By on April 18, 2013
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Remember the great “Road Rage” epidemic of the late- nineties? Before the media and various bureaucratic institutions jumped on “distracted driving” as the automotive menace du jour that’s going to turn our highways and byways red with blood, there was a brief period of intense focus on road rage.  All of the major news shows, like Dateline and 20/20, had pieces about traffic disputes escalating from displays of a middle finger into multiple homicide by Weedeater or whatever other gardening tool fell quickly to hand.

Certainly such incidents can and do happen, although we don’t seem to hear about them as much as we did a few short years ago. However, the other side of the road rage coin can be just as dangerous. I’m talking about violations of the rules of the road in the misguided attempt to be “nice” to your fellow motorists.

As I write this I realize that there are probably many in the TTAC audience who live in places where even the use of turn signals is considered a sign of weakness and the idea that any of the heathens that they share the roads with on their morning commute would ever create a safety hazard through a well- intentioned, but misguided attempt to cut a fellow driver a break is laughable. There are still a few places left where common courtesy is the norm. The downside is that random acts of kindness that also violate the rules of the road generate any number of potential consequences unforseen by the Good Samaritans among us.

Case in point: Thunderstorms rolled through Central KY early Wednesday morning, knocking out power and generally making the morning rush hour miserable. At one of the intersections on my way to “real” work, the traffic lights had gotten knocked out during the worst of the storm and had automatically reset to flash. The main road through the intersection runs east- west and is a divided four- lane highway with dedicated left and right turn lanes as you approach the intersection. It has a speed limit of 55 mph. The lights governing it were flashing amber.

The cross street is a two lane road with dedicated left- turn lanes running north- south, with the north route leading to the back entrance of an elementary school and a rural country road leading to a residential area to the south. The lights for that road defaulted to flashing red.

Page 13 of the official Kentucky Driver Manual reads:

FLASHING LIGHTS

A flashing yellow light means you must slow down and watch for others. It is found at intersections, construction areas, and on some vehicles, like tow trucks.

A flashing red light means you must come to a full stop and proceed only when the way is clear.

It seems easy enough to understand, especially when written out in English at a fourth grade reading level. If you have a flashing yellow light, proceed through the intersection. Slow down? Yes. Be careful? Of course. Come to a complete stop on a four- lane highway with a speed limit of 55 during rush hour in the rain in order to let cross traffic out in an effort to be “nice?” Absolutely not.

Of course, the latter was what was happening. Rather than following the rules of the road, a rather high percentage of Good Samaritans were coming to complete stops at the intersection. They were then happy to sit there, waving frantically at the first car in line on the cross street to proceed through the intersection.

The problem was that without the light to coordinate all four lanes of traffic stopping at the same time the cross traffic couldn’t safely proceed, especially if they planned to turn left. The driver in the right westbound lane would stop, while the leftlane traffic kept moving as they were supposed to do. If both westbound lanes stopped, the eastbound lanes would still be going.  If all eastbound and westbound traffic somehow magically stopped, then inevitably someone in one of the left turn lanes on the four lane road would attempt to make their turn at the same time that one of the driver’s turning left from the two lane road tried to make their turn.

Meanwhile, traffic on the four lane roadway was still approaching the intersection at 55 (or higher) mph in both directions. In the heavy rain. There weren’t any accidents behind me before I was able to get through, but I did hear a couple of panic stops.  Traffic was snarled in all directions, which is a ridiculous thing to ever see in my quiet suburban community.

If everyone had simply followed the rules of the road, the traffic east and westbound would have kept moving and eventually thinned out enough that the north and southbound traffic could have safely proceeded as well. Yes, they would have had to wait longer than they would have on a day when the traffic light was functioning properly. In the end everything would have been more efficient and ultimately safer for everyone passing through that intersection.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t let a fellow motorist merge or that just because you have the right of way you should be a jerk about asserting it. What I am saying is that more often than not the best way to be “nice” to your fellow motorists is to follow the rules, particularly when an unexpected situation, like a non- functioning traffic light, or inclement weather arises. Trying to give someone a break in violation of the rules of the road  in those situations can create a much greater hazard.

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116 Comments on “Driving Tip of the Day: Quit Being Nice...”


  • avatar
    michal1980

    A hidden benefit of roundabouts? – work even without power.

    • 0 avatar
      tced2

      Or perhaps controllers for traffic lights should be smarter. And know that flashing lights (which might be okay in the middle of the night) would be incorrect operations and reset themselves. Why aren’t ALL traffic signals networked? You know we have this internet thing. Then a “traffic control center” could observe traffic signal malfunctions and fix them (remotely) instead of waiting for hours for a guy in truck to reset the controller.

    • 0 avatar
      Silent Ricochet

      Please God, no. No more roundabouts. They recently just finished a new Roundabout / Traffic circle near my campus (It was even featured on Tosh.0) and it seemed like a good idea at the time, considering the route it was placed on is usually pretty busy. WRONG. It must have slipped the minds of the people that planned the roads that Pennsylvanians absolutely cannot drive. Every time I approach the traffic circle, the exact thing meant to maintain the flow of traffic, people slow down to a crawl and stumble their way through the circle, often missing their exit entirely (there’s only 2 so you have a 50/50 shot of getting it right if you drive through blind folded). Then there’s a mile of people pulled over on the side of the road with their hazards on waiting for a lull in the traffic so they can pull an illegal u-turn.

