ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Dear Thelma: My 15-year-old son is learning to drive so I have been spending a lot of time observing him driving and carefully observing others’ behavior on the road. I have to say, people are downright rude in their driving. Aside from the safety problems they create, they are obviously only out for themselves and the rest of us better just get out of their way.
They make left turns after their arrow has turned red just because they know I won’t get up to speed in time to hit them. They roll through four-way stops. And turn signals, what are those?
Please remind drivers that just because there’s not a cop around to catch you breaking driving laws doesn’t mean you should endanger and insult the rest of us.
A: I, too, have faced the rudeness on the road you’re experiencing. It seems that people are in a habit of being in such a hurry that they throw civility and safety out the window more often than not.
Driving etiquette begins with following the law and respecting the safety the law seeks to provide.
Using your turn signal properly, keeping to the speed limit, respecting traffic signals and following other cars at a safe distance are all required by law. But it’s also simply considerate to let the driver behind you know you’re going to turn. You would appreciate such a gesture from the car ahead of you.
It will help if we do our best to lose the 21st-century attitude that says getting there faster is better.
It is inconsiderate to zip around other cars with obvious disdain or speed through neighborhoods and parking lots. It is absolutely rude to tailgate and to rush your left turn through the intersection after the signal arrow has turned red just because you know oncoming traffic will not pick up speed fast enough to hit you. Stop doing these things now.
It’s important to keep the same courtesy you use face-to-face when you’re bumper-to-bumper. Horns are reserved for emergency use only, not to express your frustration. Although you may be willing to risk your life crossing three lanes of oncoming traffic to make your left turn, the driver ahead of you may place more value on the lives of the three children in her car. Honking at her will not change that.
Once you have arrived at your destination, acknowledge that parking lots are designed for slow and cautious driving. Follow the traffic direction markings and be attentive to pedestrians. Never illegally take a handicapped parking space.
To claim a space that someone is backing out of, give the person leaving adequate room and use your turn signal to stake your claim. If you see someone near a space you want who has turned on his signal, consider the space taken. Do not attempt to race him for it. Finally do not have your passenger jump out of your car to stand in the space you want but can’t get to. It’s not safe.
Once you’ve found a space large enough for your vehicle – remember that SUVs are not considered “compact” – park with care and consideration. Center your car between the lines. Be careful with your doors getting in and out of your car, just as you want other drivers to do for you.
Finally, when drivers break these rules, don’t take it personally and don’t allow it to cloud your own judgment in making courteous driving decisions.
Good drivers and good manners never go out of style.
Post your comments or ask a question about etiquette at thelmadomenici.com. Thelma Domenici is CEO of Thelma Domenici & Associates, offering corporate coaching and contemporary social skills development programs to all ages.