Rules to Drive By
- Never leave your lane without first signaling. Do not even begin to slow down for a turn without first signaling.
- Never hesitate. If you have the right of way, go. If you have decided itís safe to do something, do it unless some external factor changes significantly. If you arenít sure, get off the road immediately. Hesitation confuses other drivers, creating an unsafe situation. Other drivers will instinctively defer to decisive action, even if it is incorrect.
- Do not slow down or brake unnecessarily. (Except for traffic signals, or signaled maneuvers.) Unnecessary braking is the mark of a bad driver who doesnít know what sheís doing, and who often hits her brakes for every unexpected sight along her route. The only reason to brake is to reduce your speed. And the only reason to reduce your speed is to avoid running into something in your path, or else to give yourself enough reaction time to avoid something that threatens to enter your path. (E.g., if you see children playing in a yard ten feet from your lane, it will take them at least two seconds to enter your lane. Slow down evenly until you are at a speed from which you can execute an emergency stop in two seconds. Continue at that speed. Donít ride your brakes, or stare at the children once you are safely past them.)
- Do not impede the flow of traffic. If there is open road ahead of you, and one or more vehicles close behind with no way around you, speed up as much as possible.
- When possible, do not block an opportunity for somebody to turn right. (It is always easier for somebody to turn right. If you are going straight or left at an intersection, leave the right lane open when possible. If that fails, at least stay as far left and forward as possible so that they can try to sneak by.)
- Avoid driver-induced oscillations. Itís easy in tight traffic, or near hazards, to fall into the habit of jumping back and forth between the accelerator and the brake. This is both inefficient and exhausting. However, if you are paying attention, you will attenuate rather than amplify this oscillatory phenomenon. Remember that you always have the option of covering the brake pedal without pressing it.
Keep your attention focused 5-10 seconds ahead of you. Practically all dangers are ahead of you during normal highway driving. If you are attentive you can permit as few as two seconds between you and the car in front of you. However, you need to attend to traffic further ahead to avoid pile-ups. Stationary obstacles can appear in the middle of the highway, and at highway speeds it can take more than 5 seconds to come to a complete stop. When possible, you want to stop gradually so that the less attentive behind you donít run into you.
Prioritized Highway Rules:
- The distance to the car in front of you should not be greater than the distance to the car behind you.
- If somebody is tailgating and/or flashing you, get out of their way and let them pass. If they donít do so quickly, check your lights and signals.
- Avoid driving directly behind or beside trucks.
- If there is merging traffic, stay out of the merge lane when possible.
Do not lose track of any merging cars ahead of you. Bad drivers may slow or stop if they fail to merge. Perform the following steps in order:
- As you approach the merge, match the speed of the incumbent traffic.
- Look for a slot to enter. Once you have found it, return your attention to the traffic ahead.
- At the last moment glance into your blind spot to make sure your slot is still there.
When changing lanes, you want to vary as few things as possible at a time to avoid disrupting your situational awareness, as well as that of surrounding drivers. At no time during a lane change should you lose awareness of what is happening ahead of you in your own lane!
- Look for a slot in the adjacent lane using your rear-view mirror and side mirrors.
- Once you find a slot, briefly check your blind spot to make sure it is clear.
- Only now may you make any lane-position deviation. Glide slowly and evenly into your new slot.
- If an emergency vehicle with flashing lights is approaching behind you, very slowly move to the right and stop, until it passes. If you are blocking its path, do whatever necessary to give it a clear path around you.
- If a vehicle is approaching you head-on, your primary goal is to get out of its way. Your secondary goal is to reduce your speed as much as safely possible so that if you do end up in a head-on collision it will be less severe.
- If you lose traction with the road, do not make any sudden control corrections. Ease up on whatever pedal you are pressing until you regain traction. If you are in a turn, try to steer as straight a line as possible. (A tighter turn may cause you to fishtail when you regain traction. If you try to correct fishtailing by steering, you will probably lose control and enter a spin. The best thing to do is to just ease up on the accelerator. Without pedal inputs your car will stabilize its path as quickly as possible once it has traction.) If you begin to spin or slide, look in the direction that you want to go. This will naturally cause you to steer in that direction. This is generally the correct reaction.
- If you are stopped by police, be as polite and respectful as you can. There is a fair chance you arenít being stopped for a citation. If you are, I doubt that anybody has ever argued their way out of a ticket except in court. If you committed a violation, the best you can hope for is that the officer will be sufficiently impressed with your character to just issue a warning.
- When coming to a stop behind another vehicle, make sure you leave enough room in front of you to pull out in an emergency. (The best way to assure this is to stop far enough back that you can still see where the tires of the vehicle in front of you touch the road.)
- If you are ever threatened by somebody outside, remember that your car is both a lethal weapon and your best means of evasion. Be prepared to use it in those capacities.
- Beware of insurance fraudsters. You will almost surely be at fault if you rear-end another car, or if you get in an accident where you didnít have the right of way. If somebody signals for you to go ahead when they have the right of way, beware.
- If you want to wave to another driver in gratitude, do not do so until you have completed all maneuvering or while there is any potential for confusing your intentions.
- If you get in an accident, your first priority is to ensure your own safety. Move clear of traffic if possible, and evacuate your vehicle if there is any fire. Also, beware of the other parties in the accident. If you were hit in suspicious circumstances, the offenders may be preparing to rob you once you are stopped and out of your car. Your second priority is to get officials on the scene. Your third priority, if you believe you are not at fault, is to get as much information as possible. Try to stop any potential witnesses. Write down as much information as you can. Get all the information you can from other parties to the accidentónames, vehicles and tags, addresses, phones, insurance companies, etc.