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Six Rules Of The Road You Should Observe (But Probably Won't)

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Angry Driver with Road Rage

Angry Driver with Road Rage

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Journalists who cover the auto industry drive a lot of cars.

Which means we like to think we know a little more about driving than other people.

Not you, of course. Statistically, you know you're a better driver than most other people on the roads. We're talking about those other ones.

But each of us gets behind the wheel of several dozen cars a year and racks up tens of thousands of miles, on everything from racetracks to Manhattan streets, ranging from high-speed freeway cruising to irksome stop-and-go suburban Saturday shopping.

What follows are six rules for safer driving that you should be observing.

After all, you're the sole pilot of a two-ton machine that can travel at more than 100 mph.

Based on what we see through the windshield, though, you're probably not observing all of these rules--and some of you aren't observing ANY of them.

(1) Check your mirrors every 30 to 60 seconds.

It's painfully clear that many drivers have no earthly idea what's behind them.

That would seem to be because they're not using any of the three mirrors--one on the windshield, one on each front door--to glance at what's happening behind them.

No, this shouldn't come at the expense of looking ahead.

But it's critical to know what's going on behind you.

Ford blind-spot mirrors

Ford blind-spot mirrors

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If you can't say whether there are vehicles behind you in each lane or not, you're not looking in your mirrors often enough.

Is there, for instance, an over-eager adolescent kid in a lowered car parked 18 inches off your rear bumper at 65 mph?

If so, the sooner you move over, the quicker he can roar past you--thereby taking you out of the range of a potential accident or road-rage incident.

And this is especially important now that various blind-spot warnings are displayed in the door mirror as well, from lights that illuminate when there's a car in your blind spot to specially angled second-mirror insets that show what's next to you.

(2) If you're not passing another car, stay OUT of the left lane!

The left-most lane on roads with two, three, or more lanes in the same direction is NOT just for travel. It's called the passing lane. And there's a reason for that.

We can't do any better than to quote the full text of a graphic that's been making the rounds on social media (see diagram, which we found via Wade Brown).

'Passing Lane' graphic from Facebook post

'Passing Lane' graphic from Facebook post

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It doesn't matter if you're going the speed limit. You may feel like you're doing the right thing by slowing a speeder down, or you may feel it's your RIGHT to drive in any lane you 'darn well please.'

You're not. It's not. And you ARE breaking the law.

Here's how it is DESIGNED to work: You're in what you think is just like any other lane except that it's 'fast'. One of us approaches you from behind at 74mph (and you look down to see you're going 67mph and you switch to your smug 'justified' face because the sign says 65). While rather close in proximity, the driver begs you to move over.

Oh, how you should.

But you don't.

The driver tries to be patient and now cars start lining up behind both of you. There's a quick flash of the brights, and if you look up from your phone you either move over, or your ego decides that you'll be stubborn (and in some cases actually slow down ON PURPOSE). In most cases you don't even notice the signal but you just start complaining about the guy riding your bumper.

Now there's four or five vehicles lining up behind you while you have a LOT of distance ahead of you and enough room to move over. Now the sixth vehicle back finally jets across two lanes of traffic to go around not only you and the cars behind you, but but also around the slower cars in the two lanes to your right, only to find that there's no GOOD reason for you to be IN THE WAY.

Note that he used the 'SLOW' lane to do this in.

Move over. You don't have to be stubborn.

It's not your lane. You don't have to be self-righteous.

Please be part of the solution. Don't cause traffic jams and contribute to road rage.

The general rage among drivers at oblivious left-lane hogs was rewarded in March, when a Maryland woman was ticketed for blocking the passing lane and failure to keep right.

The "keep right" rule is also taken seriously in Georgia, we gather.

On the West Coast, though, the rule has apparently been forgotten entirely--helped along, we suspect, by the legality of passing on the right on multi-lane freeways.

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Comments (17)
  1. There are regional bad-driving behaviors.

    On Long Island, people driving luxury cars will speed past you on your right, then cut in front of you in order to get into the left-hand turning lane. Of course they're decelerating as they cut you off.

    In and around Philly, other drivers will slam into any gap between any other two cars, no matter how short that gap is.

    In Portland OR, people intending to turn left AND who have a turning lane will decelerate in traffic so that they can get into the turning lane at the last possible second. I think it has something to do with politeness, but I can't quite figure it out.

  2. This isn't 100% -- but nothing is: Stay away from drivers wearing hats. They are either 1) an old woman who drives so timidly she actually becomes a danger, 2) an old man with a beret, jaunty, but based on evidence probably can't even see the road anymore, 3) anyone wearing a cowboy hat; odds are he/she thinks all driving is just like NASCAR, 4) a kid with a baseball cap; he's inexperienced, 5) a middle-aged guy with a baseball cap, who probably wishes he was still a kid, and is so cock-sure of his driving capabilities that he doesn't realize that agitating other drivers is dangerous; 6) others. You'll recognize them as you start looking around.

  3. Related to this additional rule: If you don't see the person's head above the head rest, get away from them. They can't see the road so they drive much too slowly. A minivan is also a tip off that the driver isn't going to pay attention to the road because there are so many other distractions in the car. And if it's an old, dirty, beat up car, it's a sure sign that the person driving doesn't pay attention to driving. Stay away!

