butt over right away, I’ll always slow down a bit to let them over.

64 john m April 27, 2013 at 12:55 pm

I always try to be a courteous driver. In many intersections, there is a right turn lane built. In many others there is no right turn lane. When there is no right turn lane, I try always to move myself to the left lane, even if I move to behind an eighteen-wheeler, so those wishing to turn right on red can use that lane, and continue on their way without impeding their progress. Seems to me just a common courtesy. Most people are oblivious to this. I consider all things as my brethren, so I try to be nice to them. At intersections, if you’re going straight, get out of the right-turn-on-red lane. It’s common courtesy, which is not very often seen, but I like it. Makes me feel good. I like it.

65 Margaret St.Jean April 27, 2013 at 2:11 pm

There is such a thing as being overly-gentlemanly:
don’t unexpectedly break a traffic rule to be polite. In our neighborhood, I’ve had well-meaning individuals in the opposing lane of traffic , who have the right of way, come to a stop to allow me to turn left. I NEVER accept this gesture because there is no knowing what is really going on. I’d rather wait for the break in traffic and make my left when everyone understands what is happening. As my husband tells our kids when they are learning to drive, never do the unexpected.

66 JeffC April 27, 2013 at 5:32 pm

You cannot control other people. All you can do is prepare for them, allow for them, and stay unflustered.

Okay, I’ll add a few:

If you intend to turn right from a driveway into traffic, near an intersection, and the flow of traffic is stopped at a red light, please understand that you do not have any right-of-way. Please don’t stick the nose of your car out into the right-turn lane, essentially begging to be let into a line of cars that is not moving. You’ll just block all the right-turners who now have to stare at your driver’s door. You should wait for the light to change and the line of backed-up cars to move along, then merge into traffic when it is safe to do so. Blocking the right-turn lane when it is physically impossible to merge into the flow of traffic is boorish.

If you are the through traffic in this situation, you are not being courteous by letting the beggar in right after the light has turned green: you are actually impeding everyone behind you. Get on down the road, and let the merging driver wait until it is clear, even if he has to let ten cars pass. Remember: through traffic has the right-of-way. But if it’s packed rush-hour, and the merging driver could have to wait several light cycles before hoping to get out onto the road, of course, let him in.

If you can’t park your large car/truck between the painted lines in a parking lot, please trade it in for something smaller and more maneuverable that fits your skill set. Some of you couldn’t get a Mini Cooper parked properly.

And if you own a large four-wheel drive truck, lifted, with balloon tires, roll bar and bush grill, you know you can’t fit that behemoth in one parking space: please go to the back of the lot and take two spaces. It was your choice to buy it: please don’t inconvenience the rest of us because you’re compensating.

Good article!

67 David265 April 28, 2013 at 6:38 am

Two things I’ll add that I haven’t seen in any of the comments.

1. Make sure to follow the accepted norms of where you are driving. Many of these courteous driving rules are great in theory, but if you actually drove like that in my native Philadelphia, you would A) never get to where you are going and B) probably cause an accident because no one will know what you’re trying to do. I’m not saying you have to drive like a total asshole out here, but if you attempt to drive like a true gentleman, you’ll be run off the road. Just as an example, where I-95 cuts through the city, the speed limit is 55 mph. Assuming there’s not heavy traffic, if you actually only go 55 mph, you will cause an accident. That said, when I visit my father in law in Tulsa, I have to remember to be a much more courteous driver. There was a lot of egg on my face my first time out there when I realized that everyone was giving me a wide berth because they thought I was driving like a lunatic.

2. Parallel parking. Again, as a true city dweller, parallel parking is a constant fact of life for me. On my block there is one parking lane and one driving lane and JUST enough width in the road for both. When parallel parking in a congested area, please make sure you take up one spot, not two. If the driver has any idea what they’re doing parallel parking, a car really only needs a few inches in front and in back to comfortably get out of a spot.

68 PJ April 28, 2013 at 9:29 am

Drive like the French. In a year in Paris I never saw any anger or anyone being flipped off. The French manage to combine driving quickly and courteously. Once when I goofed and pulled over part way into another lane before seeing someone already there, I expected to get an angry look, but the man and woman in the car just smiled at me. The French also do the zipper merge perfectly because their intersections are designed for it, and they have to do it multiple times per day. It really does reduce the road rage. I never saw anyone cut off doing it.

69 PJ April 28, 2013 at 9:39 am

“The problem with merging isn’t when people do it correctly, it is with the person who was in the non-ending lane to begin with, but uses the merging lane as an advantage to get ahead a few car lengths.”

