For about three months, I have been driving solo from home to campus and back. (I also stop at Chick-fil-a from time to time, but that’s beside the point.) Overall, it’s not as horrifying of an experience as I made it out to be during the ~4 years I spent living in fear about it, but really, there are some drivers out there (especially here in Virginia) whom I watch and have to ask, “Why?” Honestly, if I were to give three tips to drivers who need help (or at least act like they do), they would be:
3. Distracted driving is a no-no.
To be honest, in all my weeks of driving, I have never seen a distracted driver with my own two eyes (which is why this is only number 3 on my list), but I imagine that distracted drivers are crazy drivers, although not all reckless driving is linked to distractions; some could be linked to tough situations or just plain foolishness. Don’t get me wrong, though; I’m not saying people should remove all distractions (for instance, having the radio on is fine as long as it doesn’t interfere too much). All I’m saying is: modify your schedule in order to minimize distractions prior to your next drive. I mean, as it is, there’s a lot to consider while driving (plenty of sights and sounds, maybe even smells), and the less you focus on it, the worse it will be. Set an alarm if you have to (even two alarms; that’s what I do). Miss a call if you have to. Texts are not so urgent that you need to pool driving focus into them. If you have food or drink, only consume it while at a stoplight or while sitting through heavy traffic. If something’s really bothering you, be it an urgent call or a text or whatever, find a safe place to pull over before settling it. Distraction leads to a rough experience, for you and for the people around you who have to put up with your manner of driving.
2. If you’re going to take a turning lane, do so immediately.
The longer you delay the action, the more confusing it will be to the person behind you. Just take it immediately; chances are there’s nothing stopping you. I just wanted to make this clear because there are several people who wait until halfway, the last minute, or—on one odd occasion—not at all. (Yeah, just when I thought I’d seen it all, there was once a time when some buffoon turned on a non-turning lane. For the record, it wasn’t a truck.) How else can I put it? It seems so self-explanatory, yet some people just don’t seem to have that algorithm embedded into their minds.
Well, okay, there is one exception: if the lane has enough blockage that you feel you cannot take the lane without being askew, don’t even attempt; it makes for a worse effect if you get rear-ended.
Still, though, it’s not just with turning lanes; people drive indecisively on split lanes as well. Like, the most frequent case is when they keep right until the last second, when they take the left side of the split lane, but I may have seen one or a few with the opposite case. Really. Left or right. Pick one. Use the dashed lines as a reference. It’s not that difficult.
1. Signal (properly) when changing lanes.
That’s it. Plain and simple. Use the signals for what they are for. Too many people I see who change lanes without signaling, to which I internally and sarcastically respond, “Nice signal, buddy.” Honestly, think of it this way: using a signal is like asking permission, be it to get in a lane or to turn. If you ask permission, people will get the message that you intend to change lanes or turn. Possible excuse: “It’s fine if there are no people around.” Okay, if literally not another soul is present to watch your movement, it’s fine, but here’s the problem: you can never guarantee that no one will be watching. Distance is not an excuse; if an eye is on you, it will observe and evaluate you based on your behavior, and not signaling when changing lanes (i.e., not asking permission before acting) is rude. You simply cannot expect another driver to default to permitting your actions if you cannot ask permission, which might even lead to an accident depending on who’s not careful.
Signaling falsely is almost, and I mean almost, equally bad. If you leave your signal light on for too long, it confuses people into thinking you’re going to take another lane when you’re actually not. I’ve witnessed this firsthand when a truck that I was slightly behind and to the left of had its left signal blinking, so I thought it appropriate to keep slow in case the driver wanted to take the lane, but…guess what? He never did. After about 30 seconds, he realized that he forgot to turn his left signal off. It was kind of a bother because I was going slower than usual for basically no reason.
In summary, it’s better to signal than not, but pay attention to your signal so that it’s communicating the way you want it to (i.e., be alert of accidental false signals).
My final point in all of this is: don’t confuse people, especially while driving. Driving can be easy to take for granted if done often enough, but it is still necessary to take factors like these into consideration. The slightest confusion, the slightest distraction, the slightest miscommunication, can lead to quite a lot of chaos. Safe travels!