I've been behind the wheel for 25 years now (for what I figured out to be about 550,000 miles) and I tend to believe I one of the best drivers I have met. If you ask MLW, however, she would say that I drive too fast and aggressively and, I guess, the couple of accidents I have had and several-- okay, more than several-- tickets I have gotten, would go far to back her claim.
I still believe, however, though I may be lacking the patience to score a perfect 100 on my driving test again (written and roadway), my experience and skills are far better than your average individual on the road today. I am not, by any means, trying to instruct anyone how to safely and lawfully operate a motor vehicle, but I will offer up these friendly driving tips that I have picked-up over the years to help you avoid being cursed at by other drivers:
- Wear sunglasses- I don't mean you should need a pair of fancy Blueblockers or anything. We are not, after all, concern about the health and welfare of your eyes, we just want you to stop squinting and traveling along at a snail's pace. You can still get a pair of cheap sunglasses at the Dollar Store-- and yes... they are only a dollar. This will shield your eyes enough to pick up the pace a little bit without worrying too much about rear-ending the moron in front of you without sunglasses. Note: When the traffic guy on the radio says your driving into the Sun, he doesn't mean your going to drive into the Sun!
- Use your visor- Similar to the sunglasses, but you don't even have to go out and buy these separately. Most, if not all, cars made in the world after 1963 are equipped with sun visors in both the driver and passenger positions. Other "useful" accessories including mirrors, lights and pockets to hold various other things that you don't need in a car, are sometimes added-on to the visors, but the primary intent of these devices is to shade your eyes from the Sun so you can use both hands to do more important things while you drive-- like driving.
- Use your blinkers- Does anybody call them directional signals? They're just blinkers, right? Before this invention, sometime before I was born, drivers had to stick their arms out the window and point which way they were going. Pretty silly, huh? Mainly for safety's sake, automakers came up with the bright idea to put a lever on the steering wheel that would flash lights on the car to inform other drivers that you are about to cut them off or "you might want to go around me because I'm trying to make a left onto this busy street and I might be here a while because I can't find a place to squeeze my giant, gas-guzzling minivan in". All it takes is a flick of the pinky but I'm amazed at the number of drivers that are not courteous enough to use the signal.
- Use of Turn Lanes- Best traffic discovery in the last twenty years-- the "odd" turn lane. You know, if you have a four-lane road (two in each direction) they add that fifth, middle lane to allow cars making a left to get out of the main flow of traffic. Whatever engineer first came up with this idea was brilliant! Dull individuals, however, that use the lane to make the left turn onto the road and then sit there until they are able to merge in, spoil the whole concept by blocking the lane and screwing up traffic in both directions.
- Drive in the correct lane- While we are on the subject of lane changes... we were on the subject of lane changes, right? I have to be careful with this one because this is where my natural, male aggression shows it's ugly head. There are so many cars on the road now that it is hard to find a two-laner anywhere. Almost all highways (or bi-ways or freeways or interstates or whatever you call them in your part of the world) have, at least three lanes in each direction. I was taught in tenth-grade DE class that each lane on a multi-lane road, had a specific purpose-- the right lane was for entering and exiting the highway; the left lane was for passing; and the middle lane was for regular through travel. It has been a long time and with budget cuts and liability issues most school districts have eliminated Driver Education programs but, it seems to me, that no one is following these guidelines anymore. It seems simple enough: enter the freeway and move to the middle lane until you come to a car moving slower than you, at which time you move one lane left, pass the car and move back to the middle lane. What is so hard about that? A lot of highways I travel on have four or five lanes in each direction which should make it easier and more uniform but, in reality, it just turns into a free-for-all with the faster drivers weaving in-and-out of the slower ones. Someone is going to get hurt.
- Limit distractions- This is hard and I, sometimes, have trouble with it. Cel phones are a great tool to have but they are one of the biggest causes of traffic problems on the road and studies show that people using them cause more accidents. How many times have you seen a person on their phone distracted enough to have trouble steering or controlling their speed? Believe it or not, if you are trying to talk on the phone and drive at the same time, it is very probable that you are doing the same. Although, cellular phones get most of the press there are many other things that can cause distractions too. Limit eating, shaving, sightseeing, smoking, putting on make-up, doing your hair, scolding the children, changing the radio station, looking for something, talking with passengers or anything else that may distract you from driving and... drive.
- If you can't drive well... don't drive- This may be the most important thing to keep in mind, but is probably the hardest problem to correct. There are many reasons why an individual would not have the ability to drive well. There is so much discussion about the ability of the elderly and young people to drive that many states are considering legislation to restrict, limit or require addition testing for these drivers. In addition to the obvious person under the influence of drugs or alcohol, we must also look at other conditions like being sleepy or displaying road rage that impact a driver's abilities. The condition that is often overlooked that can be a major factor in a person's ability to drive is fear. My niece shouldn't have been driving for the first five years that she had her license. She was afraid to drive because she thought that she wasn't good at it-- she wasn't really that bad, but her fear overcame her and made her a poor driver. I don't know how many times I have seen a driver on one of those long, flyway, overpasses that take you up, over, and around the congestion of two intersecting super-highways, creeping along the wide, walled, reinforced roadway like one wrong move would have them plummeting off the face of the earth. You've got to respect the road but you can't be afraid of it.