No, the problem is when people merge too soon, then get mad when others fully use the merging lane as they are supposed to. The behavior that causes road rage is merging too soon, not using the merging lane fully. This is easily proven. If 99% of the people used zipper merge, there would be no road rage even if the 1% don’t get it. If, on the other hand, 99% merge too soon, there is road rage at the 1% who don’t.

Go ahead and merge too soon if you want, but stop getting mad at behavior that everyone SHOULD be doing.

70 Allen MacNeill April 28, 2013 at 10:38 am

In some states (including my home state of New York) you are legally required to pull off onto the shoulder if an emergency vehicle is approaching from any direction. Not doing so can get you a ticket (at minimum) or even arrested (under certain circumstances).

71 anarchopurplism April 28, 2013 at 1:35 pm

@Erik

Before you turn, you check your blind spot. If someone is there, its not their fault, period.

People who think they can consistently “remember” that a car is in their blind spot or irrationally think they will “always” see a car come up in the rearview mirror & do not check their blind spot before turning are driving in an unsafe manner.

My Dad drove like this & I developed a habit of checking the blind spots while I am in the passenger seat. I saved us from an accident at least 3 times in my life.

Unfortunately, it has developed into an annoying force of habit that I consistently do when I am riding with other people.

72 anarchopurplism April 28, 2013 at 1:41 pm

Here is an addition to merging.

It’s fairly obvious if you do not have grey hair…..slow merging while attempting to get on a highway is unsafe, inefficient and royally annoying.

However…..if you are exiting a highway while a car you need to merge with is ramping up to get on the highway & the cars are relatively even……for Pete’s sake, slow down & let the guy getting on the highway go!

The guy you can’t stand the “slow merger” is often the same guy who races in front of a car & suddenly slows down to exit, claiming the other driver is “an idiot” for not “letting me off.”

73 Eric April 28, 2013 at 3:55 pm

@Melika

I am a paramedic and can only speak for WI state statute regarding emergency vehicle operation. Having said that…

“even though they like to speed, in most places it is illegal for them to disobey any posted law (including running lights & traveling the wrong way on a road)”

Emergency vehicles displaying flashing lights and audible siren are allowed to exceed posted speed limits, proceed past a red light or stop sign, and disregard regulations governing direction of movement or turning in specified directions. They must do this in a safe manner and with due regard for other’s safety.

“it is often easier for EV to pass in the right turn lane”

Motorists are required to pull as far to the right as safely possible as long as they are not blocking an intersection. Emergency vehicle operators are required to pass on the left, even if making a right turn. If an EV passes on the right and is struck by the passed vehicle, the EV is at fault. Many EVs will pass on the right because it is the only way through which unfortunately reinforces incorrect behavior.

You are correct that slamming on the brakes or stopping dead in the middle of the intersection is a hindrance and dangerous. The best thing drivers can do is to pay attention and move to the right and out of the way as SAFELY and expediently as possible. Don’t endanger yourself or others to move over, just remember that the EV has a good reason for getting to its destination as quickly as possible.

A plea from all emergency personnel to all drivers, slow down when driving through emergency scenes and pay attention to your driving, not the accident. Imagine someone driving through your work place at 80 mph and still being able to concentrate on your job, in our case, someone who is potentially seriously injured.

74 Greg Wickham April 28, 2013 at 5:20 pm

Where I live (Northern California) it is so common for bicycles to illegally blast through stop signs that motorists simply assume that every bicyclist will always do so, and stop at intersections when a bike is approaching even if they have the right of way. This leads to an awkward “Dude, just go!” moment when an unusually considerate bicyclist actually stops at a stop sign.

75 Ryan April 28, 2013 at 8:27 pm

Problem is late mergers often only do it just to unfairly get ahead of others rather than some legitimate concern.

76 Drew Tracy April 28, 2013 at 10:00 pm

I love the “I’m sorry wave” part. Probably not the best idea to pull a Jerry Seinfeld with no hands on the wheel, however very effective I’m sure.

77 Caleb B. April 29, 2013 at 9:31 am

Can we add to the parking section, if you happen to bump someone in a parking lot or parallel parking leave your information.

78 Jeremy April 29, 2013 at 11:48 am

There’s a hill where I live where there are two lanes for about a half KM. The second lane is meant as a turn lane into the local university. I could fill several pages with tallies of the times I’ve seen people race up the second lane to go switch back to the main lane at the last second. Another spot, there is a 4 lane that turns into 2 lanes shortly after an intersection. The right lane turns into a turn lane just after the lights but just like the other, people zoom down that lane to cut into the other lane at the last second.

79 Hope April 29, 2013 at 2:25 pm

There will be a 16 year old young man at my house reading this tonight!