      I find that most drivers in the Northeast, aside from maybe New Jersey and the 5 Burroughs of New York, are a medley of horrible, hesitant, and incompetent drivers that absolutely refuse to execute a right on red, touch the speed limit or drive defensively. Many times I’ve been stuck in traffic because some freebird in her Prius has come to a complete halt and started delegating the flow of traffic all on her own. Letting miles of traffic pull out onto our road and exacerbating the problem. It’s incredibly frustrating. It’s not Road Rage, per say, it’s more like I don’t enjoy the presence of stupidity or incompetence.

      • 0 avatar
        Mykl

        boooooo

        Roundabouts are awesome. If your locals suck at driving through them perhaps a “how to use roundabouts” education fund can be established and advertisement time can be purchased to show them what you’re supposed to do.

      • 0 avatar
        LALoser

        I’m with Silent R. roundabouts or rotaries are a pain. After living in several countries that have them I learned all drivers are…roundabout…the same. If you are trying to enter one not coming from the same direction as the mass of traffic, you are toast. People will not let you in.

      • 0 avatar
        MBella

        People were like that here in Michigan when they first started popping up. Even the idiot drivers here are getting the hang of it. Give it some time.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        I call them pedestrian death traps. Around here they suposedly found out that if you could see a car coming the other direction you wouldn’t enter the roundabout. So they put walls, sometimes actual concrete block walls, other times a huge mound of dirt, in the middle of the circle. Combined with the small diameter of the circle and you can’t see cars until you are in the middle of the road. It doesn’t help you if you are in a car either.

        Just last week I almost got in an accident at one in my area. Road A is a fairly busy road, with a 40mph limit, one of the few that gets you into the area where stores are located. Road B to one direction is a dead end with 3 houses on it, the other direction is also a dead end but with about a dozen houses. I was traveling along road A, had slowed to enter the roundabout and low and behold there was someone that was actually going to one of those houses and continued around the roundabout. Due to the block wall and mound of dirt I didn’t see him until he was at the point where 99.9% of the traffic would exit the roundabout, but he didn’t. I had to slam on my brakes and almost got rear ended.

        Overall it has slowed the flow of traffic on the main road significantly just so they people that live at those 15 houses don’t have to wait at a stop sign. Of course there are proper traffic lights on road A not to far on either side of the roundabout so gaps in traffic are very common.

    • 0 avatar
      CamryStang

      Roundabouts? Aw hell nah!

      For some drivers, the intersections we’re so used to here in the States are problem enough, how does instituting roundabouts that no one understands (specially since its one of them fancy-schmancy Euro things) make any sense?

  • avatar
    cirats

    2 examples come to mind quickly: First, driving with hazards on just because it’s raining hard or something of the sort. Second, and this one is harder to explain, but SUVs or other large vehicles in the left-hand lane of a 4-lane (2 lanes each way) road in heavy traffic stopping to let oncoming cars turn left in front of them. People in the right-hand lane can’t see past your huge SUV and don’t know that you’re letting someone across, and the person you are trying to let across can’t see past your huge car either and thus don’t know whether it’s safe for them to make the left turn you are trying to help them make. Thanks for trying to be polite, but let a smaller car stop and let me make that left turn.

    • 0 avatar
      cwallace

      The whole driving with the flashers on is infuriating– maybe flashers shouldn’t work when the car is in motion. Making your turn signals inoperable in bad weather does not help the situation.

      • 0 avatar
        rpol35

        Agree, in some states such as Florida, it is illegal but it is never enforced which makes the illegality of it pointless.

      • 0 avatar
        Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

        Bad idea.. It’s good to turn hazard lights on when coming to a dead stop on a highway with backed up traffic, and leaving them on until there’s a buffer of rear-ender previctims behind you.

        In inclement weather people should just pull to the right except when passing. They should do that in good weather too.

      • 0 avatar
        ttacgreg

        I can think of one law that requires flashers in motion. There is one in Utah that requires slow moving trucks to run their flashers on upgrades.

        Personally I see any other driver running with their four-way flashers in adverse conditions, it strikes me as just plain silly.

    • 0 avatar
      patman

      What’s the problem with flashers? I use my flashers in heavy rain on the highway sometimes. When the visibility is so bad that I can barely make out the vehicle ahead of me while following at a distance I’m comfortable with if I have to make a panic stop then I’m hitting the flashers so cars behind me have a better chance of seeing me be aware they’re closing on slower traffic. I’m not pulling off on the shoulder because I don’t want to get creamed by someone who lost track of where the lines on the road are but I am getting off at the next exit or cross street if it’s that bad. Tail lights are really not very bright and are easily lost in blinding rain – the flashers’ extra brightness gives you a little more distance that someone can see you and flashing draws the eye better than a steady light. I appreciate other drivers that do the same in those conditions – we form a wagon train of cars trying to keep enough buffer between us to not cause a huge pile up on the highway.

      • 0 avatar
        Firestorm 500

        Your flashers are going to cause someone coming up behind you to panic stop, thinking your are disabled in the travel lane.

        The people behind THEM are going to rear-end them, not expecting a panic stop.

        Meanwhile, you continue blithely on your way, thinking you’re being Safety Sammy and being oh-so-careful.

        Stay off the flashers.

        • 0 avatar
          rpol35

          +1 Couldn’t have said it better and thus the reason that it is illegal in some states.

