Being too polite can hold up traffic

I’m fed up with drivers who commit what a friend calls “random acts of safety” on the road.

These are folks who, in eager, earnest efforts to be overly considerate, actually create driving hazards that could kill someone.

Let’s start with Freeway Merging Skills 101.

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If you are the driver getting onto the freeway, you are supposed to be the one to match the speed of the cars already driving there.

You must step on the gas. The long, thin pedal on the right.

You’re supposed to time yourself to safely join the flowing traffic. That usually means you get in behind other freeway traffic.

So why, why, why are drivers already on the freeway so quick to slam on their brakes when they see a merging car, not quite up to speed, which otherwise would merge behind them?

In turn, the driver getting onto the freeway sees a car slowing down in the lane he is trying to get into. So the merger slams his brakes.

Voila, it’s the Marysville Merge.

It’s just another random act of safety, brake lights included.

Then there’s the ever so friendly driver who decides to regulate traffic speeds for the State Patrol.

As soon as someone lets this driver merge onto the freeway (wave thanks!), he lumbers all the way over into the fast lane.

He decides the speed everyone behind him should be driving; it’s always about 59 mph. Then he settles in.

Before he does, he’ll remember to make sure no one can pass. He’ll do this by pacing a car on his right. If he’s lucky, that car is pacing someone on his right, too.

This is called “side-gating.” It’s a made-up word, but I like it.

Should anyone dare to pass, or even try, he’ll remember to give the driver his most passive-aggressive stare.

Yes, tailgating drivers riding your law-abiding bumper are obnoxious, dangerous jerks, every last one of them.

But the best way to handle them is to move to the right – if you’re not side-gating.

The worst random act of safety, however, is the one that causes most freeway slow downs: rubbernecking.

Sure, slow down when there’s an accident that shuts down part of the freeway. But once the emergency is over, and everything has moved to the side of the road, just stop stopping.

Drivers who see you slow down might think there’s a pressing emergency. They slam on their brakes and you know the rest.

Solution? Gently employ Mr. Long Skinny Pedal.

And let’s not forget stop signs.

Be nice. Then be extra nice by driving your vehicle forward when it’s your turn to go. And know when it’s your turn – right is right, after all.

You might think that waving another driver to go ahead is fun, but in truth, no one likes a standoff at a stop sign.

OK, now it’s your turn.



Tell me about your experiences with random acts of safety. We’ll share them here in a couple of weeks.

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