80 Allan April 29, 2013 at 3:29 pm

“Here in L.A. these idiots tend to stop in the middle of the damn street!”

I was told in two different Driver’s Ed classes and several times since that if you cannot safely move over to the right, STOP. Of course, this also means don’t stop in such a place to block traffic completely.

And don’t hop in to a car-length I left open for safety just to get in front of me. Just because you think you can follow a foot behind the car in front of you at 70 mph doesn’t mean you can.

And NEVER NEVER NEVER pass a truck, pull in front of it and slow down. Inertia is not your friend. Have a good friend who was left with the choice of ploughing a car off the road or killing a pedestrian because someone pulled in front of him to pick up a hitchhiker. He ended up jackknifed across three lanes but everyone lived thanks to his quick thinking.

81 Andrew April 29, 2013 at 3:29 pm

Another tip is don’t speed up when someone turns on their turn signal to get in your lane. It’s fairly common for people to do that out here. I’ve also had people do that, then sit in my blind spot.

82 Scott C April 30, 2013 at 3:27 am

The problem with the ‘zipper merge’ is that everybody thinks they deserve to be the person staying in the closing lane until the last moment. For years people did this because IF it works they get at the farthest position they have the nerve to try and get away with. Now you tell them by being selfish and greedy they are helping out all those suckers they just squirted past.

The problem with the left lane lunatics stems from thinking of the left lane as the “stay away from trouble lane” or “all the cool cats are out here going places, while the losers are over there on the right” or they are so seldom ever in the right lane they fear moving into the right lane for fear they can never ever be one of the kool kids again.

Npobody is worse at blocking the left lane that the driver of the 2nd & third cars behind the guy at the front of the left lane parade. Every day I see the drivers in cars #2 & #3 obviously yelling at the first driver, maybe gesticulating with their hands, etc. Invariably, the more animated they are the longer THEY block the left lane once driver #1 moves right. Drivers 2&3 must first explain, while driving in the left lane after passing the previous moving road block, the universal injustice of it all and the numerous character and genetic defects that driver #1 must surely have. Only once they have finished venting, or they receive a NASCAR bumb-draft do the self-righteous move right themselves, and usually just for the briefest period.

I drive for a living. Nothing makes me despair for the future of the nation that watching people drive. Driving is pretty easy and most people don’t do it well at all, but everyone thinks they are superior at it.

83 Garret April 30, 2013 at 6:47 pm

Plenty of people here (correctly) recommending proper use of turn signals, but I’m amazed that I haven’t seen anyone recommending that other drivers actually heed these signals.

I can’t count how many times I have been in the middle lane and have needed to get over to turn right, but have been unable to do so since the jerk slightly behind me in the right lane won’t slow down for half a second to let me over. What’s even worse is when the people in the lane you need to get into are stacked up and going FASTER than you are…and they just keep driving by, not one of them caring to notice me trying to get over. And yes, this all happens blocks before my actual turn, so it’s not like I’m waiting until the last second.

Lesson for the day: be courteous when driving. If you see someone with their signal on, let the gas pedal up from the floor and let them over.

84 NoSelf April 30, 2013 at 8:14 pm

Just relaaaaaxxxxx. I I spent 33 years commuting to work for a grand total of 1.3 million miles and it took me almost one point two million of those to get a clue. The highway is basically a river and it acts like one, The lane that moves the most does not get there first, Learn to read the river. Stay in the middle lane if you can and when in very heavy slow traffic stay back about ten car lengths from the car in front of you. Your goal is to NOT use your breaks (linings are expensive and if you see lining dust on your wheels you may be driving wrong). Let people move to and fro across your front they won’t stay long…why care? watch for break lights 100 yards ahead and when they lightup take your foot off and coast the gap.
Remember an old Buddhist saying: “The other boat is empty”. It means that if your boat were bumped by and empty boat you would take no offense but if there were a person in it then you would be livid.

85 Justin April 30, 2013 at 10:46 pm

Turn signals! People use them so improperly or not at all it’s ridiculous.

86 Julian May 2, 2013 at 6:24 am

Treat driving like a dance, not a race. The object is everyone gets to their destination in the least time with the fewest accidents and the lowest fuel consumption.

87 Wojciech May 2, 2013 at 8:31 pm

Be respectful to all road users, and accomodate for their limitations and vulnerabilities. This starts with pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists not having 2000lbs of metal to protect themselves and goes all the way to a truck driver having to do a tricky turn in a narrow intersection.

Good thing to remember – a large vehicle driver is not aware of your presence behind them if you can’t see their mirrors.