          • 0 avatar
            FuzzyPlushroom

            Agreed. If I have to stop for snarled traffic on the highway, I tap my brakes a few times – entirely different lenses, more direct meaning. Flashing lights get attention, but they have to get the right kind of attention.

        • 0 avatar
          chuckrs

          Three of the four cars my family drive have rear fog lamps. Somewhat brighter than taillights. They may use the backup light somehow.
          Dr Noisewater is certainly right on using flashers in sudden stop situations. Just drove 1450 miles over the past 3 days and used them twice – seems about the right frequency.

        • 0 avatar
          patman

          I’ll consider that.

      • 0 avatar
        bk_moto

        How is one supposed to signal turns or lane changes when one’s flashers are on? Your taillights are plenty bright and in heavy rain in traffic I really don’t need the added distraction of lots of flashing lights while attempting to keep the car on the road.

        I can’t speak for others on this point, but if the sky is dark enough (i.e. dawn, dusk, nighttime) the flashers are too bright to be safely used as the brightness reduces the night vision of people behind you. But I’ve noticed that my eyes are perhaps more sensitive to bright light than some others; everyone is different in that regard.

        I love rear fog lights when used properly, but unfortunately in this country they rarely are. Usually you see the jerks in Audis and Benzes who leave the damn things on all the time which is just as bright as riding the brakes.

        • 0 avatar
          corntrollio

          “Usually you see the jerks in Audis and Benzes who leave the damn things on all the time which is just as bright as riding the brakes.”

          I live where there are probably more German cars per capita than most places in the US, and I’ve never seen anyone do this. Is this something that wannabe-unique Nebraskan douchebag German car enthusiasts do or a made-up hypothetical?

          I wonder this about a lot of things people say about drivers of various types of cars, foreign or domestic. Except Priuses — they do block the left lane a lot.

          • 0 avatar
            bk_moto

            I see it a lot here in NYC. Maybe it’s an NYC Audi/Benz jerk thing. :-)

          • 0 avatar
            MBella

            Most Audi assholes do it here. The Benz assholes don’t actually know how to turn their headlight switch, so they don’t accidentally turn them on.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            Definitely an Audi/Merc thing. Land Rovers too. Are there any owners on here? I wonder if it is because they don’t automatically reset to off when the car is turned off?

            I nearly NEVER see Volvo or Saab drivers using them inappropriately, and virtually all Volvos and most modern Saabs have them. And older Volvos have ones that can just stay on all the time.

          • 0 avatar
            WRohrl

            Having had several each of Audi/Merc/Saab/Volvo I seem to recall that the rear fog was usually operated by the main headlight dial on the Audi and Merc but a separate button on the Volvo and Saab. Northern California also has a lot of Audi’s with the rear fog on all the time, Colorado Audi drivers where I am now don’t seem to have this problem…

      • 0 avatar
        BigDuke6

        You get an F.

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        I use mine any time I’m forced to go significantly below the posted speed limit due to traffic conditions.

        Which happens damn near every day, as the purpose of the “acceleration” lane (as in “get up to at least the freeway speed limit by the bottom of the ramp”) has been lost on an entire segment of the driving public! If I’m forced to go *** 45mph in a 65mph, *** and I’m at the back of the line, from a very-near-miss from a semi-driver not paying attention several years ago, I’m going to call as much attention to myself and the fact that the line in front of me is moving at a snail’s pace!

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    The false premise of your article is that every driver knows the rules of road.

    • 0 avatar
      akitadog

      THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • avatar
    OneAlpha

    Oh my God, people in Pittsburgh pull the Lets-Be-Nice shit ALL THE TIME. They must teach it in Driver’s Ed there.

    You’ll be stuck behind one of them at a Stop sign, watching them wave to the one on the other side of the intersection, each insisting that the other go first.

    Then, finally, the synchronized, hesitant lurching forward begins as they each start to move, then stop when they see the other one move. Repeat two or three times. Ultimately, one of them takes the initiative and goes. Slowly. Always slowly.

    All while totally oblivious to the other vehicles just wanting to get on with their trips.

    JUST FUCKING GO, PEOPLE!

    I think I’m gonna go buy one of those Hornblasters kits…

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      Adam Corolla had a great rant about this back when he was doing the car show. He said the trick is to point to the guy who has the right of way is to point to them and then point to where they want to go and they will burn their tires off. It does work too. You just point “you”, “there”.

  • avatar
    jfbramfeld

    How about people who won’t take their turn at a four way stop, but instead yield to someone with a later priority. If you get there at approximately the same time, driver on the right goes first, then take your turn. It’s not hard, and if you dispassionately take your turn you are doing everyone a favor.

    Also, what is this habit of waiting until everyone going cross-wise from you clears the entire intersection before going through yourself. While you are doing that, someone else is wondering if you are one of those wonderful vegetarians who is going to let everyone else go first and then chaos ensues.

    Also, make your right hand turn at the red light and daydream about checking your email later.

    • 0 avatar
      Yoss

      There’s always some oblivious idiot that actually has the right of way but doesn’t know it. So you sit there waiting for him to go, except he doesn’t go, he starts impatiently waiving you through the intersection like you’re the one that doesn’t know what’s going on. Frustrating on many levels.

    • 0 avatar
      bk_moto

      How about the people who haven’t figured out that they can proceed through the 4-way stop at the same time as the person directly across from them? Gets everybody through the intersection in half the time!

