Learning the new rules of the road

June 07, 2004

What's going on with drivers today? I've had three close calls in the past two weeks in the "safe" part of town and I'm beginning to realize that most of us regular Joe drivers are now outnumbered. Leisurely driving is a thing of the past and we have to go on the defensive, driving doubly careful for the other person who almost causes us to wreck.

Not only do you have to watch for people running red lights when going through an intersection, you are expected to run the light as well! The way I've heard it explained, it's three through yellow, then stop.

Translated: When the traffic light turns yellow, three cars are supposed to be able to get through before it turns red. And if you happen to be car No. 2 and decide for safety's sake to stop, be prepared. On a good day you might get honked at, and on a bad day you'd be more likely to experience colorful hand gestures and words that would enlarge any middle-aged person's vocabulary.


When I took my driver's test back in the old days, a double yellow line meant stay on your side of the road. Today it means, "If I get a straight stretch of about 35 feet, I'm going around this grandma." And this holds true even if they are the 15th car behind the driver doing 50 mph.

They will pass just to advance their position to 14th.

Whatever happened to the concept of look both ways before you pull out from your driveway or a side road then proceed if nothing is coming? Oh sure, people still look both ways, but it doesn't matter if there is any oncoming traffic. They whip out and expect to be accommodated. I know of one person whose attitude is, "Oh, they'll see me and slow down." What?

Here's a good one. What about when you're driving on the interstate and see the big orange signs that say "Left Lane Ends 1 Mile?" The old-fashioned, customary thing to do is check in the mirrors, put on the blinker and get over in the right lane. But the new way of thinking is to stay in the left lane until it actually does end and some friendly guy will let you over.

I guess that one works because my husband is usually the guy waving people in while I sit in the passenger's seat squealing, "Don't let him! He had a mile to get over just like we did."

And last but not least, tailgaters. There's a word for you.

Just mention these creatures and regular Joe drivers will ask you to pull up a chair so they can tell you their horror story with a tailgater. The word alone conjures up a picture of an alligator on the bumper, and most good drivers would prefer an alligator back there.

Like everyone else I've complained about these offenders before, but it's different now. The difference is that erratic driving behavior used to be the exception to the rule. Now there are no rules. So I'm proposing a few new ones to help us regular Joes deal with the new breed of driver:

1. Drive 10 miles under the speed limit. This will not only allow people to pass more easily on those double yellow lines, it will give you a chance to wave as they go by.

2. When you are about 100 to 150 feet from a green traffic light, go ahead and slow down and stop lf you think there's even a chance it will turn yellow. That way there won't be a possibility of miscounting the three through yellow thing.

3. When you are the first vehicle behind slow moving machinery on the road, back off about 50 feet and put your flashers on. This will give other drivers the idea that you are escorting the slow mover and they shouldn't pass. This will probably be fun, until someone 14 cars back realizes you're the grandma they passed on the double yellow line yesterday and are in no way connected with the backhoe in front of you.

4. When you've got a tailgater on your bumper, put on your brakes and slow down to 35 mph, then accelerate back to 55 or so. Do this for a couple of miles. Have a poster with the message "HONK IF YOU LOVE TAILGATING" written in huge letters and keep it beside you. Hold it out your window every time you put the brakes on. That way when the gater responds with a honk you can feel good that you are communicating with him.

I hope you find these new rules helpful. Next time we'll talk about living in the "turn signal optional" era and about dealing with drivers that steer with one knee while talking on the phone and eating a Big Mac.

Kathy Johnica lives in Lincoln County.|3/16/04|***

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