I would also say that it is extremely important to remember about the blind spots, both when changing lanes to avoid crashing into someone and when cruising on multilane roads next to a vehicle travelling at similar speed to avoid being crashed into. As a motorcyclist I’m particularly aware of it and try to avoid putting myself in someone else’s blind spot, but sometimes it’s impossible (e.g. in slow moving traffic).

88 James May 3, 2013 at 12:13 pm

As a bike commuter, I find that people don’t signal near as often as they should. I know you’re not expecting me to roll up on your right side, even though there’s a marked bike lane there, but please signal so I know what your intentions are if you’re going to turn the corner when the light switches, your car and the ground are much harder than my flesh…

89 thefulishbastid May 10, 2013 at 10:57 am

Drive the speed limit.
It’s not just a good idea, it’s the law!

That’s for Janus, there is no “de facto” speed limit, just the one thats posted.

Gentlemen have no need for speed.

90 Judd May 14, 2013 at 1:23 pm

So many things to add. Here a few of mine I’d like to get off my chest:

1.Turn off your freakin’ brights! You’re blinding me.

2. Leave on time. Decreases the stupid stuff you (including myself) might do to make it on time and increases your tolerance for the stupid stuff other people do.

3. Your turn signal should mean you’re about to get over. Not you’re presently in the middle of getting over while simultaneously hitting your signal so you can say you used your signal.

4. It’s your job to find a place to merge onto the freeway. I’ll try to help you as best I can, but I can’t always help if someone’s beside me and shouldn’t have to greatly alter my speed to let you in.

5. That thing people do where they transfer a turn signal of the car in front of them to the cars behind them…where is that in the manual? Are we just making up rules as we go? What if a car going the other direction turns left in front of you b/c they thought you were turning left too. You go straight and have a head on collision that was your fault. Well intentioned, but not a good idea to give a false signal, IMO.

Lastly. When you see a car double parked, it could possibly be they’re parked that way due to having to park beside a double parked car when they arrived that has since departed to provide proof to that theory. While pondering that, go ahead a pull up as close as you can to their drivers door anyway just in case.

91 Ben July 6, 2013 at 10:18 pm

We need an article like this for cyclists. It is rare to see a cyclist who even uses proper turn signals. They also often will run stop signs–or if riding on the sidewalk, ride across a street without stopping. The worst offenders are the idiots who think that they should ride against the traffic. These riders should be ticketed, or better yet, incarcerated as a threat to public safety.

92 Dan December 16, 2013 at 11:45 am

Four things that irk me beyond all life, and they all have to do with parking:

1) Double parking. Even if you’re running into the house really quick, you’re blocking an entire lane of traffic. It’s also illegal everywhere, since you’re blocking the flow of traffic. You can always (unless you’re in a highly populated city) find a close parking space. Don’t inconvenience others because you’re lazy.
2) Waiting for a spot. If you’re in a parking lot, one of the worst things you can do is stop and let someone out so you can take their spot. Traffic laws extend to the driving lanes in parking lots. Stopping to let someone out because you don’t want to park further away is an inconvenience to other drivers looking for a spot. And, no, putting your turn signal on does not make everything magically better.
3) Backing in when the lot is busy. This goes hand in hand with the point above, or it can be seperate. I can’t begin to stress this enough. If it’s really early and no one’s in the parking lot, then it’s fine to back into a space. But if there are multiple cars (read: more than 1) in the parking lot, then do NOT back into the space. It’s much more dangerous than backing out of the space, and you’re grossly inconveniencing other people.
4) Not correcting. There’s nothing wrong with pulling into a spot and not getting in perfectly straight. We’re all human, it’s bound to happen. Sometimes it’s even out of your control because of the way other people are parked. But if you’re too close to one side, crooked, or even have tire on or over the line, back out (because you shouldn’t be backing in, as per the last point), and correct your park job. The people you’re parked next to, either current or future, will be ever so grateful that you took the extra five seconds to correct an error.

There are other things that annoy me, but they’ve already been mentioned in either the article or the comments already.

93 John January 30, 2014 at 9:21 pm

One of my biggest pet peeves is when someone stops at a red light in the right lane and they are going straight and there is no turn only lane and they block someone who would otherwise be able to turn right on red.

Make it a point to memorize the layout and turning options of each intersection you drive through regularly. Be aware of lights that don’t have turn only lanes on the right side as you begin to decelerate. If it isn’t rush hour and you are able to get in the middle lane that would be the gentleman thing to do.

People in Houston are horrible about this. Not sure if It’s like that everywhere but it’s very frustrating to have to sit through a red light because one car is going straight.

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