I get very frustrated lately with the fact that drivers just don't seem to care about any other cars on the road. No one ever seems to be aware of their surroundings, or seem to even worry about what's going on around them. Evidently, most drivers today seem to think that they are the only car on the road -- and it drives me insane.
And not only are people oblivious to the fact that other drivers in other cars exist, but all manners of driving have gone out the window -- and we live in the south, manners are instinct, right?
So I've compiled my own list of courteous driving rules for the local folk here in Columbia to take note of. This list is the top pet peeves of other drivers' behaviors that almost cost me my life on a daily basis -- whether due to a car accident, or the mere fact that I lose my mind to road rage.
Rule #1: Please use your blinkers - always!
This is probably my greatest pet peeve about other drivers. How many times have you been driving behind someone and then all of a sudden, brakes, and they turn? Hey, thanks for the warning. Or how about the time you're coming towards an intersection and you need to turn left, across the intersection. Coming your way, the opposite direction, is another car. You stop (with your left blinker on) waiting to turn... the car coming the opposite direction gets to the intersection and then - surprise - turns to their left. Thanks buddy.. I could have turned about five minutes ago if I had known YOU were turning also. Turning, changing lanes, anything that requires a blinker -- use it! Other drivers cannot read your mind. We don't know what your next move is, and blinkers are meant to signal to other drivers what you are about to do so they can adjust to it. And turning it on a second before or while you are turning doesn't count.
Rule #2: Get off my bumper please.
Nothing makes me more upset then to look in my rear view mirror while I'm on the interstate and see some idiot right up against my bumper. I'm in the left lane, passing slower cars in the right lane. I'm already going 85, way over the speed limit. But evidently this idiot doesn't think that's fast enough. And for some reason this driver whose car is within inches of mine thinks that riding my bumper will get me to move over into the left lane -- even though there's an 18-wheeler (that I'm passing) right next to me. And it gets better... then the car starts to swerve a little...back and forth, because obviously to him this will make me notice he's on my ass.. I'm sorry, bumper. And the best part comes when he flashes his lights at me. This irritates me to no end. If this driver would wait, oh I don't know, three minutes, I'd be safely in the right lane, in front of the 18-wheeler, and out of his way -- so he could go along his 95 mph way. Every time this happens, I always make a small wish that I'll pass this car a few miles down the road -- with him pulled over by a cop, getting a nice expensive speeding ticket, and being delayed a lot longer than if he had just waited those three minutes for me. There's a reason they teach you in Driver's Ed to keep a car's distance from the car in front of you -- riding my bumper will only make me purposely slow down, irritating you more.
Rule #3: Get out of the left lane please if you're going slower than the cars in the right lane.
Ok, so you might be thinking I'm contradicting Rule #2. Not at all. This rule is referring to those 'Sunday drive' drivers who obviously have no where to go, no time table, and are oblivious to the fact that all the cars in the right lane are passing them. It is not ok to drive in the left lane on the interstate going SLOWER than the cars in the right lane. This is especially wrong if you are an 18-wheeler, and even more wrong if you are an 18-wheeler cruising in the left lane with no cars in the right lane (who are you passing??). Be aware of your surroundings. If cars are constantly passing you in the right lane, that's a signal that it's time to get yourself back to the right lane. They don't put up signs that say, "Slower traffic keep right" for nothing people... if you're not going to at least go the speed limit or slightly faster... and if you're not passing cars in the right lane who are slower... then please, please get out of the left lane!!
Rule #4: Stop at a stop sign, and if it's your turn, go!
If you are at an intersection, a four-way stop, it is important of course to come to a complete stop, look both directions, and then make your move across the intersection based on your turn. However, what is up with people who get to the intersection a lot sooner than you, stop at their stop sign, and literally wait until you reach your stop sign -- and then decide to go. For some reason this really bothers me. It causes unnecessary delays at the intersection, as well as unnecessary confusion. Get to the intersection, make your two second stop, and if it's your turn, go... don't wait on me!
Rule #5: Please do not talk on your cell phone if it keeps you from driving.
How many times have you been stuck behind a sloooooow driver, or someone who slowly creeps over into your lane? You cuss and speed up to get the hell away from them -- and as you're driving by you glance over only to see that the idiot is on their cell phone. I'm not going to sit here and say that I don't drive and talk on the cell phone, because I do. The difference is that I can drive and talk on the phone at the same time. But I do it rarely. I actually get distracted from talking more so than from driving..the driving keeps me from talking, so my conversations while I drive are short and to the point. I just have had so many 'near death' experiences on the interstate caused by drivers who have a cell phone stuck to their ear. And just because you bought the wireless bluetooth doesn't mean being 'hands free' will help your driving. Talking on the phone is distracting. Keep your conversations quick and get off the phone so you can focus on the road.
Rule #6: Do not block intersections if traffic is backed up ahead of you.
