Driving for Dummies

This place I call home is a melting pot.  It's known as the "International City" for its alleged high level of cultural diversity.  That's fine and dandy.  I take no issue with the melting pot.  I do take issue with the mixing of the plethora of driving styles we have going on in this slightly-more-than-suburban city of mine.  I've been trying harder lately to not be so downright grumpy and pessimistic.  Unfortunately, this is impossible when I'm behind the wheel.  It's like my alter-ego comes out the minute I sit behind the steering wheel.  I'm not proud of it.  It's just a fact.

Maybe we do have the worst drivers in the world here (as some claim).  Maybe it's because the people who are lifetime residents don't know how to drive in more urban conditions (since this place started out as little more than a farming community).  Perhaps the myriad of geographic backgrounds doesn't mix well on the roads.  Maybe the infrastructure just needs a serious overhaul (it does), and upgrades would help traffic move along more smoothly (they would).

Whatever the cause of the traffic problems, there *are* some things we can do to keep problems to a minimum.

So let me help.  Here are my tips for my fellow citizens of WR (and the entire driving population of the United States, since I might someday share a road with you too):

1.  The left lane is the passing lane (sometimes referred to as the fast lane).  If someone is riding your tail in the fast lane, use your blinker, and get over into the right lane to let them *pass* you.
2.  The blinker can be found within a finger's reach of your left hand.  It takes almost no effort at all to flick it either up or down depending on whether you intend to go right or left, respectively.  The purpose of the blinker is to let other people know your intentions.  Not only is it a safety mechanism, but it is also a courtesy to other drivers.  I know "courtesy to others" is hard to understand in this age of self-centeredness.  But really.  Just use the flippin' blinker.
3.  Four way stops are not all that complicated.  To summarize:  first in, first out.  In the event of a tie, the person to the right goes first.  In the event of face to face tie where one driver wants to turn left, the person going straight goes first (just pretend there's a "Left Turn Yield on Green" sign.  Thanks to SLL for calling out my error...and lack of proofreading!).  Not brain surgery.  Oh!  And believe it or not, blinkers come to play once again in the four way stop.  If you don't use the blinker, be prepared to get hit.  And you deserve it.
4.  If you are exiting a shopping venue, subdivision, restaurant, etc. and preparing to turn onto a road with a somewhat significant speed limit (45mph or more) and especially only one lane, do not pull out in front of someone and go 15mph.  If you're going to do it, step on it.  Otherwise be prepared to hear a horn and receive an obscene gesture.  You deserve them.
5.  Furthermore, if you pull out in front of someone on the same road, don't step on it, and then slam on your breaks to turn left (even if you use your blinker), be preprared to get rear-ended.  You deserve it.
6.  Parking lots are not roads.  You should not be going 40mph through them (especially since you just pulled out in front of me in a 55mph zone and went 30mph).  There are pedestrians aplenty in parking lots that do not want to play chicken with your car, and shouldn't have to.
7.  Parking lots have lines on them for a reason.  If you go 30mph perpendicular to the rows and get t-boned by another car, you deserve it.
8.  Red lights are not a suggestion.  I can't count the number of times I've seen cars blatantly disregard very-obviously-red lights in this town.  I consider myself lucky to have not witnessed or have been a part of a deadly car crash as a result.  This is very serious, folks.  Keep your eyes open.
9.  Blinkers do not equal entitlement.  Out of the few folks who do use their blinkers, there are a handful who think that flipping the blinker on means they don't even have to look in order to change lanes.  Everyone else on the road will accomodate them.  You're wrong.  That's what mirrors and functioning neck muscles are for.
10.  Just because you drive a vehicle that barely fits in a parking spot does not mean that you own the road.  I'm sorry that you can't turn those things very well, but I should not have to stop and wait for you to do a 15 point turn to exit the parking lot.  You do not get to take up the entire road.  And if your vehicle can't make that turn, either learn how to drive it or find one that can.  Oh, and remember when you raced me at that stop light?  It cost you $15 worth of gas, and you still lost.  How does that feel?
11.  When driving on a one-lane-in-each-direction road with passing zones, I have a right to pass you when the opportunity arises.  This means you should not floor it the minute I put my blinker on and enter the opposing traffic lane, especially when you went 10mph under the speed limit the entire time I was following you.  Not only are you a jerk, but you endangered lives.  You will probably be on the receiving end of windshield washer fluid from my rear window.  And you deserve it.
12.  Residential neighborhoods are not the Daytona racetrack.  Children shouldn't be playing in the roads, but in case they are, it's better to give them a fair chance at life by obeying that 25mph posted speeds than to run them down going 40mph.  Thanks.
13.  Yield, don't surrender.  If you are entering an interstate highway via an on-ramp that instructs you to yield.  Go!  Do not enter a high-speed highway and slow down because someone is coming!  You will cause an accident.  On the same vein, if you see someone entering the highway, give them the right lane.  Consider it as "passing" them, and move on over.  Just don't stay over there.
14.  I know interstate driving is boring, but cruise control is your friend.  It enables you to maintain a constant speed, and not be one of those completely annoying spazzes that varies between 10 under and 10 over the posted speed limit.
15.  Trucks have a lot of inertia.  Do not cut trucks off and expect them to be able to stop behind you.  You might get hit.  Worse.  You might get flattened like a pancake.  And I can't even say you'd deserve it because that would be insensitive in a mortal sense.

There are oh-so-many more driving transgressions I have witnessed around here, including but not limited to staying in your own lane of traffic, turning left from a right hand lane, watching high-speed police chases crossing dirt medians from the "comfort" of my vehicle.  Normal stuff. 

The bottom line is that you cannot control what other people are doing.  And they're likely doing some of that stuff ^up there^.  Scary thought, isn't it?  I hate to be the thinker of negative thoughts, but driving is scary.  Please do whatever you can to keep yourself and your passengers safe.  I know I have some very precious cargo.  I'm relying on the rest of you.  I'm already doing the best that I can.


Jenn said...

This is for you Mrs. Wheeler... uhh, I mean Jennie. :)


Anonymous said...

Number 1,2,4,5 and freakin' 8!! 8 really hits home for me because a woman totaled my car by running a red light. What makes it worse is that she lied about it, and even worse, there were no witnesses! 0! So little ol' just-turned-20 me with only liability insurance gets stuck with the bill!! Makes me want to say a whole bunch of mean words and it was over a year ago!! I really, truly believe you should rewrite the book you study before you're allowed to get your driver's license, Jennie!!

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