Monday, February 15, 2010

Manners and Etiquette for Driving

These days it would appear as though many have left their driving etiquette at the door of their local DMV upon getting their license. I felt it was time to revist a topic that each one of us are faced with everyday-driving- and how to be more considerate and safe while doing so.

Just last week I was driving to the bank and I watched a woman beside me moving in and out of her lane. I assumed she was probably on her cell phone, however I was wrong. She was actually scratching a lotto ticket on her steering column while driving and smoking a cigarette! It's very clear that a lot of people these days are trying to use up time in their car by completing other tasks such as reading, texting and the list goes on, which brings me to the first tip. Below are 11 important tips to remember to become a better and more respectful driver.

Driving Etiquette Tips

1. Distracted Driving- Cell phones, books, cameras, the list is long when it comes to what people are doing while driving. Driving commands our FULL attention and we can't do it effectively when we're distracted. Make it a point to focus on one task at a time. I bought my husband a GPS a couple of years ago for his birthday and it is so much easier to follow than printing mapquest pages and trying to read them while driving. Vow not to use your cell phone while driving, and it's especially important to avoid texting.

2. Light the Way- Unfortunately, I live in a city filled with people that choose not to use an indicator light. It's very frustrating and was one of the first things I noticed when moving here. It's the only way to let someone know that you are turning or merging and that they should slow down. Driving 60 miles per hour then slamming on your brakes when your turn approaches (causing the person behind you to do the same) is an accident waiting to happen. Indicator lights are there for a reason and are one of the best tools for safe driving. When you use your indicators lights be sure to turn them on several seconds before a lane change or turning onto a steet or corner so that driver's beside and behind you can respond accordingly.

3. Mind your Highbeams- Highbeams are great for night driving or when you're driving down a dark, winding road. They become blinding to others however when oncoming traffic is approaching. The proper thing to do is turn them off temporarily until the oncoming car passes you and then you're free to resume using them again. They're also a great tool to get someone's attention without honking if someone's lights are not on at night, etc. No matter how frustrating a driver in front of you is, it's never okay to leave your highbeams on or flash them on and off to irritate them, that is just immature.

4. You're Cut Off-This is probably one of the most common annoyances and complaints from drivers and it is the most rude too. Again, if rule #1 is implemented, then this is less likely to happen. Give someone adequate time to see that you are moving into their lane or across lanes. Most drivers look in front of them, their side and rearview mirrors but also check on the baby in the backseat, look for their ringing cell phone, etc. It would be easy for someone to crash right into you or cause an accident amongst other drivers because of such behavior. Do unto others what you would want them to do to you.

5. Say Thank You-I grew up in a family of respectful drivers. My parents always thanked others for letting them in. Remember, while it would be rude for someone not to, they don't HAVE to let you in. A quick raise of the hand or even an arm raised out your window will let the other driver know you appreciate their gesture. It just creates a more postive driving experience for everyone all around.

6. Speeding and Dangerous Driving- Coasting through a red light, not properly stopping at a stop sign and weaving through lanes is a sure fire way to harm either yourself or others on the road, yet many do it everyday without a care in the world. Speed limits are set for a reason. It only takes looking away for a split second and next thing you know you've struck a child. It's not worth it. The truth is (I actually shake my head at these people) these type of drivers never really get to their destination any faster. These are the same people you usually wind up catching up with at the next traffic light. Besides, speeding and accelerating quickly actually use up more gas which takes more money from your wallet too!

7. Stealing is Stealing- Whether you are in a hurry, shopping for that perfect last-minute gift or are late for an appointment, it's never okay to steal someone's parking spot. You all know what I'm talking about, because it happens all the time during the Christmas season. I am amazed at what people will do to score a spot at the mall. If the other person was angry enough after you've parked and run into the building, they might even key your car. Be patient and wait just like everyone else. Likewise, handcap spots and expectant mother parking areas are designated as such for a reason. Unless you have a clear pass to use them, steer clear! If you were 8.5 months pregnant or using a walker, you probably woudn't appreciate it. Not having a permit sets you up for a hefty fine too!