Ok, this is a very good rule. When I leave work, I go down Sumpter, hit Gervais and take a left. Gervais often gets backed up with everyone leaving downtown trying to get to Assembly or Huger St. Not only is the light incredibly long for Sumpter street to turn onto Gervais, but the traffic gets backed up going down Gervais so that sometimes cars can't go across the intersection even when the light is green. So I'll sit there at my red light on Sumpter, waiting for the light to turn green so I can turn left. Well I'll be damned if the Gervais traffic doesn't back up to the intersection and drivers going down Gervais creep out into the intersection..it's slow at first, and then they speed up thinking that just maybe the back of their car won't be in the intersection. And then there's others who just don't care and pull out into the intersection and sit in the middle. And of course you know what comes next... The light changes. My light is green. But guess what? I can't go anywhere! The intersection is blocked. Once again the signs that our taxes go towards "Do not block intersection" are ignored. So there I am, ready to get home after a long day at work, sitting through cycles of this light because people do not care about other drivers and they block my path. If the light is green, but you have no where to go, be patient and wait at the light until the cars in front of you have moved forward, giving your room to then make it across the intersection. We all want to get home after work.. not just you.
Rule #7: Say thank you and wave.
Like I mentioned before, I think that a lot of people have left their manners at home once they get in the car to drive. Nothing upsets me more than the drivers who take your favors and do not give you the 'thank you wave'. When I politely stop and let a car out into traffic, someone who's been ignored by other drivers, I expect a polite wave as they pull out in front of me. If you've got your blinker on, trying to switch lanes, and car after car will not let you over -- if I slow down and signal for you to get over. Throw me a wave of thanks. That's all I ask. Wave. I get annoyed when I give a friendly favor to another driver and they pull out and you don't get the wave. Say thank you to other drivers...wave! I always wave, and the greater the favor (i.e. two cars stopping in both lanes to let me turn left in front of them onto a side street) the bigger and more vigorous my wave. Is it so much to ask for a polite wave if I do the same for you?
Rule #8: Do not flirt with me or stare at me while we are driving.
This is an important rule because I think too many women have to deal with this when driving. About a month or so ago I was driving down to Charleston. This red sports car was in front of me, going slow -- so I began to pass it on the left. I sped up, passed the car and then moved back into the right lane. Well no sooner had I gotten into the right lane, the red car suddenly moves into the left lane and speeds up until we are going exactly the same speed. I didn't think anything of it at first..thought I was being passed, but after about a mile, I could still sense the red car out of the corner of my eye. "Oh great." Usually in this situation I just stare straight forward and ignore the car. But for some reason this time I wasn't really in the mood for this uncomfortable situation. So I look over at the car. Sure enough this nasty man is driving with one hand, and leaning over towards his passenger seat, smiling and waving at me. So, I took my middle finger and stuck it against the window and mouthed a not so friendly phrase. He made a look like he was shocked and hurt.. um, hello? And then he slowed down and got behind me. A minute later, he's back in the left lane again, same speed as me. I look over. He does this shrug "why are you being mean" gesture, continues to wave at me. I flick him off again, speed up, get in the left lane and eventually lose him. Why do creepy men do this? Do they expect me to wave back and then gesture we should pull over and get to know each other? It's so disgusting and rude, and distracting. And truck drivers, please quit honking at us! It makes me nervous because my first reaction is that something is wrong on the road -- not that you are honking to be an obnoxious, dirty man. So keep your cat calls and dirty old man tricks on the construction sites and keep it off the roads. Women aren't the best of drivers (I'll admit that) and the last thing we need is you messing with us on the roads while we're trying to drive.
Rule #9:Turn your lights on when it's raining, please!
If it is raining outside, turn your headlights on. It doesn't matter if it's daytime or not. If your windshield wipers are on, your lights should be as well. I hate driving in the rain, and one of the reasons why is because a LOT of drivers do not turn on their lights while driving in the rain. On the interstate, water gets kicked up all around the cars, and you sometimes can't see cars around you. If it's raining especially hard, I definitely can't see most cars -- and I have perfect vision! Most people don't realize that turning on your lights in the rain isn't for your benefit, it's for everyone else's benefit. If anything, you should want other drivers to see your car in the rain -- especially the other idiots on the road. I always have my lights on when it rains, I've made it instinct now. And even though I've been made fun of for this, if it's hellacious raining on the interstate and some people are going 70 and some people are going 40, I turn on my hazards. I don't care if you don't think it's raining hard enough, I'd rather you and that up for 24 hours truck driver see my car then to risk being caught by surprise. So do the other cars on the road a favor and make sure you always turn on your lights when it starts to rain.
Rule #10: If you are lost, pull over.
I know a lot of you have experienced this too while on the road. You're trying to get to work and suddenly you get behind this erratic car. They stop, they go, they put on their blinker, they turn off their blinker -- and you realize, hey these people have no idea where they are going. If this is you, the people who are lost, look in your rear view mirror -- are there cars behind you? If yes, pull over briefly and let them pass. Don't subject them to your lack of knowledge as to where you are going. Better yet, pull over at a gas station -- get directions. Ask a neighbor who's outside if you're in a neighborhood. Buy a GPS system for your car. And if not any of these things, just pull over and let us other drivers (who do know the way) pass you.
