As you're driving past the intersection, another driver cuts you off and gives you the finger. Of course, you don't allow it to ruin your day. Their attitude has nothing to do with you. Or maybe today you got some bad news, so this puts a sour taste in your mouth. Is your driving that bad, or have drivers become less friendly over time? As new drivers, when we learn the rules of the road, most do not receive a lesson on driving etiquette. Switching lanes, speed limits, and driving in the rain are aspects of driving you can learn from books. The moment new drivers get on the road, they seem to equate their newfound independence with ego, forgetting to be kind to other drivers. Below are some tips on how to practice polite driving etiquette while on the road.
- Stay alert and pay attention. We may not need additional reminders that distracted driving is dangerous, but it's also not polite. Pay attention to what's happening on the road. For example, try not to be the driver that forgets to go during a green light. However, try not to be the driver who also honks at someone for taking a millisecond too long to go.
- If possible, time your lane merges in advance. Having someone cut into your lane is not only frustrating but can lead to accidents and traffic jams.
- Park inside the lines and leave other cars enough space to pull out or back in. If you can't park in the lines, try going to a public parking lot and practicing a bit.
- Be aware of how loud you're blasting your music. If people outside can feel your base or make out the lyrics to your jams, you may be walking a fine line towards seeming inconsiderate and rude. We share the road, and it's always advised to be considerate of others' feelings.
- Drive the speed of traffic and leave space for other vehicles. Traffic flows best when everyone is going around the same rate. It's okay to enjoy driving fast, just keep in mind the safety of yourself, other drivers, and other passengers. Speeding can result in accidents that change someone's life in the blink of an eye. And going too slow can be just as dangerous. Once you've perfected matching the speed of surrounding vehicles, ensure you're giving vehicles enough space. Stay off of the other driver's bumper, and relax. It doesn't matter whether you get to your destination on time in the grand scheme of things, it matters that you get there safely.
- All vehicles have indicators built into them, signal before changing lanes, or before you pull into driveways so drivers behind you can be alerted.
- Give thanks. That friendly wave makes you human. When other drivers show you consideration by letting you pass busy roads, allowing you to back up, or giving you time to cross - say thanks. You aren't required to, but it's important to remember that cars don't drive themselves. Other human beings are on the road; let them know you appreciate them with a small gesture to say 'Thanks.'
- Check yourself. Be patient with others and yourself. We all have "bad" days. How you feel is for you to manage and for you to manage alone. Flipping off other drivers does nothing but escalate the situation into something hostile. If you're okay with making a trip to the store or commuting from work in a hostile state, you should reconsider driving altogether. If you regularly find yourself in bouts of road rage, it's okay to seek help and guidance.
Incorporating proper etiquette in your driving not only makes the trip safer but more enjoyable. Being polite may not come naturally for some people, and that's okay. Change just needs to start with you.