8. Don't Be Trashy- Throwing garbage out of your window is not only completely unclassy, and contributes to our growing trash problem, but it's also dangerous! Depending on what is thrown out, a carton of milk could hit the windshield of a car behind you and completely obscure their view causing an accident. Last year my husband was behind a large van, the driver threw a chocolate pudding cup out of his window and it covered his car in sticky, gooey pudding. This happened to him on the way to work and he wasn't able to clean it until after hours. By that time the Florida sun had baked it to the paint and it was nearly impossible to get off. It was just plain rude and completely unnecessary. On that note, HERE are some helpful tips on how to keep a clean car and how to handle the trash inside your car from taking over.

9. Drugged Up and Driving-Using prescription medication is equally as dangerous as taking other forms of recreatoinal drugs and drinking before getting behind the wheel. Combining these two can be lethal! I know of one woman who hit a streetlight in her son's elementary school parking lot! Needless to say, the police were called and it wasn't a pleasant ending for her. Some people even fall asleep behind the wheel which is incredibly dangerous too, it's becoming more common as people try to accomplish more and run on less and less sleep each day.

10. Pollution of All Kinds-Don't you just love pulling up behind someone with their stereo cranked? The bass is thumping in the trunk and the tunes are probably not at all what you'd care to listen to. Noise pollution is just as annoying as those that don't properly care for their cars that emit loads of toxic emmissions in the form of air pollution. Even worse are other drivers who subject you to second hand smoke as you try to enjoy a beautiful day with the windows rolled down and they are too, just with a lit cigarette in hand. I actually encountered ALL three of these things today. I had to laugh knowing this was today's post. The noise pollution however, came from my neighbor across the street who seems to believe that blaring her SUV's radio at the maximum volume is a pre-requisiste for washing her car. Since my hubby and I are both work from home and are writer's, concentration is one of the most important things for us. After about 30 minutes he finally went over and asked if she could turn it out. After all it was 2:30 in the afternoon on a Monday and she was completely oblivious. Parked, or moving, it's best to keep pollution to a minimum if you want to avoid offending anyone.

11. Honk or Knock?- I was going to leave the tips at ten, however this one is so incredibly annoying and common that I had to add it to the list. When you are carpooling or pick up a friend, family member or colleague at their home it is always appropriate to get out of your car and ring their doorbell or knock. Sitting in your car and honking is very rude and I'm amazed at the amount of people that do it. If you carpool with someone everyday and they come to expect you at 7:30am like clockwork, you can just wait in your car for them. If you arrive at a condo or apartment complex, the person you are picking up may not see you and it doesn't make a lot of sense to spend an extra 5 minutes going to their front door (unless you are on a date) so you could simply call them once you are parked and waiting for them.

A couple years ago I sold something on craigslist and the lady purchasing it called me and we discussed a time for pickup. She pulled all the way up my driveway and didn't even have the decency to come and knock on the door. She sat in the driveway and honked loudly three times to let me know she was there. Needless to say, it sparked a whole article on Craigslist etiquette!

Oprah recently dedicated a whole hour to the topic of cell phone use while driving which includes texting. The familes who lost love ones and the footage aired was both sad and frightening. I can't image anyone wanting to talk on their cell phone or text while driving after watching that show. She has started what is known as the  'NO Phone Zone'.

I used to talk on the phone while driving, mainly while sitting in traffic to pass the time. I'll be honest, I did text a few times from a stoplight also. Although the car wasn't moving, it still wasn't allowing me to pay full attention to the cars around me. Now, I never have it on while I'm driving in the car. I always carry it but turn it off and it is in my purse for emergencies only. I had started doing that before adopting my new pay-as-you-go plan but it certainly makes it even easier knowing that I need to use each minute productively. I made the decision because I don't believe that anyone can multi-task, it's wishful thinking, not reality. We can never give our full attention to more than one task, it's half-hearted at best and all we are doing is constantly switching gears (pun intended) which is actually less effective. I would dare to say that about 80% of the phone calls made are mindless chitter chatter and not important or emergencies, just a way to pass the time while shopping in a store, waiting in a line or sitting in traffic.

If you haven't seen that above mentioned Oprah episode, HERE is the link to the video titled: America's Deadly Obession. CLICK to learn about and sign her no phone zone pledge. Almost 125,000 people have already signed the pledge to avoid using their cell phones and texting while driving. I'm so happy she's created this inititative! I just signed her pledge today.

What poor manners and etiquette have you encountered while driving? Have you made your car a no-phone zone?

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