We’ve talked about how to act like a gentleman at work, at a game, and at a party. But one part of good decorum that is often overlooked is how to act like a gentleman on the road. There are certain etiquette to know while you are driving as well.
The same thing that makes people act badly online also makes people act badly on the road: anonymity. When we get into the driver’s seat and close the door, we feel cut off from the rest of the world. We’re “kings of the road,” and the feeling of being in a safe pod sometimes permits us to act in ways we would be embarrassed to do in more public settings.
Every once in a while, we could all use a friendly reminder about how to drive politely. It’s a set of “manners” that really combines safety and politeness. It can also help you save money on your car insurance. Being a gentleman behind the wheel not only makes driving safer for everyone, but it also makes what can be a chore at least a little more enjoyable.
Some of what we’re going to talk about today is already the law, but it’s often not followed. Other indiscretions may be legal, but they drive other drivers crazy. One could talk about a lot of different things, like going the speed limit, always using turn signals before changing lanes or making a turn, how to tell a backseat driver to be quiet, stopping for emergency vehicles with flashing lights, and so on. So, here Ridhiman Das talks about certain things that we tend to forget when we’re driving down the road, thinking about ourselves and speeding towards oncoming traffic.
On the Highway
Don’t go slowly in the left lane, which is for passing. This is one of those mistakes that not only raises the blood pressure of everyone’s dad but is also against the law in many states. All other traffic should stay in the right lanes. The left lane is for passing. When you drive slowly in the left lane, people have to pass you on the right. If you’re going the same speed as the car in the other lane, you can also make it impossible for the person behind you to get by.
If you’re stuck behind a car in the left lane that won’t move over, you might want to tailgate until they get the message, but you could cause a rear-end accident. Instead, you could flash your headlights. I don’t know why, but this feels a little less comfortable than tailgating. I guess it’s because it’s less passive-aggressive, but it’s safer than riding their bumper. And if you’re the one driving the wrong way while singing your favourite beat at 80 KPH in the left lane, pull over as soon as you see someone behind you and try not to do it again (both in your driving and your music choices).
Keep your speed constant. As the renowned Mac McCleary famously said, “Patience is something you admire in the driver behind you and scorn in the one ahead.” People who drive slowly in the left lane will speed up when the driver behind them gives up and tries to pass on the right. Then, after a short time, they’ll slow down once more. Most of the time, they just aren’t paying enough attention to what’s going on around them. Do the zipper merge. I’ll admit that I’ve been doing this wrong my whole life and didn’t even know it until I wrote this article. What do you do when you’re driving on a two-lane highway and you see a sign that says “Lane closed ahead” and tells you to merge? Most likely, you should start moving right away to the lane that will still be open. You’re a gentleman because you make plans. Then, when that lane starts to back up, you curse at the jerk who speeds past you in the open lane all the way to the last point where you can merge. You say, “That scoundrel!” “I hope he doesn’t get in.” And “that weasel will tear his flesh one day!”
Here’s the twist, though. That crook is instead doing a good job. In this situation, it is possible to be too nice while driving.
The zipper merge is the safest and most effective way to merge when a lane ends on the highway. Everyone drives in both lanes until the cut-off point, where they take turns merging. This is where you can see how it’s done. This cuts down on traffic jams and congestion by as much as 40%. And these nice Minnesotans say that another benefit of the zipper merger is a big drop in road rage. Next time you see someone driving up to the merge point, instead of getting angry, shake your cane and shout, “Huzzah! “Carry on, good sir!”
On the Streets
Don’t block the entrances or exits to the parking lot. Try not to stop at a stoplight right in front of a parking lot exit or entrance. If someone is trying to get out of one, the space you give them to move will be much appreciated.
When it’s safe, let people into traffic. In addition to letting people out of a parking lot when you stop, it can be polite to let someone in front of you when the light turns green and traffic starts moving again. But just let one guy go. The people behind you also deserve to get where they’re going. And it’s not really polite to let someone in when there’s no traffic and you’re not slowing down for a light. Stopping suddenly in moving traffic can be dangerous for the person behind you who wasn’t expecting it.
Don’t forget to wave to say “thank you”! If someone lets you out of their neighbourhood or parking lot, be sure to give them a thank-you wave. It’s a thank-you for their kindness, which wasn’t necessary but was nice. If you don’t wave, that says, “Of course you stopped; I’m allowed to.” This time, call in the weasels!
