As drivers, we all need to follow basic etiquette when we’re on the road. Whether you’re commuting to work, running errands or getting the kids to practice, it’s important to be courteous and mindful of other drivers.
Even the most careful driver can fall prey to bad driving manners. These habits can be dangerous, frustrating or a total pet peeve.
1. Be courteous
When you are driving, it is important that you remain courteous to others on the road. This can help reduce the risk of accidents and make your experience easier on everyone involved.
The National Motorists Association believes that being courteous to other drivers is an essential element of safe driving. This is why they have created National Driver Etiquette Month in September to help promote proper driving behavior.
This includes following traffic rules, maintaining adequate safety buffers between your vehicle and other vehicles on the road, maintaining proper road position (maintaining your own visibility and ensuring that other drivers can see you), and signalling clearly what you are doing and where you use your indicators and lights.
One of the most common mistakes amongst drivers is not using their indicator lights when turning, pulling out or changing lanes. This is not only dangerous, but it also annoys other drivers.
2. Keep your hands on the wheel
The way you hold your hands on the steering wheel is a key factor in your safety and that of other drivers. It’s something that a lot of people don’t think about, but it can have serious consequences in the event of an accident.
For decades, drivers have been taught to place their hands on the wheel in what’s known as the “10 and 2” position. This has been replaced by the “9 and 3” position, which is recommended by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
While this may seem like a simple thing, it can actually be difficult to get right. It’s a good idea to practice the correct positioning of your hands before you drive, and it’ll become second nature.
In addition to reducing the risk of accidents, keeping your hands on the wheel will also ensure that you can quickly access all of your car’s controls, such as the horn button, in dense traffic. You can also use your hands to push and pull the wheel, allowing you to steer with greater control than if you were using one hand alone.
3. Don’t honk your horn
In general, you should only honk your horn when it’s necessary to alert others of your presence. This includes situations such as a car coming up to a blind bend on a one-way road, a pedestrian crossing in front of you without signaling, or another driver reversing into your lane.
Honking out of frustration is also not a good idea, as it could start a road rage situation. This can lead to a lot of unsafe and aggressive driving, which is dangerous for everyone involved.
Rule 112 of the Highway Code states that a vehicle’s horn should be used only to warn other drivers of danger. This means that if you’re driving at night and notice that there are hazards ahead, it’s acceptable to honk your horn to warn others of the hazard.
Similarly, it’s also acceptable to honk your horn when you notice another driver has cut you off or pulled out in front of you in traffic. This is a common mistake that many drivers make, so don’t take it personally.
4. Don’t hog the parking spot
There is no denying that parking is tough in busy cities. That’s why it’s important to be courteous and respectful when on the road.
One of the most common driving etiquette faux pas is to hog the parking spot. This is not only frustrating for the driver that is in need of a space, but it can also cause traffic problems.
The best way to avoid a collision is to ensure that you are parked correctly in your chosen spot. Start by finding a suitable parking space, and then park in it with your rear bumper about 8 feet away from the other cars or empty parking spaces near you.
You can also signal your intentions with a small light or flag to let other drivers know that you are going to use this space. You should also be aware of pedestrians, cars, and other obstacles that can get in your way as you park. The most important rule of thumb is to keep your eyes on the road at all times.
5. Give way to emergency vehicles
Emergency vehicles such as police cars, ambulances and fire trucks often have their sirens on to alert drivers of an accident or other emergency. These are people on their way to help others and they should always be given the right of way.
When an emergency vehicle has its siren on, all traffic must stop and give way to it unless there is some sort of physical barrier dividing the road. This means you should pull over as close as possible to the curb or the edge of the roadway and stop until it passes safely.
Alternatively, some states require you to merge into a lane not adjacent to the emergency vehicle as soon as possible. This can be helpful when there’s heavy traffic or an accident that causes the emergency vehicles to move across the lanes.
You should also be aware that some emergency vehicles, such as fire trucks, travel in groups and if one comes out first you can see other ones behind them as well. This can cause confusion for drivers who haven’t seen a certain emergency vehicle before and may panic if they don’t know which is the first to come out.
6. Keep your eyes on the road
Driving is a dangerous activity, so you need to pay attention to what’s going on around you. Drivers who watch out for others can prevent accidents and save lives.
For example, if you see someone tailgating another vehicle in front of you, you may choose to switch lanes to avoid a collision. But if you’re distracted by something else, such as making a phone call or changing the radio station, that could lead to a crash.
The same goes for a text message, which can take your eyes off the road for just five seconds at 55 mph – that’s equivalent to the length of a football field.
Fortunately, some vehicles have systems that alert you when you’re looking away from the road too long. Subaru’s DriveFocus Distraction Mitigation System for example uses a dashboard camera to monitor your eyes and face, and beeps when you’re distracted.
Taking your eyes off the road for too long is not only dangerous, but it can also lead to serious injuries or even death. Taking your eyes off the road for just three seconds can make the difference between kissing your kid or watching a bird fly by or being killed in a car accident.
7. Be patient
Even though it’s easy to become impatient when driving, being patient and courteous while behind the wheel is one of the best ways to keep yourself safe. Drivers who exhibit patience and courtesy on the road are usually less likely to get into an accident or receive traffic violations.
Keeping yourself calm and relaxed while you drive can also help prevent impatient behavior from developing in the first place. Practice mindfulness techniques to keep your mind focused and clear of any stress, frustration or resentments that could lead to impatient outbursts while you’re on the road.
Another great way to be patient while you’re behind the wheel is to give other drivers the benefit of the doubt. For instance, if someone is tailgating you and doesn’t have their lights on, you can give them the benefit of the doubt and move out of their way.
Acting with kindness, patience and consideration is not only a good practice for you, but it will have a ripple effect on other drivers as well. This is because if you act kindly toward other people, they will unconsciously imitate your behavior.
8. Be safe
Driving is a dangerous endeavor, but you can take steps to make it safer. The most important thing is to stay focused on the road and avoid distractions such as eating, drinking, changing radio stations or answering your phone.
It’s also a good idea to check your mirrors often and scan the roads 20 to 30 seconds ahead of you. This will help you notice hazards sooner and react quickly, which can prevent a deadly accident.
Drivers who drive aggressively are a major cause of traffic accidents. They speed, tailgate, swerve, make un-signaled turns, or change lanes too quickly.
Safer drivers pay attention to road and weather conditions, slow down and come to a complete stop at traffic lights and at stop signs. They also don’t text or talk on the phone while driving, which can be dangerous for other motorists.