When it comes to courtesy and respect on the open road, it seems like many of us are running on empty. Disrespectful driving is a subject that many of us have lamented about, causing everything from simmering road rage to tragic accidents.
Even though we teach protocol in the nation’s capital, D.C. has a reputation for less than stellar driving with Allstate’s annual America’s Best Drivers Report naming the nation’s capital city as one of America’s top locations for the worst drivers. Similarly, the home state of our administrative office in South Carolina received an “F” by a public service campaign called Drive Human as being one of the least courteous locations in the country. Although our association with these locations is merely a coincidence when it comes to disrespectful driving, we believe it is our public duty to recommend some rules of the road to enhance your own driving etiquette—no matter where you live.
Don’t Be Distracted From texting to eating to even applying eyeliner, we’ve all seen drivers doing everything except keeping their eyes on the road. And according to the National Safety Council (NSC), “the activity area of the brain that processes moving images decreases by up to 1/3 when talking on a phone.” So, put the phone, your lunch and your makeup away, because all of those things really can wait until you’re off the road.
No Tailgating Driving right on someone’s back bumper is not only rude, it’s also very dangerous. When possible, you should always leave at least one car length between your car and the one in front of you. Another good tip is to pick a landmark on the road like a billboard or pole and watch for the car in front of you to pass the landmark. Then try and count to three before passing the same landmark. If you pass before three, you are following too closely.
Slow Poking in the Passing Lane This might be one of the most popular complaints of all drivers— someone who is slow driving in the passing (or left) lane. In general, the left lane should only be used for passing other drivers and if cars begin to pass you on the right, you should get the message.
Merging The Department of Motor Vehicles says that “courteous driving consists of allowing other motorists to merge into traffic by giving them the space to do so.” That doesn’t mean you should always let someone merge in front of you—especially if it could cause an accident. In cases of lane closures or traffic from road construction, letting someone merge into traffic is the polite thing to do.
Turn Signals How often do you see someone making a turn without using a signal? It’s not only discourteous, it’s unsafe. Using your turn signal alerts other drivers of where you are headed, allowing them to slow down when necessary. The actual recommendations tend to vary from state to state but, in general, it’s good form to use your turn signal approximately 100 feet before making a turn.
Honking Unnecessary honking can be one of the most irritating—and startling—things to hear on the road. Of course, a car’s horn is there for a reason, especially when alerting another driver if they are driving too closely or making a wrong turn. But if you’re the honker when the car in front of you doesn’t make the jackrabbit move on the green light, you might want to give that horn a rest.
Road Rage Let’s face it, people get angry on the road and often yell, honk and use vulgar hand gestures to show their displeasure with your own driving. And according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, aggressive and dangerous driving accounts for 56 percent of fatal car crashes. But the trick here is to gauge your reaction to someone else’s rage or someone else’s poor driving that might trigger your own angry reaction. Our best advice is to just breathe and move on down the road.
Watch the High Beams High beams can be used when you need some added lighting at night, but never use the high beams with oncoming traffic or if you are coming up on another vehicle. They are not only irritating, they can blind the other driver and cause an accident.
Parking Protocol How many times did you think you found that really great parking place only to see that another driver hogged two spaces? Don’t be the object of anyone’s contempt in the parking lot and be sure to park your car in the middle of a spot between the lines to be respectful—and make room—for others.
Don’t forget to say thanks Whether someone allowed you to merge in traffic or patiently waited for you to park, don’t forget to acknowledge the courtesy of the other driver. This can be with a verbal thanks, a thumbs up, or a quick smile to express your gratitude.