    • 0 avatar
      WheelMcCoy

      >> If you get there at approximately the same time, driver on the right goes first, then take your turn.

      What’s the protocol when, at a 4 way stop, all 4 cars arrive approximately at the same time?

      On a related note, who has right of way when it comes down to an ambulance, fire truck, and police car? I was told the ambulance gets right of way.

      • 0 avatar
        corntrollio

        I seem to remember that a mail jeep has priority over all three because it’s a federal vehicle, but that they would routinely yield to one of the others if this actually happened. :)

      • 0 avatar
        David Hester

        I presume you’re talking about a situation where all three are responding to the same emergency with lights and siren. If two or more emergency vehicles arrive at an intersection at the same time, you default back to normal rules of the road, i.e. the vehicle which had the green light would proceed while the vehicle or vehicles with the red light would yield.

        • 0 avatar
          Steve65

          And a school bus with red lights flashing trumps ALL of them (at least in California).

          • 0 avatar
            corntrollio

            Why would a school bus with red flashing lights trump any car at a stop sign or traffic light? That makes no sense.

            School buses with flashing red lights are indicating a stop — that just means you can’t pass them if it’s not a divided highway (including divided by left-turn lane in some cases). The flashing lights don’t say anything about who has the right of way.

      • 0 avatar
        Spike_in_Brisbane

        This is why four way stop signs have been eliminated in Australia. In each case, one road was chosen to have the stop signs replaced with give way signs.

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        If I see another car approaching and think that the driver will stop at the same time as me, I’ll try to keep the car creeping forward just enough (before I get to the stop line) that I’m not actually “stopped.”

        It is * FRUSTRATING * as hell when you start having a “go on ‘war’” with another driver at a 4-way stop! (Especially when they’re to my right, meaning they have the right-of-way!) I’ll remember the “YOU!! ** THERE!! **” gestures mentioned up this thread for future reference!

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      I’m not sure if right-on-red is legal in everywhere. Isn’t a legal right-on-red the exception rather than the rule in NYC?

      Red light cameras will also make people hesitant to take the turn. One morning I saw a red light camera flashing for every car that turned right at the intersection. I’m pretty sure it was legal to do so, and they were all stopping first as well. Get burned by that once and it’s probably the last time you turn right on red unless you are sure there is no camera – not worth the hassle.

      • 0 avatar
        bk_moto

        Right turn on red is illegal within New York city limits (i.e. all five boroughs) unless otherwise specified by a sign at the intersection. I seem to recall that was also the case within Washington, D.C. but it’s been a while…

        • 0 avatar
          cargogh

          Right on red is legal in Kentucky, unless there is a sign saying otherwise. There are a bunch of signs, and I’ve noticed that police would like a complete stop first.
          Which reminds me of so many drivers stopping way over the white line. Why? The corner I’m on doesn’t allow a right turn, but most cars stop a full length over the line as if it speeds up the light. All it really does is put pedestrians out in traffic and any drivers turning in knows what an asshat drives.

      • 0 avatar
        corntrollio

        Just because the camera flashes doesn’t mean you’ll get a ticket. Some of the flashes are test shots, which is why sometimes you’ll see them even when the light is green.

        In addition, some of the cameras are video cameras, not just still ones. If you actually stopped, it’s often on camera that you did.

        According to the AAA guide I looked at many many year ago, right on red, after stopping, was legal everywhere in the US by default except NYC (although the rest of NY State was fine). I believe there may have been a Canadian province where it was not legal by default, but it’s been more than 15 years since I saw this listing.

        • 0 avatar
          JuniperBug

          It used to be illegal in Quebec, but that was changed around 12 years ago to only the island of Montreal. As of now, NYC and Montreal are the only cities in the US and Canada where right on red is illegal.

          • 0 avatar
            corntrollio

            I thought it was Quebec that was the exception in Canada, but wasn’t certain. The chart I looked at would definitely have been more than 12 years ago — thanks for the info.

          • 0 avatar
            WheelMcCoy

            Since we’re discussing Quebec, I find Canadian drivers extremely polite. When a stoplight turned from red to flashing green, I was puzzled (since I am a NY driver). Not one honk. Not one middle finger. Not even a “move it buddy”. Cars behind me waited patiently for me to figure out that I can make a left.

          • 0 avatar
            burgersandbeer

            @ WheelMcCoy – This “politeness” is also annoying. Drives me nuts when some oblivious a-hole is not paying attention and people just sit there and take it, and end up missing their light.

            No need to jump on someone the split second the light turns green, or obnoxiously lean on the horn, but please let them know it is time to move. A quick jab at the horn should do it.

  • avatar
    mechimike

    It’s called the “right of way” for a reason, at a 4 way stop. The driver to the right goes first, if the two cars arrived at the same time. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve pulled up to a 4 way stop and it was an absolute clusterf*ck, cars honking, people gesticulating frantically, two cars going through in one direction at the same time. It was anarchy.

    I agree with the previous callers too about use of 4-way flashers. It’s distracting and infuriating. What? It’s snowing/raining really hard? And you’re going slowly? No way!

    People who let 4 or 5 drivers pull out in front of them from a side road, or don’t follow the “zipper” protocol for merging 2 lanes into 1.

