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Mind Your Manners: The Essential Guide to Driving Etiquette

shutterstock_133993289Driving should be a relaxing experience, but it isn’t always. Rush hour traffic and construction zones, in particular, can be highly stressful exercises in stop-and-go traffic, but if you ever find yourself in such a situation you should always try to be as polite as possible in order to avoid making things worse for yourself and others.

Don’t Honk Your Horn

Venting your frustration on your horn doesn’t make traffic move any faster, and if anything it will make the people around you less likely to do you any favors like let you merge into the next lane. Traffic jams are practically identifiable because of all the honking, but it’s about the most useless thing you can do while you’re in one.

You Have Turn Signals for a Reason

All too often people will use their turn signals too late to really warn anyone or else forget to use them entirely. However, the best time to use your turn signals is before you start braking or changing lanes.

Maintain a Steady Speed

Pick a speed between the maximum and the minimum speed limit and stick with it, and yes, on highways there is a minimum speed limit — typically it’s 20 mph less than the maximum. Of course, even if you do decide to go above the speed limit, you should try your best to at least stay consistent. This makes it easier to pass other cars and to allow other cars to pass you without having anyone match speeds and thus hold up everyone behind you.

Give Merging Traffic a Break

This can mean letting someone escape from a driveway in a residential or commercial area, letting someone merge onto the highway without running into anyone, and letting someone change lanes in bumper-to-bumper traffic so that he or she won’t miss the right turnoff.

The Shoulder Isn’t a Bonus Lane

Although it may seem tempting to climb onto the shoulder of a highway and speed right on past a traffic jam, it’s inadvisable for a number of reasons:

  • Highway shoulders tend to be covered in debris like broken glass and tire treads
  • Others ahead may have made emergency stops on the shoulder, blocking your path forward
  • Construction workers may have blocked off the shoulder ahead for their own use

Don’t Drive Distracted

This one isn’t a rule of etiquette so much as it’s a rule of basic car safety. Overall, you do not want to multitask while you’re driving, because you’ll always be paying the road less attention than it needs no matter how good you think you are at splitting your focus. Even hands-free cell phone calls and simply talking with a friend in the next seat can cause your attention to waver from the road in front of you.

Road rage can be a real concern, both in yourself and in others you encounter while driving. Fortunately, the best way to avoid verbal abuse, visual abuse, or retaliation is simply to be as helpful and as courteous as you possibly can.

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