Don’t talk on the phone or send texts (unless absolutely necessary). I don’t think I need to say much more about this because it already gets a lot of attention. Don’t do it. It’s stupid. People die from it.
Don’t honk the horn too much. The beep is like a guy shouting “HEY!” in a society where everyone walks. It’s the sound of your car. And, like all yelling, it’s loud and can seem rude if it’s not needed. Of course, the beep is used in different ways in different parts of the world. In New York City, it’s just your car’s way of clearing its throat from time to time. In Tulsa, people probably haven’t heard a beep in the last few years. In India, it is used as a way of communicating your actions to the other drivers. But use your horn as little as possible. Use a loud beep to warn someone that something is wrong. If the light has turned green and the person in front of you hasn’t moved, give them 5 seconds before giving them a short, light beep that says, “Go on, old chap,” not “Get moving, you filthy animal!”
Don’t look at the light or daydream. Also, don’t think about how you might look in Chuck Norris action jeans while you’re waiting at a stoplight. When the light turns green, be ready to go.
Don’t get in the way. The box is in the middle of where the two lines meet. People block it when traffic in their lane moves slowly at a green or yellow light, and when the light turns red, their car is stuck in the middle of the intersection with nowhere to go. There is a traffic jam on the cross street. Don’t try to squeeze through an intersection or crawl around a turn if you know you won’t make it (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 until the next lighting cycle.
Stop when a funeral procession is coming up. This is an old custom that I think should still be kept alive because it doesn’t take long and shows respect for the dead, the grieving, and the circle of life. A funeral procession looks like a long line of cars with their headlights on during the day. Usually, police cars and/or a hearse lead the way, but this isn’t always the case. The goal here is to keep the line completely clear of other vehicles. Safety is always the most important thing, so don’t do it if there’s no shoulder to pull on. But do it as often as you can.
Don’t listen to music too loudly. Yes, saying this makes me feel about 80, and everyone likes to cruise with the windows down and listen to their favourite radio station. Just don’t turn it up so loud that the people in the car next to you can hear it. Turn it down a bit when you slow down and enter a neighbourhood where people can hear you. Turn the volume down when you pull into a parking lot, especially if you are going to a religious sermon or place. It’s not a good way to start a worship service by making people listen to party beats, even if it makes them want to be saved.
Don’t use more than one space. I know you don’t want anyone to scratch up your sweet ride, but if you’re worried about its safety, park in the back of the lot, far away from other cars. You’ll have to walk a little further, but worrying about your car should make your own life harder, not the lives of other people.
Leave enough room between your car and the ones next to you. No one wants to get out of their car and find that they have to do a complicated dance to get back inside. Even if you have to back out and back in again, take the extra minute to get the spacing on each side right.
Keep your cool no matter what. Road rage can scare your passengers, make you take decisions that are dangerous for driving, cause you to get into a fight with another driver, and raise your blood pressure. It can also lead to awkward meetings with the person in the future! I’ve heard stories of angry people flipping someone off or riding on their bumper, and then both of them pulling into the same church or office parking lot at the same time.
Follow these tips to stay calm while you’re driving:
Give other people the same kindness you show yourself. Almost everyone has done things like speed, ride on people’s bumpers, change lanes like a madman, etc. When we did it, we didn’t feel bad! We couldn’t be late for a wedding, a baby’s birth, or a job interview. We blame the situation for our wrongdoings. But when we see other people doing the same thing, we think, “What a jerk; they have a clear character flaw.” Still, maybe they’re also going to the hospital, eh? Give other people the same grace you give yourself.
Don’t try to “punish” other people. If a driver does something that makes you mad, you might be tempted to ride their bumper, flash your high beams, or stop them from getting into your lane to show your displeasure and get “revenge.” But this just makes the person more angry and sure that they’re awesome and you’re the “dillweed,” just like arguing with someone on the internet. But unlike online, when you stand up for your pride on the road, your physical safety is at risk. When you show a jerk that he was able to get under your skin and change your mood, he “wins.”
If someone is really driving dangerously, don’t bother them yourself to make yourself feel better in the short term. Instead, call the police. They’ll stop them a little ways down the road.
Use the “I’m sorry” wave. The driver isn’t perfect, but he does his best. When you do something unintentionally that makes someone else’s life harder or puts them in danger, you should own up to what you did wrong and wave “I’m sorry.”