    Being a “nice” driver is just as dangerous as being an agressive driver. The bottom line is, be _predictable_. Ask yourself, is the action I am about to take on the road a normal, accepted practice? If not, or unsure, then DON’T do it!

    Bottom line: Driver’s Education needs an overhaul in this country, and it ought to be mandatory for everyone to re-take it every 4 or 5 years.

    • 0 avatar
      Dave56

      +100 on the drives ed, and make us old folks take it too!

    • 0 avatar
      akitadog

      Driver’s Ed is almost nonexistent in this country anymore, and it blatantly shows. I want to see mandatory participation with a driver’s ed program with some kind of driver’s ed accreditation. I want to see people studying at the library for their comprehensive written exam and being nervous as if it’s the SAT or GRE. I want to see proof of participation and passing grade at a defensive driving/active safety course. Hell, even maybe 100 hours or so with a 10-year licensed driver as a passenger, signed off on and sworn as true by that passenger.

      Think of both how much safer the roads would be, as only those who really need/want to drive would go through the bother, and how many jobs would be created in the Driver’s Ed industry (not to mention tax dollars generated) if that kind of thing were mandated.

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        Amen! See my comment above about the “acceleration lane!” It’s not going to mess your gas mileage up to briskly speed up to freeway speed, instead of becoming a rolling roadblock, and creating the risk of a rear-ender for the scmuck trapped in the line of cars behind you! (Usually me!)

  • avatar
    Dave56

    What drives me nuts is the folks going down the road that stop to let one car in, never thinking about the dozens of cars behind them they made stop. Being nice to one person while being a pain to dozens doesn’t make you a nice person, it makes you an a**hole!.

  • avatar
    @markthebike

    Depends on the rules where you live, for example in British Columbia if a light goes out it is treated as a 4 way stop which would confuse people in the specific situation you described. My personal favourite is people who stop in the left lane to allow an on coming vehicle to turn left. Poor guy in the right lane whose vision is blocked by that car……..

    • 0 avatar
      tar2008heel

      The law is the same here in the states when the lights are completely out, but in this situation they had reverted to their default/fail-safe state of flashing either yellow or red when the power comes back on.

  • avatar
    rpol35

    I am really surprised to see your article here because I carry on about this very topic all of the time and several of my family members think I am possessed. You have validated my position!

    Being nice is great and something people should strive to do but following the basic rules, as in who has the right-of-way for example, is how car crashes (I have a tough time calling them accidents) can be avoided.

    I live in the deep south and see this happen all of the time. I know a lot of it is due to people just trying to be nice but a lot of it is due to incredible stupidity and not knowing the basic, or as you say, written with 4th grade level comprehension in mind, traffic rules.

    Completely agree, stick to the rules (and quit the texting!) without being a dick about it.

    • 0 avatar
      Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

      I don’t engage in aggressive driving, I engage in _assertive_ driving. But more importantly, I actually pay attention to the road and other drivers, a habit which years of motorcycling has reinforced pretty strongly.

      • 0 avatar
        NMGOM

        Dr Ken – - -

        Yup. That’s the key to success here.

        You need to know when to assert your rights for the overall movement of everybody in traffic, and when to honor the rights of others, and even when to relinquish your rights if stupidity reigns.
        Being a nice guy, and to always give way, may actually cause confusion and be dangerous.

        Those judgements are subtle, and only come with good education, much practice, and years of experience. That’s why teenagers will often get into accidents and adults with 30 years driving under their belts in the same situations seem to escape unscathed.

        Even “rules of the road” may need to be set aside for the sake of common sense at times. Once, when driving as a young driver in an icy snowstorm in NY in the 1960′s, I actually got “chewed out” by a NY cop for stopping at stop sign. I was told, just keep moving slowly, and don’t bog down the intersection to get others stuck behind me. Made sense.

        (If you’d ever been given a talking to by a NY cop, who reviewed for you the probable lineage of your parenthood and current mental condition, you’d just wish he gave you a ticket for reckless endangerment instead!)

        ————-

        • 0 avatar
          zenith

          I agree with just driving right through stop signs in bad weather. A co-worker does not. One of the ways I get by with 2WD is I don’t stop if I see that nobody’s coming. My co-worker saw me doing this and chewed me out. I pointed out that I was facing a long hill and when facing a long hill with no other cars coming, the only way to make it up the hill is to “run it”.He’s got 4WD. He can make all the unnecessary stops he wants.

      • 0 avatar
        Mykl

        It’s amazing what spending a few years on a motorcycle will do to your driving habits. You develop a survival sense that keeps you out of trouble because your brain is constantly trying to anticipate a dangerous situation.

  • avatar
    campocaceres

    Hahaha, I think you might be preaching to the choir around here, but I agree wholeheartedly. Driving should be about safety and flow, and generally we can maximize this by following the rules of the road. Any time somebody breaks those rules, whatever their intentions may be, makes it harder for other drivers to predict their actions, and therefore it can negatively affect the flow of traffic.

    Of course, there are plenty who simply don’t know all of the rules, and I think the example you give is likely people who don’t know how to interpret the flashing lights correctly. If you don’t know what you’re supposed to do at an intersection, it would make sense in your head to stop, no matter what the other cars are doing.

    Others have mentioned not taking the right of way at a 4-way stop (it’s honestly RUDE to do this). I also hate it when people don’t follow those rules in a parking lot/garage. I see this all the time at work. Geez people, I know it’s a parking lot and we all work together, but for Christ’s sake, you still stop at a T, and the bigger lanes should get the right of away. It’s not like every corner is a freaking stop sign. Sheesh.

