When I moved here a few years ago, I had one thought that I just could not shake: “why is it that so few people seem to know how to drive around here?” I can honestly proclaim that things have not improved over the past few years, and actually seem to be getting worse. Therefore, this is my attempt to provide some much-needed instruction on the subject, and it is my hope that everyone spreads this around, takes the time to read and understand all of the information provided, and makes the effort to try to make our commute a little safer, a lot less frustration and anger-inducing, and hopefully a little more fun as a byproduct. This is not meant to be an all-inclusive list, but instead aims to tackle the most glaring issues I have personally witnessed on a regular basis. Let’s get started:
Awareness Is Key, and Must be Practiced
At all times, any driver should be aware of what is going on within line of sight in any direction. See that car coming up quickly behind you in the left lane? Jumping into that lane in front of him/her is not only poor etiquette, but it also increases the risk for causing an accident, backing up traffic depending on your speed in relation, and possibly even unleashing an angry horde of gremlins that might eat your tires. Ok, maybe not the last one, but you get the idea. Jumping into another lane in front of oncoming traffic that is moving faster than you are is a bad idea.
Awareness isn’t just knowing what goes on behind you in other lanes, though. It’s also knowing that the traffic ahead is braking before the vehicle in front of you touches their brakes, or that the traffic light ahead is turning yellow before the car in front of you notices. It’s even being aware of what the vehicles waiting to turn onto the road you are travelling on are doing when you approach, in case one of them isn’t paying attention and decides to pull out into your lane when they shouldn’t. In short, being aware of your surrounding is the first, and most important, rule of the road. It takes practice, and it takes paying attention yourself, but this is an absolute requirement as we get into the next few items.
Proper Merging Requires Proper Application of the Gas Pedal
While this is really most obvious when people are merging onto an interstate, the same root idea applies when merging onto any roadway. The purpose of any on-ramp or merge lane is for incoming traffic to accelerate to match the speed of the traffic on the roadway they are getting on. If you are the one merging onto another road, it is on you to accelerate to match the speed of that traffic and slip into a spot between existing traffic. If you are on the roadway and someone is trying to merge, it is on you to either accelerate and provide an opening behind you, move into the lane to your left and open a spot, or continue going the same speed and leaving a spot open ahead of you. The simple point here is that brakes and stops are not proper merging tools unless a stop sign is present. Ever.
Let’s use an example to illustrate. Going from Highway 280 and getting onto I459, traffic should never be slowing down or stopping on the on-ramp to get onto the interstate (unless, of course, an accident or backlog of traffic that has all lanes blocked is the culprit, let’s learn to develop some common sense while reading these too!). From the time traffic coming from Highway 280 turns onto the on-ramp, it should be constant acceleration with vehicles slipping into open slots between oncoming traffic at or just below the speed limit where the on-ramp ends.
Slower Traffic Should Always Keep Right
This one really burns my hide sometimes. If you are not going the speed limit, regardless of whether you are going faster than some other traffic, you should always be in the far right lane. If you are not going to go the speed limit in the first place, you can go even slower and allow traffic to move without you causing headaches and stay in the right lane. Even if you are going the speed limit, if you are going slower than other traffic you should not be in the left lane. Really, the rule is completely self-explanatory – slower traffic should always be in the right lane.
Slow Traffic Should Avoid The Interstate
While technically legal to drive 45 miles per hour on the interstate, traffic that is not mmoving at a higher rate of speed should avoid causing traffic congestion by using back roads and standard highways. The idea behind the interstate system is to allow large amounts of traffic to move expediently and efficiently from one point to another. This cannot happen when people are driving 45-55 miles per hour in all lanes, and creates a massive amount of traffic congestion. Be courteous to other drivers and avoid the interstate as much as possible if you are not going to travel quickly. Such slow moving traffic should always be in the far right lane if they do have to get on the interstate.
Off-Ramps are Designed for Slowing Down, NOT the Mile Preceding an Exit
Another one of those that a driver has to be aware of what is ahead, such as an accident or traffic being backed up, but a perfect example of this issue can be seen every day with traffic exiting from I459 Southbound onto exit 1. Traffic slows down a mile or more ahead of the exit even when the exit is clear. This is, without a doubt, improper driving.
Large Trucks Should Never Block Faster Traffic
Semis, tractor trailers, big rigs… call them what you like, but these vehicles should never be blocking faster moving traffic by occupying the far left lane and travelling at a rate of speed below the posted speed limit. I realize this one is sometimes difficult to follow, but the congestion and backups such issues cause on two lane stretches of the interstate creates a massive headache for large amounts of drivers daily. Yes, sometimes they have to move over due to merging or exiting traffic, and sometimes they are wanting to go faster than those 45 mile per hour drivers we already talked about, but if the first rules here are observed then a lot of the issues facing large truck drivers and causing this last rule will disappear. In the end, the need to allow the expedient, efficient movement of large numbers of commuters outweighs the inconveniences felt by single drivers stuck in traffic for a few moments longer because they encounter one of the rule-breakers mentioned above. Let’s be considerate and help each other out, instead of driving selfishly.