For most people, driving is the activity with the most potential impact (no pun intended) to others that they will perform the entire day. Driving a motor vehicle is ALWAYS a matter of life and death, and it deserves to be treated with a high degree of care, concentration, and skill. Driving requires THOUGHT. Ironically, because driving is so common--nearly everyone does it every day--many people give little concern to their actions behind the wheel. For thousands of drivers every year, this is a fatal mistake. Don't be a statistic! Learn to drive well, and take pride in your competence and courtesy, knowing that you are making the world a safer and more pleasant place by sharing the road well.
Motorcyclists have the right to share the road with drivers of cars and trucks. Car and truck drivers, don't forget you're not alone out there!
Slow driving is RUDE and DANGEROUS!
Slow driving is RUDE because you are wasting other people's time. Time is a finite resource for all of us, and it is an essential element in quality of life. Would you be upset if someone stole money from you? Then please don't steal time from others (or even yourself). If you cannot keep up with the speed limit when road conditions permit, you are not a competent driver. Please get training or consider alternative ways to get around.
Slow driving is DANGEROUS because other drivers will be passing you on all sides, and many of them will want to pull back into your lane after they have passed. That is their right. But passing and lane changing are inherently dangerous activities. You are forcing others to perform these maneuvers unnecessarily. If drivers are constantly passing you on both sides, YOU ARE DRIVING TOO SLOWLY. SPEED UP. If you lack the driving skills to maintain the speed limit when road conditions allow, please get driver training or consider alternative ways to get around.
Myth: It's safest to drive in the left lane all the time.
Fact: The left lane is for PASSING and LEFT TURNS. If you are the slowest driver on the road, and you are not planning to turn left very soon, STAY OUT OF THE LEFT LANE; you are being rude and creating a dangerous situation (see above).
Mind your speed
On long stretches of inter-urban expressways, many drivers go faster downhill and slower uphill. Unless you are driving a fully-loaded semi and literally can't help it, this is poor driving. Unless there are obstacles or traffic conditions forcing you to adjust your speed, KEEP YOUR SPEED CONSTANT except when passing. It's easier for everyone around you to know what to expect from you when they know you're keeping a steady speed. Moreover, you will not be leapfrogging the other drivers who are safely and courteously maintaining their speed. Leapfrogging is dangerous and rude!
The drivers who accelerate the most slowly are often the same drivers who are speeding excessively once they are through accelerating. These inattentive morons take a minute or more to get up to the speed limit, but they don't stop there--in another minute they're doing 20 mph over the speed limit, 15 mph faster than everyone else on the road. You can't safely pass them because their acceleration is JUST enough to make it impossible or unsafe to pass, so you're stuck behind them waiting for them to speed up at every traffic light or stop sign mile after mile after mile.
When you're first in line at a red light, everyone behind you is counting on you to pay strict attention and be ready to move when the light changes to green. That doesn't mean stepping on the gas the instant the light changes (which is also dangerous--look before you leap); it does mean not being caught by complete surprise by the chorus of car horns behind you when the light's been green for five seconds and you're still looking for something in the glove compartment.
Sometimes it's polite to honk your horn. Like when you're behind someone at a traffic light, the light turns green, and it's clear the person in front of you isn't paying any attention. Not only will they, and you, have a better chance of getting through the light if you wake them up, but the people behind you will appreciate it, too. Don't feel bad about embarrassing someone ahead of you when you let them know that the light has changed. Feel bad for the people behind you if you do nothing and the resulting delay keeps those people from making it through the light.
Don't keep others from getting through a traffic light. Too many drivers are leisurely about getting from one light to the next, knowing that they can almost certainly make it through just as the light becomes yellow... while preventing two or more cars behind them from getting through who should have been able to.
Don't tailgate. And especially don't tailgate tailgaters--if they need to slam on their brakes to avoid a collision, you don't want to have to slam on yours to avoid colliding with THEM! Remember the two second rule, and remember that two seconds' following distance is the MINIMUM safe distance under IDEAL conditions. Sometimes your following distance should be slightly more than two seconds.
Sometimes it's safest to speed! I lived in Atlanta for six and a half years. The traffic was horrible, but the speed limit signs on the perimeter expressway, I-285, were a joke. They all said 55 mph, but the one thing you could count on was that no one would be driving 55. Either traffic was stalled, or everyone was doing 75+. In the latter situation, driving 55 would be dangerous because everyone would be zooming past you and changing lanes trying to pass. Don't like driving 75? Stay off the expressway. There are always slower roads to take if you prefer them.