  • avatar
    daiheadjai

    In Toronto, we’ve been warned not to go when these would-be Good Samaritans wave us across, because apparently the latest insurance scam is to wave someone across (say, someone trying to turn left), and then speed up to hit their car as they are crossing the intersection.
    Since the person going straight has the technical “right of way”, they are in an advantageous position to extort money or claim insurance from the hapless victim (add in a couple planted “witnesses” who will testify on the fraudster’s behalf, and the deck is totally stacked against the victim).

  • avatar
    patman

    It’s weird how traffic here is better behaved if the traffic lights simply go out altogether than if they go to flashing yellows & reds. If they are out completely then traffic spontaneously organizes itself and starts behaving as if the lights were still working – a clump of cars will go through and then a clump will stop and let a clump of cross traffic go through. When they go to flashing, no one know what to do and you’re lucky to make it through an intersection alive.

  • avatar
    SaulTigh

    I live in an area where the population has exploded in the last 20 years, from small town and rural to very suburban, and the roads have not kept up. Also, the people that were here before, have not adapted well to the roads that are here. About 15 years ago they finished a 4 lane interstate to bypass the US Highway that was here originally, and I swear nobody knows how to drive on multi lane roads. Nobody yields to oncoming traffic, and apparently everyone’s blinkers broke at the same time, ’cause they don’t use them. I’ve driven in some fairly large cities, and have never had as many butt puckering, defensive driving moments as on the interstate that runs by my house.

    We just passed a sales tax to make that same interstate 6 lanes, and I’m just waiting to see how the yokels heads explode when they have to deal with a “middle lane.”

  • avatar
    walleyeman57

    My wife and I have a continuing disagreement about merging and turn signals. If a person starts to crowd my lane she will offer that this person wants/needs to merge and I should back off.

    I offer that if they need to move into my lane they should signal their intention and normally I am happy to allow said merge. Thus, no turn signal/no merge. When in the city with aggressive mergers, this action really does not apply as once they are 1/2 way there is no stopping them anyway.

    Of course she never uses her signals and I try to use as intended so from her point, I would never let her merge into my lane.

    • 0 avatar
      Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

      If it’s an actual merge situation (2 lanes into 1) I subscribe to the Zipper methodology, which is one vehicle from each of the two lanes alternating.

      Seeing that in Germany was a thing of beauty.

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      I agree with this – if they use their blinker to indicate their intention I let them in. If they don’t then they can stay put and get in line behind me! The real problem is: a) people who forget to turn their blinker OFF, driving for miles like this… and b) people who NEVER used a blinker in their lifetime and just randomly change lanes.

      I generally do the “nice” thing once, mainly as means of self preservation because you never know what the other moron is about to do. However once I’ve determined they don’t understand how the rules of the road work I blow by them as quick as possible.

      I also follow the “heavier vehicle wins” rule. Truckers or people towing should always be given the right of way even if its technically wrong.

    • 0 avatar
      Mykl

      I’m in your camp concerning merging…. unless it’s an obvious zipper situation, then I simply leave enough room between me and the car in front of me for a single car to get in, signal or not.

      If we’re just driving side by side down the highway I’m not making space for someone unless they indicate that they need to be there.

    • 0 avatar
      bk_moto

      Before I moved to NYC I used to follow your method but once I got here I found that if you signal to merge, people will actually make an effort to block you from coming over! The only defense is to pretend like you just want to continue along in your lane and then when a gap opens up, swing over real quick before anybody has any time to do anything about it. Whenever I travel somewhere else I have to de-activate my NYC driving mode. :-)

    • 0 avatar
      Reino

      It amazes me that many people can’t look at the simple merging sign and figure out which lane is continuing and and which lane is the ending. It is simple: if the left line is ‘bent’ then the left land must yield to the right lane. Opposite if the right line is ‘bent’. I can’t count how many times I’m driving at the same speed as the person next to me, passing the sign that clearly shows his lane is about to end, yet he just keeps on driving and is suddenly driving on the shoulder because he didn’t merge in behind me. Then he slams on his brakes and swings in behind me just before riding off the edge of the road or into the guardrail.

  • avatar
    7402

    The best way to be a nice driver is to be a predictable driver. Follow the rules of the road.

    Way too many drivers do the traffic equivalent of stopping at the top of an escalator, not realizing that the “courtesy” they offer to others who can see their cheerful smiling face is creating a dangerous situation for the motorists behind them.

    • 0 avatar
      Mykl

      This makes me think of people who either refuse to use their cruise control on the highway or don’t have cruise control and are too inconsiderate to put themselves behind somebody who’s driving at a steady speed.

      There’s nothing more annoying than being on the interstate next to someone who insists upon doing the yo-yo thing.

  • avatar
    Jellodyne

    You misspelled “Don’t be stupid”

  • avatar
    Firestorm 500

    I drive with my hand or finger on the horn button/pad all the time in the city.

    I relax just a little on the freeway with no one around me, but remain ever vigilant.

  • avatar
    CelticPete

    This is just a lack of familiarity with the rules of the road. Its not any epidemic of ‘kindness.’ It’s the same with yield signs (some people stop when they clearly don’t have too). Or 4 way stops.. Yes yield to the driver on the right. But how often do several cars arrive at the same time on a 4 way stop? Most places have traffic lights if that happens frequently..