  4. The hands-on phone stuff needs to be a serious infraction everywhere! Speaking as a very defensive and observant driving owner of a motorcycle.

  5. 1) Use your mirrors: I would go one further – TURN YOUR HEAD! If you’re changing lanes turn your head an LOOK. It’s the only way to insure there is no one in your blind spot. Relying exclusively on your mirrors is a recipe for disaster. (how many times do you think a cop has heard “I didn’t see him/her in my mirror!”) Also on this same topic, I have noticed an increasing reliance on technology in this area: specifically I have several friends who drive vehicles with blind spot assist. They don’t even look in their mirrors anymore. OK I guess….as long as the system is working perfectly…but the real danger is when they are driving a rental car with no such system. They are completely out of the habit of even looking.

  6. 2) The left Lane: I admit it. I’m the speeder in the left lane doing 75-80 and I’m on you’re a** flashing my brights. All I want is for you to get over and let me by – however the highway has become the place where typical Americans vent their pent-up frustrations in the relative safety of their armored environs. The behavior you describe could be the ultimate form of passive aggression. Go home and kick the dog instead and leave me out of it OK?
    3) Acceleration: particularly bad here in New Jersey with roads with very short on-ramps like the Garden State and Route 17. I encounter this madness daily.

  7. 4) One reason people don’t use their signals on the highway goes back to my pent up aggression comment under number 2. Some of us have learned that if there is an opening to change lanes, and we signal, the a**hole at the “back” of the opening will accelerate and try to close the gap before we can move. God forbid you get in front of them. I love it when they try to close the gap and then honk and gesture when you come over anyway…which is what I do…after I’ve properly signaled….

  8. 5) Not a biggie. These days a lot of people don't seem to even know they have brights.
    6) The best I ever saw: On Route 84 traveling south through Connecticut – guy with one foot out the window and one on the dash (must have had cruise control on) with his seat reclined…texting with both hands. Where is a cop when you need one? I’ve seen no enforcement efforts on this and I suspect the reason may be that the biggest offenders are the cops themselves….

  9. My number 7: PLEASE learn who has the right-of-way and obey the rules:
    Observation 1: At a four way stop sign, no one seems to understand who should go next. Additionally, if they DO know it’s their turn, some people will still try to wave to you to “go first” apparently thinking they are being super-safe in doing so.
    Observation 2: Where I drive people have gotten in the habit of stopping in traffic and waving someone trying to make a left from a side street to pull out in front of them. This leads to weird dynamics when I refuse to do so, which I do for good reason because if we get our signals crossed and I come out and you or someone else hits me, I’m going to be the one with points and a ticket for “failure to yield’

  10. We need better driver education and some enforcement from the cops. Speeders are easy – some of this other stuff actually takes some effort to enforce.

    I’m done venting – I feel a little better now.

  11. On interstate and multi lane highways a person should be checking their mirrors every 10-15,seconds. My pet peeve is tailgaters they are a menace and cause pile ups. When I have a tailgater and usually they're driving vans I will put n the 4 way flashers. They usually back off,but not for long and as soon as they too close againI think nothing of turning them on again.

  12. Staying out of left lane unless passing....

    If I am in the left lane, and doing the speed limit, why do I have to leave it?
    If someone wants to pass they would have to go over the speed limit?

  13. Because unless you're overtaking someone you should be in the right hand lane.

  14. Because you are disturbing the proper flow of traffic, and because you are not the police. If you see someone driving without a seatbelt, do you try to force him off the road? If you see someone drinking a beer on the street, do you feel compelled to knock it out of his hands?

  15. "Probably won't"? That's pretty scary. Anyone now following these rules shouldn't be driving.

    This is actually the sort of stuff the police should be dealing with, not speeding - speed limits are a lazy way of controlling traffic which is antiquated and don't work. We should be driving to the road conditions, not some arbitrary limit.

  16. Guess I am guilty, I follow the 6 suggestions. Get out of the fast lane, especially if the flow of traffic is moving faster than the speed limit. Let those in the fast lane smoke out smoky. Let me add number 7. when driving on rural two lane roads, drive with your headlights on, especially if the sun is to your back as oncoming traffic will have the sun in their eyes. If drivers can see you, they are less likely to hit you & many don't have as good a vision as you do, so lights on to be seen. I have been driving since the age of 15 & will turn 80 on 5/7/13 & have had only one speeding ticket in my life. I was east bound on I-80 in Nevada 3 years ago, put the hammer down to pass a triple bottom semi that was weaving, & smoky got me.

  17. #2 drives me crazy. People need to learn the mantra: drive right, pass left. I see plenty of violations of both principles. Yes, there are annoying dawdlers (some of them self-righteous speed police) hanging out in the left lane. But I also see the pass-right problem all the time.

    I'll be passing on the left and the car behind me decides *I'm not passing quickly enough*, so cuts over two lanes, then cuts back to race ahead of me. Or in heavy traffic, when both lanes are full, a driver will cut right and rapidly cut back left to gain, oh, about 20' of road. Inevitably it happens without signaling (making it doubly dangerous). And typically the driver is sitting in a Porsche or BMW and undoubtedly fancies himself to be exceptionally skilled.

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