Seconds can save minutes. Delaying someone by even one second could cause them to lose more minutes later as a result (e.g. by forcing them to hit red lights instead of green lights). Be polite--try not to waste anyone's time, ever, even by a second.
Lights and signals
Use your turn signals every time you change lanes or turn, and start your signal a few seconds BEFORE you start a lane change or slow down to turn! Your turn signal control is conveniently located on your steering column. It's designed to be easy to use. Get in the habit of using it and soon it will become automatic to you. Letting other drivers know your intentions will save them time and prevent conflicts and collisions. On the other hand, don't leave your signals flashing when you have no intention of changing lanes or turning. You are responsible for making sure your turn signals are on when they ought to be on and off when they ought to be off.
Don't assume that someone is going to turn just because they have their turn signal on and they're slowing down. Consider a situation in which you're about to turn onto a road, but someone coming down the right lane has their right turn signal on and they're slowing down. Will they turn before they get to you? You have no way of knowing. EVEN THEY MAY NOT KNOW. Don't pull out in front of them unless it is safe to do so even if they maintain their present speed and do not turn.
If you need to pull off the road or your vehicle has stalled, turn on your hazard lights. I'm a lot less annoyed about a stalled vehicle if its driver at least had the sense to turn on the hazard lights!
Turn on your headlights BEFORE it's so dark that you need them to see the road in front of you. Remember, headlights serve TWO purposes--seeing and being seen. By turning on your headlights well before it gets dark, you will help other drivers see you, which makes it less likely they will collide with you. There's a reason motorcycles have their headlights running at all times--it helps them be seen by other drivers!
Don't turn off your engine at traffic lights. Yes, I know someone told you (or you ingeniously figured out) that you could save gas by cutting your engine at every red light. Guess what? You're not going to save more than a few cents of gas a year that way, and you'll be wearing out your car's starter, which costs a lot more than a few cents. Moreover, there's always a chance that once your engine is stopped, it won't start again. And they're you'll be, stopped in the middle of the road, holding up traffic for miles, casuing all of them to waste gas and lose time because of your mistake. Are people honking at you as they pull around you? You deserve it for shutting off your engine.
When there are two lanes of traffic coming down the right side of the road and you want to make a right turn, consider whether there will soon be a safe gap in BOTH lanes simultaneously. If so, that's the best time to pull out and merge. You never know when someone in the second lane is suddenly going to change into the lane you're about to pull out into. In fact, THEY may not even know they're going to change lanes until they suddenly do so.
DO NOT MERGE INTO SPEEDING TRAFFIC ON AN EXPRESSWAY AT 25 MPH!!! Even if there's enough of a gap for you to do so without causing the drivers already on the expressway to slam on their brakes or swerve to avoid hitting you, you may be endangering drivers behind you who also need to merge into traffic. If you are forcing them to merge at 25 mph also, you are recklessly endangering their lives.
If you are on an entrance ramp and can tell that the driver in front of you is going to merge at a dangerously slow speed, back WAY off from them as soon as possible so that you have the most space and time possible to merge when it's your turn. If you can see the traffic on the expressway as you travel the ramp, do your best to time your entrance into a gap. Then make the most of the extra space and time you've given yourself by accelerating as quickly as you can to get your speed as close as you can to that of the traffic on the expressway. Don't assume that the slow driver in front of you will stay in the merging lane as you enter the expressway, either--he or she might immediately pull over into other lanes, thus preventing you from getting around them and keeping you stuck at 25 mph even as traffic behind you breathes down your neck. In this kind of situation, your reflexes must be good and you must instantly make multiple correct decisions to get yourself out of danger. It is unfortunately possible for the actions of another driver to lead directly to your death or dismemberment even if their actions in no way endangered themselves. Try to stay away from slow drivers on expressways--your proximity to them endangers you, too. Remember that drivers who are excessively slow usually have other bad driving habits, too!
Please don't drive a vehicle on the expressway if your vehicle (such as an RV) isn't capable of keeping up with the prevailing traffic speeds. It is rude and dangerous. There are always slower roads to take, and they're usually more scenic, too. If you're a slow driver, you probably won't even be losing any time by taking the slower roads. You'll be less stressed, and you'll get better gas mileage on top of everything else!
