Rules of the Road: a Refresher Course

I've forgotten almost everything I learned in high school math; it seems like most people have forgotten what they learned in driver's ed.

About ten years ago, my parents made their final pilgrimage to the Jewish Homeland (south Florida) and sold their house in Long Beach, NY. I went up into Yankee territory (actually, it was more Mets territory than Yankees territory, but that’s beside the point) to go through the boxes and boxes of stuff I had stored there. Many of the boxes were filled with old notebooks and the like from high school and college. Just about all of it went in the trash, although I did have fun looking at it before pitching it out. My favorites were the calculus notebooks.  There, in my very own handwriting, were pages and pages of numbers and symbols and Greek letters. It may as well have all been in Greek for all I remembered. At some point earlier in my life I was able to take derivatives of things and find the volume of an infinitely large cone and get a number like two. I don’t even know what those things are any more, much less how to do them. It really brought home how much I have forgotten from my earlier education.

I can only assume that I am not alone in this. Except what we use in our every day lives (or even once a year or so), those of us over thirty have probably forgotten most of what we could answer correctly on a test in high school. This is the only explanation that makes any sense about the fact that, to my personal observation, 98% of all drivers have completely forgotten everything they learned in driver’s ed except for which is the gas and which is the brake. So, as a public service, the following is a quick refresher course in the basic rules and courtesies of driving.

    1. That triangular red sign with the word “Yield” on it means that, if you are      facing it, you must yield. Yield, in layman’s terms, means it ain’t your turn, and you must wait until everyone else is out of the way before you go.

    2. Those white lines in a parking lot indicate the space in which you are supposed to park your car. You are supposed to park BETWEEN the lines, not on top of them, or all scrunched up on one side so that the person who parks next to you has to suck in her stomach, hold her purse and purchases over her head, and stand on tiptoe to get in or out of her car. And yes, there is a special place in hell for people who park across two spots.

    3. Relatedly, spots reserved for “compact cars only” are not appropriate places to park one’s SUV or dually truck.

    4. Signs that indicate the right lane is going to end in 500 yards do not mean “drive really fast 498 yards in the right lane so that you can squeeze in front of the other cars that politely waited their turn and jam up the traffic further.” They mean, “Try to get over as soon as possible.” If you don’t, you are no better than someone who cuts in line at the grocery store.

    5. If you are stopped at a light in the right (or only) lane waiting to go straight, and the lane is wide enough that a car can sneak around you to turn right, you have a very strict moral obligation to stop your car towards the left of your lane and far enough forwards so that people turning right can sneak around you and not have to wait for you.

    6. When driving on a highway, the left lane is for people who are going faster than the people in the right lane. If you find yourself in the left lane, and the same car has been right next to you in the right lane, you have an obligation to either speed up a little and get in front of that car in the right lane, or slow down for a second and get behind that car. There is no place for pace cars on the highway to set the speed for everyone else.

    7. The blinker is specifically designed to let other people know that you are about to turn or change lanes. If you use it, I promise you that your car will continue to operate in the manner to which you have become accustomed.

    8. With the one exception of the situation in which someone is sitting at a red light and looking down when it turns green, never ever in the history of the universe has honking at someone ever made someone think, “Oh my!  I have driven in a way that has offended someone! Perhaps I should re-evaluate my choices and drive differently in the future. Thanks, kind sir, for notifying me in this way!”

    9. If you are going more than ten miles an hour under the speed limit, and it isn’t raining extremely hard or snowing, you might want to consider not driving.  Ever.

    10. If you are coming to a stop at a light and there is a commercial driveway, a street, or a residential driveway with a running car in it (especially ones with hopeful looking people in them trying to get in the flow of traffic somehow, anyhow) along the roadside, do not cluelessly block these streets and driveways.  If you do, the concentrated evil eye given by the person who you blocked in (or the collective evil eye given by the twenty cars that have to stop and wait for the car that is turning left into the CVS that can’t get through because you blocked the driveway) might very well cause your head to explode and, well, that would just mean more traffic for the rest of us.   

These are only the top ten, of course. I hope you found them helpful. If there are any glaring rules that I left out, please feel to describe them in the comment section below.

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Karsten Torch February 19, 2013 at 12:38 AM
Decatur Mom - no. If they hit you with radar, it's instantaneous. No averages. Jamming on the brakes will do nothing more than get you rear ended. Or honked at, at the very least....
Sondra Carlson February 19, 2013 at 12:29 PM
Allison, I do not notice many snowbirds driving at times of school zones, mostly young local looking people, soccer moms and work trucks. These seem to be the biggest offenders
Good Grief Y'all February 19, 2013 at 03:04 PM
Lori, your take on the subject is funny but sadly real. It's too bad common sense isn't more common.
Lori Duff February 19, 2013 at 03:43 PM
This is interesting, because it was actually a rant on Facebook on this very point that inspired me, and then before I posted it another friend ranted about the same thing, I agree with you, that you shouldn't stop at yard 2 and cause a jam -- I'm not saying that at all. Just don't speed up so you can get in front of everyone. Get over when you can means when you can -- stopping at yard 2 to make your way in is not when you can.
Brian Crowe February 20, 2013 at 03:00 PM
The advent of the ubiquitous cellphone has made for much worse driving behavior. Those who claim the bans on texting while driving are unenforceable must never look to their right or left. I could easily write a dozen tickets a day if I had such power.


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