Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Art Of The Merge (And Other Simple Courtesies Of The Road)

I’ve always been a pretty good driver, even in the early years. OK, so I might have had a teensy bit of a lead foot when I was in my early twenties, but I was still good. As a truck driver though, my senses are always on high alert and I find myself following every little rule to the letter. I never speed, I obey all signs, and have learned to just shake my head at the nonsense I see on the road - before I blog about it, of course!
(Photo by my best friend, Vicki Unti)
One of my biggest pet peeves while driving is people who don’t know how to merge. When you’re in a truck, traveling at 60 miles an hour, seeing someone approach you on the right side, at a snail’s pace is not just frustrating, it’s a bit unnerving. So as a favor to all the other drivers who share the road with me (big rigs, four wheelers and crazy motorcyclists), I bring you my Ten Tips For Courteous Driving…

1. This Is Not A Juggling Contest
When you’re driving, you should be concentrating on driving. Of course, we all know the dangers of texting and talking on the phone while driving; the former you shouldn’t EVER do, the latter only with a hands-free device. Lighting cigarettes, eating food, disciplining your children, putting on makeup, are other examples of what may take your attention from the task at hand. Which is? That’s right, driving. Very good.

2. It’s Not A Suggestion
The speed limit signs aren’t there to teach you math. They are there for you to obey. And just because it says 75, doesn’t really mean you have to do 75. As a rule, unless posted otherwise, I drive 58-60 mph. In a big rig, there’s really no reason to go any faster. Also, it’s kinda scary, 80,000 pounds whizzing down the highway. So obey the signs, please. It’s smarter. It’s safer. And it’s the law.

3. I Think The Two Second Rule Only Applies To Dropped Food
If you drop a tasty morsel on the floor, most people will feel comfortable eating it if it was only MIA for two seconds. But when driving a commercial motor vehicle the rule is, “When driving below 40 mph, you should leave at least one second for every 10 feet of vehicle length.” For me, at 75 feet long, that means at least 8 seconds between my rig and the car in front of me. If I’m doing over 40 mph, I add another second. In adverse weather conditions, I double that following distance. All drivers should take this into consideration. I regularly see cars tailgating, and I regularly see cars rear-end other cars. As for my vehicle, if I can’t see you in my mirrors, or you can't see me in my mirrors, you’re too close to the rear end of my trailer. As Yosemite Sam says, "Back Off!".

4. Learn To Move Like A Ballerina
Ballerinas are not only known for their pointe shoes, but also for their grace. It would be nice if drivers on our highways and byways would work a little of this grace into their driving. For instance…when entering the highway, otherwise known as “the merge”, please try to do it without hindering the speed of others. YOU are entering OUR turf, if you will; those of us already on the highway. We were there first, you’re the newcomer. So when you’re merging, decide before you meander down the often too short on-ramp, what your plan of action is going to be. Then proceed quickly. And like a ballerina – do it with grace.

5. You May Only Pass Go And Collect $200 If You Do It On The Left
The left lane is for passing. The middle and right lane are for driving. If you’re in the middle or right lane, it’s likely that you’re driving. If you’re in the left lane, you’re probably passing. When on a highway, the left lane is used for passing. In hallways, grocery stores and sidewalks, the right side is for general travel, the left lane is for passing. Oh, by the way…have I mentioned that the LEFT LANE IS FOR PASSING? Uh, yeah.

6. Make Your Intentions Known
I’m not a mind reader. I don’t have a crystal ball. And I can’t contact spirits from beyond. It’s also pretty safe to say that I’m not going to be able to guess which way you’re headed unless you give me some sort of signal. Blinkers, hand signals, turn indicators…those will all work. When you’re changing lanes, getting off an exit, or making a turn into the In-N-Out Burger parking lot, please signal. And if you don’t mind, can you please do it several hundred feet in advance?

7. Its Meaning Transcends Continents
Red means stop. In Kansas, Canada and Casablanca. The whole silly little “Red Means Stop” thing is pretty universal. Pay attention to four-way stops, blinking lights and the taillights of other vehicles. And remember, a “California Roll” is sushi.

8. They’re People, People!
When you see a real, live PERSON standing at a crosswalk, they have the right-of-way. If they even look like they’re getting ready to step into traffic, you MUST stop. Please pay attention and approach crosswalks and intersections, especially in cities and residential areas, with the utmost caution. Children often dart out, the elderly don’t always hear very well and teenagers…well, they’re teenagers – it’s likely they don’t even know you exist. Give ‘em all the right-of-way.

9. Don’t Block The Box
Speaking of intersections, it brings to mind a sign you’ll see all over New York City – Don’t Block The Box. Meaning, do not block the intersections. If you’re in a big truck, make sure you can get all the way through the intersection before stopping. And if you’re in a car, make sure you stay behind the white line painted in front of you at many intersections - it's there for a reason. Have you ever had a truck trying to make a turn come really close to the hood of your car? Well, if you were behind the white line, you wouldn't have been in our way and we wouldn't have to maneuver around you, or worse (for you), make you back up. In addition, don’t keep creeping forward, only to wind up getting stuck in the middle of the intersection. Blocking an intersection is dangerous, often illegal, and always impedes the flow of traffic.

10. Toodle-on’t
When you have the urge to send someone a little “toodle-oo” with your horn, you should consider to toodle-on’t instead. A quick honk of the horn to alert someone who may have drifted into your lane is acceptable, but leaning on the horn is not. Your horn also shouldn’t be used to express your frustration; too many incidents of road rage have escalated from a mere horn honk. Honking may startle new or elderly drivers, it may distract someone’s attention and create a dangerous situation, and regardless of what you think, horn honking has NEVER cleared a traffic jam.

So next time you’re out and about, extend a few simple courtesies while on the road. You might even want to throw in a smile and a little wave. You’ll be surprised at how far it’ll get you!

Live Adventurously and stay safe!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
2011: Montana Fluff
2010: Stop The Presses!
2009: Fiesta Ed Friday
2008: Crotchety Old Woman
2007: One Side Of A Coin
2006: Why Oh Why
2005: Sign Of The Times


june in florida said...

Great advise,and if an animal runs across the road try to give it a chance without slamming on your breaks, there's usually another critter coming right behind the first.Slamming on your breaks is something you shouldn't need to do if you were driving sensibly and following Salena's tips.

ELH said...

Well said Salena..if everyone practiced just a little common respect to others, this world would flow a lot smoother...

Scott said...

number 11......If I'm trying to pass you and using cruise control, please do not speed up and match my speed so I can't get around and we drive side by side for miles.