    And its hardly a huge problem on the roads. More significant problems are frequent tailgaters and people who run blast through yellow lights. This habits lead to accidents especially if say the guy running the red meets up with a guy who is timing the green..

    • 0 avatar
      jfbramfeld

      I think you had better reconsider your priorities. You appear to resent people who “blast” through yellow lights, on the theory that someone going through a red light might hit them, or vice versa. Two things: going through a yellow light is not illegal; going through a red light is. Second; someone going through a red light will hit anyone in the intersection at the time, whether they blasted through a yellow light or sauntered in on green.

      • 0 avatar
        burgersandbeer

        I read the post differently. I think CelticPete means people who always floor it at yellow lights are a menace if they don’t make it through before the red and the cross traffic is timing their light so they are moving the second it turns green.

        Why don’t all intersections have a delayed green? Seems this would reduce the odds of this happening. Delayed green was everywhere in MA, but I hardly ever see it in CA.

  • avatar
    Yoss

    My pet peeve is people that needlessly complicate a merge onto the freeway. You adjust your speed to merge seamlessly into the flow, only to find that the car you intended to get behind has slowed waaaaaaay down. Then you’ve got to decide whether to take the initiative and punch the gas to get ahead of him or try to slow down even more. Of course slowing down even more is usually destined to fail, because your buddy on the freeway will be doing his best to slow down right alongside of you. Either way, he’s probably thinking “that jerk doesn’t know how to merge/yield.”

    If traffic is packed super tight, sure we have to cautiously make allowances for each other. When there’s room to maneuver, just go predictably with the flow of traffic and it works out better for all involved.

  • avatar
    cargogh

    I was thinking that yesterday was a very good driver’s day in Louisville. That was based on a 650i using the signals 3X, then blasting off down 65N. Such a rare and rewarding sight.

    I come to a couple of 4-way stops regularly that have several cars meeting. I try to count and go my turn. Window tint often makes seeing the driver impossible, so it must be based on vehicle position.

    When it is clear behind me, it is not that much trouble to move over a lane in anticipation of someone entering from a hidden ramp, even If I’m passing ahead of their entrance. I figure my signal and movement could be a thumbs up for cars behind to notice.

    I use my flashers, briefly, often to indicate water over the road, a work crew, debris, deer, etc. I appreciated the warning from others and can not imagine slamming on my brakes hard enough to cause a pileup because I saw flashing lights in front of me. That is as stupid as entering an interstate at 30 mph when the traffic is clear.

  • avatar
    vvk

    Completely agree. Everyone should just follow the law. I truly believe that “nice” drivers are very dangerous.

    There are also people who just DON’T KNOW the rules. A lot of them.

    For example, many people don’t know you have to treat a dead traffic light as a stop sign. I don’t mean flashing, I mean completely off.

    Many people don’t know you can pass a car turning left on the right shoulder if there is only one lane. They stop and start inching their way around on the right gingerly like they are breaking the law.

  • avatar
    Russycle

    As a bike commuter, what gets me is people who will stop their car when I’m waiting to cross a busy street. Since traffic coming from the other direction is under no obligation to stop, we both end up sitting there for a while. Or they’ll stop when there’s no other cars around, if they just kept going I’d get across faster than waiting for them to come to a full stop, wave me across, etc.

    I give them credit for trying to be helpful, but honestly, just follow the rules of the road and we’ll all be fine.

  • avatar
    SkidRo

    I am a newbie to posting as I usually enjoy reading the articles and comments. But this post hits home on so many points. I live in MD just outside of DC. Most drivers here have no clue what an all lights out mean. Nor do they understand that a flashing red means stop and that a flashing yellow means proceed with caution – like watching out for the cars running the flashing red. They believe that flashing yellow means green and they barrel through intersections with reckless abandon. Zippering is non-existent. Indicators appear to be broken on all the vehicles. I only wish they use their indicator so I know what boneheaded move they are attempting next so I can take the appropriate counter action. Perhaps the biggest annoyance to me is when merging from one road onto another at an intersection whereas the right hand lane of the “new” road is dedicated to the vehicles merging from the cross road. There is no yield or stop sign. It’s our lane. Yet nearly every driver decides they are going to stop as if they have to merge into traffic. Since this is a dedicated lane cars in the other through lanes cannot move into it until well up the the road. This stupidity causes several things to happen – the traffic backs up on the cross road way down the de-acceleration lane, and…. a LOT of rear end accidents. I know. I have seen many and have been in one myself. The nice person (I will leave gender out of this as it doesn’t matter – everyone does it) in the mini van decided to stop dead. I proceeded to ABS mine but it was raining and my beloved 96 M3 took a nose dive under the mini van causing over $7K in damage to my car before they stopped counting. It was totaled. Nothing happened to the mini van. How fast was I going you may ask? Maybe 20 mph – it was raining and rush hour and around a corner. When I asked the driver why they stopped the driver said they THOUGHT a car might move into the lane (again, they can’t at that point) so they slammed on the brakes to avoid an accident. I asked the driver if causing one was okay. Despite the bone headed move on their part I was at fault. MD law basically states that even if the driver in front actually causes the accident the driver who rear ended them is at fault. Am I the worlds best driver? Hardly, but I do know how to drive and what the rules of the road are. That was my only accident in my adult life having been driving nearly four decades now.