Rule #11: Do not brake on the interstate if there is no traffic.
I took Driver's Ed in 10th grade when I was 15. I had no idea how to drive, so you can imagine my horror when the instructor put me behind the wheel and instructed me to get on the interstate. I was terrified and continuously hovered and used the brake. My instructor firmly told me, "Never brake on the interstate!" That always stuck with me, and now I know why. I get nervous about a lot of things when driving (I'm sure you've noticed if you've gotten this far through this post), but nothing makes me more jittery on the interstate then when people brake. Now I understand that braking is necessary in stop and go, backed up traffic on the interstate. It's a no brainer that you have to use your brakes if the traffic slows down to 10 mph or is stopped altogether. But there is no reason why anyone should be braking when we are all traveling at speeds of 70 mph with space in between us. If you need to slow down on the interstate, take your foot off the gas and coast a little until your speed decreases. If you're having to use your brake, then you are obviously too close to the car in front of you (see rule #2). Bright red brake lights causes a chain reaction of brake lights, and then everyone is braking for no reason. So keep your distance from other cars, and ease off the gas -- you won't need your brakes on the interstate after all.
And as an aside to this rule (because I don't want to make 13 rules), don't brake and slow down to look at a car accident or even a stalled car on the side of the road. Nothing infuriates me more then to be behind someone who has their neck craned completely sideways with foot on the brake while driving past a car accident. You can never see anything anyways, so keep your eyes straight and your foot on the gas. None of us wants to sit in stop and go traffic for 3o minutes only to discover that the back up was caused simply by a stalled car in the median that everyone just had to get a good gander at.
Rule #12: Proper ways to park and drive in parking lots.
At work I park in a parking garage attached to our building. The spots are pretty tight in the garage, but doable for all size and makes of cars. However, there are those select few (morons) who either don't know how to park or purposely park erroneously. What I'm talking about are those special people that take up two spots. Some of them simply parked crooked to where their back left end is in the spot next to them -- preventing that spot next to them from being used. Others are more blatant and park completely on a center line taking up two entire parking spots. And then there are others who park, probably get out and say, "Oh dear, I'm so close to the line -- but, I'm in a hurry, so I'm sure it's fine." And then of course there's no way you could even get out of your car if you parked next to them. I don't understand what kind of people can do this with a clear conscious. I can't tell you how many times I've gotten out of my car and out of sheer guilt at the way I've parked, gotten back in and tried five more times until I knew I was parked correctly. But seriously.. who are these people who can clearly tell they are parked incorrectly and just walk away form it? "Not my problem." But the real ass holes are the idiots who take up two spots. Look, I wouldn't mind it if you did that on the very top floor where no one parks -- but on the third level in prime real estate parking? I'm sorry you don't want your corvette scratched or dinged, but hey, maybe I don't want my Altima scratched and dinged, but life isn't fair now is it? The worst case I saw was this crappy, POS car on the fourth floor parked blatantly in the center of two spots. I actually noticed it on my way up where I had to park on the sixth floor.. and even though I was already running late for work, I was so infuriated that I took the elevator to the fourth floor (I normally get off on 2 to go to my building) and wrote a note and put it on the car's windshield. It was pretty benign, saying something along the lines of "how rude" and "I hope you get a ticket". I really think that the city should go in our garage one day and ticket all of the people who take up two parking spots.. it's a LOT of people and I think it's selfish and rude. One day I'm going to print out letters and walk around the entire garage and put them on all the windshields of all of the perpetrators -- but the sad thing is, if they didn't care enough to park that way anyways, what's my note going to do?
The second part of this rule is related to driving around in large parking lots. Ok, so I know a lot of people break this rule, and I probably have to in the past, but no longer. I understand that some parking lots are just big, and the thought of going all the way down the lane to go into the next lane is just too much for you. But... it is important that you follow the painted lines (and arrows!!) and drive up and down the lanes correctly. I can't tell you how many times I've almost been t-boned while driving down a parking lot lane, minding my own business, and some idiot comes flying across the parking spots from the next lane. The reason they have lines and arrows in parking lots is because you can't always see cars that are coming and going. You never know when a car might back out of a spot and hit you as you come veering into their blind spot because you just crossed six parking spots to get to the other lane. I actually had some idiot woman steal a parking spot from me the other day by flying across empty parking spots from across the lot. I was patiently waiting for a lady to back out and I was properly in the lane. The lady left the spot and I began my turn into it. Out of no where this huge SUV comes hauling across two lanes, headed towards the spot. Right at the last minute she saw me and slammed on her breaks, barely avoiding a crash. We both sat there staring at each other. She looked at me like "Well?". And in my frustration I did a little peeved, vigorous motion waving her into the spot. She veers into the spot and I move on to the next closest spot. And you know what puts the icing on the cake? I didn't even get the friendly thank you wave (see rule #7)!!!
So, if you live in Columbia, read this list and practice safer, courteous driving. Be more aware of what's going on around you, not just what you are doing -- we're all on these roads together, so do the right thing.