Driving Etiquette: Avoid These Common Driving Errors

By Eric Peters, Automotive Columnist

Living by a few basic rules of roadway etiquette can make all the difference between safe, courteous driving — and driving everyone else on the road crazy.

Do your part to ease road rage by avoiding these common driving errors:

Left Lane Hogging

Driver’s ed courses used to hammer home the point that the left lane was primarily for faster-moving traffic — and passing. If you weren’t passing another vehicle or traveling at least as fast as the cars behind you — you were taught to yield and move over to the right as soon as you safely could.

Unfortunately, many drivers no longer yield to faster-moving traffic. Some believe it is perfectly acceptable to stay in the left lane indefinitely, no matter how many cars are stacked up behind them — so long as they are “doing the speed limit.”

But failing to yield and let faster-moving cars get by needlessly increases tension — which can result in unsafe tailgating and passing-on-the-right as frustrated drivers try to get around you. This serves no one’s interests. And while you may be in the right as far as not exceeding the posted limit is concerned, you’re arguably guilty of impeding the flow of traffic, which is both dangerous as well as illegal in most jurisdictions.

So, keep on eye on your rear-view mirror. If someone wants to get by you, let them do so. It’s no skin off your nose.

Moving right and yielding to faster-moving traffic is the polite — and right — thing to do.

No Cruise Control Passing

Related to the problem of left lane hogging is the cruise-control pass. The typical scenario is a two-lane secondary road where a car in the left lane is attempting to pass a car in the right lane. But instead of accelerating to rapidly overtake the other car, then moving back into the right lane, Yertle the Turtle inches forward at a glacial pace — his cruise control set on 60 as he tries to pass a driver doing 57.

Meanwhile, everyone else gets stuck behind this rolling roadblock.

If you want to pass, signal your intent, then move left and speed up sufficiently to get past the other car quickly — even if that means turning off the cruise control and pressing down on the gas pedal.

After executing the pass, signal and move back into the right-hand lane.

King Of The Road Syndrome

It’s extremely inconsiderate to be trundling all by yourself down a two-lane road, see a car up ahead at a side street clearly waiting to make a right-hand turn into traffic — and refuse to slide over to the left lane in order to give the other driver room to enter the road. A related phenomenon is the guy who refuses to use his signal — making you sit there at an intersection until Regal He either turns in or passes you by.

When you see another driver trying to get onto the road, help him out and make room if you can. Move over to the left. And use your turn signal if you intend to make a turn. It’s the nice (and safe) thing to do.

The Stop-Merge

When entering a freeway using a merge lane, do not stop and then pull out into fast-moving traffic. The whole purpose of the merge lane is to give vehicles entering a highway an opportunity to speed up to match the flow of traffic, then safely merge with it. If you stop or slow to a crawl, then pull into traffic that’s going 20, 30 even 40 miles-per-hour faster, you are asking to be rear-ended. Not only do you create a dangerous situation for yourself, you force other drivers behind you to attempt the same high-speed merge from a standing start.

Blinded By The Light

Some drivers like to see where they’re going — even if no one else can see a thing. They won’t turn off their brights for oncoming traffic — temporarily blinding those other drivers. For a moment or two, they can’t tell where they’re going — not a good thing at 45 mph on a winding two-lane with narrow shoulders. So, be considerate — and safe: Turn the brights off when other vehicles are approaching, or when you are bearing down on a car up ahead.

Multi-Tasking Behind The Wheel

When you’re behind the wheel of a car, your main focus ought to be the road ahead of you — and the environment around you — not the radio, not the cell phone or the GPS display.

If you need to make an important call, read a map — or add creamer to your coffee — pull over and do it by the side of the road. You’ve only got two hands — and just one brain. Even professional drivers can’t fully concentrate on maintaining control of their machines while simultaneously consulting their broker or arguing over who gets the kids this weekend. The modern driving environment is fast paced often chaotic. To avoid accidents — and possibly hurting someone — it’s crucial to be constantly vigilant.

Captain Tailgate

When you walk down the street, you don’t walk an inch behind other pedestrians; you leave enough room to avoid trampling the guy ahead — and to get around him, if you need to. The same applies to driving. Following too closely means you probably won’t have enough time and space to avoid slamming into the car ahead’s rear end in the event he brakes suddenly. And if that happens, it’ll be your fault, too — ticket-wise and higher insurance-wise. Rightly so.

Beyond the safety issue, it is also highly aggressive to “ride someone’s bumper.” And leaving aside basic decency, even if you’re Mike Tyson, there’s always the chance the guy in the other car will be bigger, badder, or just plain meaner than you are.

He may not take kindly to being bullied — and may dish some out in return.

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