  • avatar
    reclusive_in_nature

    Impatience probably accounts for over half of highway congestion, accidents, and road rage. Unfortunately, no amount of drivers ed can teach douchebags that their time ISN’T more important than everyone else’s.

    • 0 avatar
      Firestorm 500

      You have it opposite. It’s the douchebags that pull unpredictable hairbrained stunts that makes us rage at the injustice of it all.

      Lead, follow, or stay at home.

      • 0 avatar
        reclusive_in_nature

        Most of those unpredictable hairbrained stunts are fueled by impatience.

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        I agree with this!! When you’re playing police, judge and jury by setting your cruise to the speed limit in the far left lane of the freeway, you don’t know if the person flashing their lights and honking the horn is just being a d-bag–THEY MAY HAVE A LEGITIMATE REASON FOR HAVING TO FLY A BIT–sick relative, or something like that! Besides, it’s their ticket, not yours! (True story–pastor at my church re-thought the “breaking-speed-limit-is-the-same-as-murder, sin-wise” thing after someone passed her in a 35mph zone, horn and middle-digits visible–then turned into the Hospice a mile up the road!)

        It is an injustice thing! If you’re not wearing and a gun and badge, you have no right to take the role and apply it to others!

        As to “lead, follow..,” that applies to inclement weather! I once followed a Kia 4×4 around a cloverleaf in a moderate snow..at ** 5mph!!! ** If you’re too scared to drive in the crap, stay the hell home, as your uncertainty will only add to the already hazardous conditions!

        At least my new car, a 2013 Accord Touring Sedan, has Adaptive Cruise Control, so I’ve become accustomed to just “going with the flow” when necessary, and letting the CAR handle the fluctuations in speed more efficiently than I could!

        • 0 avatar
          WheelMcCoy

          >> I once followed a Kia 4×4 around a cloverleaf in a moderate snow..at ** 5mph!!! ** If you’re too scared to drive in the crap, stay the hell home

          You might want to revisit your pastor story. The Kia driver may not belong on the road in moderate snow, but he or she may have had a very good reason to brave the weather. A visit to the hospice perhaps?

  • avatar
    corntrollio

    I find that most of the state of California needs to be peppered with “Keep right except to pass” signs. California Vehicle Code 21654 requires you to do so. Get the hell out of my way.

    • 0 avatar
      Firestorm 500

      Hell they won’t notice them. They’re too busy keeping their head down over their phones and pads.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      First they need to get rid of the 55MPH truck speed limit so you can actually keep right on the sections of freeway that have only 2 lanes in each direction. I recently took a trip to CA via I-5 and it was a nightmare. You just had to stay in the left lane doing about 75 MPH because if you did pull to the right when you passed a truck it could be hours before you could pull back into the left lane and pass the next truck that is just far enough ahead that you should get in the right lane.

  • avatar
    bk_moto

    I totally agree with the spirit of this article. If you have the right of way, take it. End of story. Whether it’s “nice” or not, everything works more smoothly when everyone is playing by the same set of rules whereas one well-intentioned “nice” person screws everything up for everybody.

  • avatar
    mktimes5

    This is an epidemic in pdx.
    A simple highway merge causes massive stop and go traffic on highways.

    You can literally give someone 2 car lengths to merge in and they will take 3 minutes to realize they have a spot, slam on the breaks and then turn into the lane.

    People also like to do .01 mph over the speed limit in the passing lane with someone right beside them doing .01 under the speed limit in the right line.

    Everyone in every lane of the highway decides to go a good 10mph + under the speed limit.

    Accelerating from a stop slower that a casual pedestrian walks.

    • 0 avatar
      Aqua225

      “People also like to do .01 mph over the speed limit in the passing lane with someone right beside them doing .01 under the speed limit in the right line.”

      This happens often to me, but not my fault. Usually, I am the faster car on the interstate on the way to work. I pull out, with at least 3+ mph head of steam on the other guy. But you get beside them, and they suddenly decide they must be running too slow, and accelerate right to your own speed, or even faster.

      If a person does this to me more than twice, i-vtec comes online, and I go around authoritatively. It’s just going to get me a ticket some day, I am sure…

      • 0 avatar
        Steve65

        It’s amazing what cruise control and observational ability will show you about other drivers. Where I’m at, it shows me that many of them are paying no attention whatsoever to what they’re doing. It’s simply not possible to count the number of times other drivers adjust their speed to match mine when we get close together.

        My especial favorites are the ones who speed away when I move left to pass, and then slow back down to below my (constant, set by cc) speed when I pull back behind them. At least once per day I have to supress the urge to just let the cc carry me into them.

        • 0 avatar
          corntrollio

          There are a ton of people who have zero ability to maintain anything approximating a constant speed. I don’t quite get it. Sometimes it’s because they’re on the phone or texting, but even before that became more common on the road, it was still the case — as far as I can tell, it’s just incompetence.

  • avatar
    cargogh

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NBvysuewIOs
    Malcom’s mom. Parking lot duel.

  • avatar
    Joss

    Driving Tip of the Day: Quit Being Nice..

    Just leave them – let them keep driving the way they do. The people you see taking chances getting it wrong – they’re the accidents future, past & present. Let them keep driving the way they do. It’ll catch them eventually… Don’t try to help or inform or educate, leave it to Darwinism.


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