If you're stopped at a light and suddenly realize you're in a different lane than the one you want to be in (for example, you're in a turn lane but you want to go straight), don't make other people miss the light while you wait for an opportunity to change lanes. Be an adult--accept the consequences of your mistake and get yourself turned around in the direction you want to go later on, after you've gotten through the intersection. Don't make other people suffer for your own mistake. It's rude and dangerous.
TURN OFF THE CRUISE CONTROL!
Cruise control is the most abused feature of the modern automobile. It's almost never a good idea to use it. Foot getting tired? Pull over at the next safe opportunity to stretch and walk around. Cruise control partially disconnects you from the operation of your vehicle. Cruise control delays your reaction time both physically and mentally. It's easy to get complacent when you think you don't have to worry about controlling your speed anymore. YOU ARE ALWAYS 100% RESPONSIBLE FOR THE SPEED OF YOUR VEHICLE.
It is especially, and inexcusably, stupid and dangerous to attempt to use cruise control in moderate to heavy traffic or on hilly or curvy roads.
Rolling roadblocks and passing
In my estimation, roughly half the drivers on inter-urban expressways habitually create rolling roadblocks. If you're going to pass, do it expeditiously. Get it done, or don't attempt the pass in the first place. Mind your speed--if you're slowing down as you come alongside the car you were just overtaking a moment ago, you are creating a rolling roadblock. That is RUDE and DANGEROUS.
On the other hand, many drivers who are BEING passed unconsciously speed up, thus creating a rolling roadblock. If you are being passed, do not accelerate--keep your speed constant or even slow down slightly if you are on a two-lane road and you want to give the driver passing you the maximum safety cushion to get back into your lane before oncoming traffic arrives. Sometimes drivers will pass you without giving themselves an adequate cushion for getting back into your lane. If they're hell-bent on getting around you, help them out by smoothly but firmly slowing down to give them more time and room to do so. Sure, they're creating an unpleasant situation for you due to their own bad judgement, but that's better than them ending up colliding head-on with an oncoming car.
If you are passing another driver and find that they are matching or exceeding your speed, your pass has failed, regardless of whose fault it is. Slow back down and pull back in behind the car you were just trying to pass. Consider attempting another pass later. Most drivers will let you pass on the second attempt once they realize that they prevented you from passing the first time. A few will ALWAYS speed up whenever someone starts to pass them. Most of these idiots don't even realize they're doing it. In these cases, it may be safest, if frustrating, to simply stay behind them rather than risk speeding excessively or hitting oncoming cars or road hazards.
Personal note--the worst situation I experienced involving passing was on a two-lane country road. The road was flat and long with excellent visibility all around and no other traffic for a mile in either direction. I was on my motorcycle. The driver of the car in front of me was doing between 40 and 45 mph in a 55 mph zone. As I started to pass her, she matched my speed and kept matching it, staying right beside me even as I momentarily accelerated to nearly 80 mph to try to get around her. For safety, I knew I had to either complete my pass quickly or quickly pull back in behind her. As soon as I did get around her, she slowed back down to 40 mph. Was she being malicious or deliberately rude? I doubt it. I think she was so unaware of her driving and surroundings that in her shock at seeing a motorcycle in her rear-view mirror, she panicked and stepped on the gas. Never attribute to malice that which can be explained by stupidity. She probably wasn't a jerk--"just" an idiot. But dangerous nonetheless.
Get off the phone! Safe driving almost always requires your undivided attention, even if you've been driving for years (or, God forbid, talking on the phone while driving for years). When you're doing ANYTHING other than focusing your complete attention on driving, you are a hazard to life and limb. Think you're capable of driving and talking at the same time? Forget about it. You're not. Not even with a "hands-free" phone. Your brain must be fully engaged on the task of driving, not just your hands. One instant of distraction can be fatal, and EVERYONE who attempts to talk on the phone while driving WILL be partially distracted for ALL of the conversation and DANGEROUSLY distracted for part of the conversation. No phone call is so important that it's worth dying for, or killing for. People will understand when you tell them you couldn't call them or answer their calls because you were driving. Many will be impressed by your commitment to safety.
Last but not least, for those of you who do not ride motorcycles yourselves:
LOOK TWICE, SAVE A LIFE! MOTORCYCLES ARE EVERYWHERE!
Motorcyclists: You heard this in class over and over (you did take a class, right?), but I think we all need to be reminded of it once in awhile--Don't be "dead right"! Yield to avoid a collision, even when you had the "right" not to yield. And remember that we must show respect to get respect.
Here is an excellent list of safe driving tips. There is something in
here for EACH of us to learn from:
Defensive Driving: 70 Rules to Live By