Socially Responsive Driving

You’re a good defensive driver. You follow the rules, mostly, and do your best not to hit things. Time to take it a little further, and think about driving for the greater good. Here are a couple tips to being a nice guy on the road.

Tighten the line when stopped.
Safe following distance does not apply when you are stopped. There are people behind you trying to do things like turn on to a side street, or get into a turn lane. Give them room, and cozy up to that car in front of you. Sadly, it’s not okay to gently push people who leave six car lengths at a stop light. Safety note: no, don’t do this if you’re on a hill and you might get rolled into. Because that would be bad.

Crown up when turning left.
When you stop to turn left, move as close to the center line as you safely can, so cars can get around you on the right. Yes, I realize it may not be entirely legal for cars to pass you on the right, but they’re going to do it anyway–give them room to make it safer.

Get over when turning right.
Keeping bike lanes and such in consideration, get the heck out of the way when you’re turning right, if possible. Keep the road free for everyone else.

Leave merging room.
Take safe following distance a step further, and leave room for a car to merge in front of you when on multi-lane roads (especially freeways). Difficult merges are dangerous and slow everyone down. Make it easy, and help keep the flow of traffic moving.

Finally, on a personal note: when I am behind you in the fast lane, please merge right, as I would like to get past you, but will not intimidate you by tailgating. I drive a blue RAV4. Thanks.

2 Responses to Socially Responsive Driving

  1. J.D. says:

    Hey, Cat. I’ve thought a lot about this post over the past few days. Everything came to a head last night when somebody adhering to one of these “tips” just about took me out (I was on my bike).

    Here’s the thing: Traffic laws exist for a reason. The reason may not always be apparent, and it may not always be convenient, but the laws exist because of some need. I believe that your advice to move to the left or move to the right (depending on your intentions) is bad — and dangerous.

    People expect one lane of traffic to contain one vehicle. Other motorists expect this. Pedestrians expect this. Bicyclists expect this. When you do things that allow a second car to pass on the right (which is especially dangerous) or that let people whip by on the left, you’re changing the rules of the road, and creating risk for everyone.

    Here’s something I saw once: A car was turning right into a parking lot. A car in the parking lot wanted to pull out. Traffic had slowed (and stopped) because of a signal. The car turning right had to wait because something was blocking its path, so it pulled over in its lane to let traffic go around on the left. Which it did. Meanwhile, the car pulling out of the parking lot understandably did not expect additional traffic from that direction and so made its move. BAM! It was t-boned by the first vehicle that came from the left, passing the turning car. I saw this with my own eyes because I was stopped at the light. And this was because somebody was being “polite” and giving room to pass.

    Letting people pass on the right is even more dangerous. People just don’t expect this, and it can cause all sorts of problems, especially with pedestrians and cyclists.

    Basically, I’m a firm believer that violating traffic laws for the sake of impatience and convenience is a Bad Thing. Maybe that’s because I’m an old fuddy-duddy! 🙂

  2. Cat says:

    I didn’t put a lot of caveats in my post, because it presupposes that one is past doing stupid things like pulling out when you can’t see traffic. I can’t picture what you’re describing, but that’s what it sounds like. Or were they just pulling out because they saw movement? That…doesn’t make sense.

    Where I drive, pulling around someone who is turning left is simply the way it is. The roads are wide enough for it, and people *do* expect it. Since we drive in similar areas, it’s interesting that our experiences are so different.

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