Straighten up and drive right

Today let’s talk about how to drive the right way, in other words my way.

What follows are my personal demands for how you must drive. And so, in no particular order, let us begin.

• At the gas station do not, not, not leave your vehicle at the pump and jam things up for everyone outside while you jam things up inside backing up the line at the cash register wasting 10 minutes paying for your fuel and buying six bucks worth of lottery tickets. Somebody is inevitably going to get killed for that.

• Here’s another one. It is no use to answer the lady in the box on the dash as you motor along. Write this down … SHE CAN’T HEAR YOU! (Full disclosure; I’ve violated this one myself.)

• When driving a straight highway there is zero need to make those annoying ‘sawing’ motions of the wheel that make it impossible for your passengers to fully relax their hind parts. Look farther ahead and ‘aim’ your car way up there. There is no benefit in a compulsion to stay precisely the same number of inches from the white line right beside you. Cast your attention farther ahead than that. It’s where danger will come from anyway.

• Tossing litter from your ride is disgraceful and low rent in all instances. Few behaviors scream ‘Look, there’s a dumb, selfish, human scumbag’ more than heaving your garbage out on everybody else’s road. Stop it! Right now!

• Of course you know when you’re going to turn, change lanes, etc. as you move in traffic. So, how about sharing your secret plan with me and the others around you? Turn signals: You got ‘em. Why not use ‘em?

• Cell phone use is profoundly dim-witted when behind the wheel. Can’t count the times I have seen a fellow motorist wander halfway out of their lane in one direction or the other with one of the damnable devices at their ear. I’m perfectly willing to have you maim and kill you and yours, but not me and mine. PUT DOWN THE DAMN PHONE! What’s even more potentially lethal than chatting? Texting. Now your eyes, hands and attention are all occupied elsewhere at once. What more reliable proof of stupidity could there be?

• I am plumb strident when it comes to seat belts. I’m not proud that often I don’t use mine in town, but when traffic volume and speed get serious, I am buckled down. This is one which, after chasing horrific car crashes for 30 years as a newspaper man, is personal. Too often I have stood at a scene where no significant injuries would have occurred with belts. Yet there lies someone under a tarp waiting for the coroner after being thrown out and crushed by a rolling vehicle.

• Turn on your headlights anytime visibility is limited, or I will find you. Any amount of fog or mist or haze or drizzle? Lights on. Dawn and dusk when the sun is low in the sky. Lights on. Here’s a news flash: It is equally important for us to see you as it is for you to see us.

• Big trucks have blind spots into which you can disappear. Run afoul of these dead zones at your peril. Here’s a fact; if you can’t see the truck’s outside mirrors then the driver cannot see you.

• Get out of the dang left lane after passing on divided four-lane highways. It’s called the ‘passing lane’ for a reason. No, you are not a safe driver if you drive mile after mile in the left lane at exactly the speed limit alongside another car doing the same to your right. Move over. You don’t know who behind you has a loved one on their death bed or a kid who’s been hit on a bike back home. This one’s easy; don’t be a jerk.

• Here’s a related annoyance almost no one knows about apparently. Rather than tie up the left lane for miles and miles on cruise to pass someone who is driving 2 miles an hour slower than you, why not goose it, get around and drop back into the driving lane? No need to even tap off the cruise, simply accelerate around, return to the right lane and get off the gas pedal. Like magic your speed will return exactly to where you had it set before. Promise.

• Have you noticed? On and off ramps have these long curving lanes. They are for acceleration or deceleration and are there so you don’t have to slow way down a half-mile before the exit and maybe cause a multi-vehicle, rear-end pileup.
No cruise in the rain. Ever. If you have hydroplaned in these conditions (I have) it’s a helplessness you will not forget.

• We learned to ‘color’ inside the lines as children, but many of us cannot ‘park’ inside the lines as adults (yours truly included). If you promise to do better, I will too.

• And now the biggie. Never drop your guard but rather remain always on the lookout for old poops like me whose licenses should have been confiscated a decade ago, but who honestly believe they have all the answers. Impossible to predict what those knot heads are might do.

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