ROADWAY ETIQUETTE IS IMPORTANT EVERY DAY
But especially now that stressed-out pandemic drivers are behind the wheel. Shahe Koulloukian of Mazvo Auto Care Center shares his best practices for being a polite driver.
There is no question that the pandemic has had a dramatic impact on our driving habits, with the number of trips we take and miles we drive along with changes in driving behaviors. Personal mobility is now emotional mobility.
Every day we hear epidemiologists advocating that we practice “social distancing” as way of slowing down the spread of the virus. Social isolation is what driving is all about. You are rolling down the road in an isolation box, essentially removed from the world. One can’t help but enjoy a moment of safe, blissful solitude.
Unfortunately, the pandemic has thrown every aspect of our lives for a loop — and that includes not only our driving habits, but our driving etiquette too. Under normal conditions we know how to focus on road rules and engage sensibly (most of the time). Now, behaviors of aggressive speeding and braking are normal, along with higher speed car crashes.
Let’s start to recognize, and understand, the subtle art of controlling our emotional driving habits. Will it be easy? Maybe not so much. But being a good driver isn’t just a matter of following the rules of the road; it’s being polite as well. Here are a few steps to improve your etiquette on the road.
CONTROL YOUR TEMPER
Sure, it’s easier said than done — but aggressive, angry driving is a leading cause of car crashes. If you flip out, pull over, take some deep breaths, put some chill music, and ask yourself if your reaction is worth it. Try and remember to be empathetic and reflect on why the other person may be angry. Avoid road rage at all costs, and practice patience and compassion.
Expressing gratitude is as important on the road as it is elsewhere. If you’re granted a pass to merge, give a hand wave or nod. If they were kind enough to let you go first, then you can be kind enough to convey your thanks with a gesture or smile. These tiny yet impactful moments can completely change someone’s attitude. You never know: your smile or thanks can make someone whose own temper may be simmering feel a little better and be a better driver in turn.
HONK WITH RESPECT
Remember that your horn is a communication tool, not a stick for you to scold someone with. It is crucial to know how to use it properly. It’s so unfortunate that over 48% of the U.S. drivers honk to display being annoyed or angry. Remember to recognize what happened first. Your horn is to be used to alert others of danger or prevent a crash, not because they mouthed vulgarities at you.
In our current pandemic times, we’re growing accustomed to giving other ample personal space when we are on foot. Yet, when we’re in our vehicles, we seem to have a power trip and start tailgating, forcing others to drive uncomfortably. Let’s understand that tailgating is leading cause of rearend crashes. Leave room between you and the other vehicle to give you enough reaction time in case something unexpected happens — especially during fog or inclement weather.
CHANGE LANES PROPERLY
Remember that little flashing thingy called a turn signal? Use it! When on the highway, the left lane should be reserved for passing; once you’ve overtaken the slower vehicle, make sure to move back to the right in heavy traffic. Avoid constant lane changing, which is all an illusion that you will get to your destination faster. You won’t!
LAY OFF THE BRAKES
There is no reason to stop in the roadway unless absolutely needed. Slowing down and rubbernecking to watch a crash, or gawk at someone being pulled over, is disrespectful and impolite. (Besides, either scenario could happen to you!) It just creates a huge traffic jam and is bad for your brakes with all the stop and go — you can’t complain about your brakes squeaking if you do this, because that’s exactly what’s going to happen. Our lives may be in a period of upheaval, but if we all do our part to practice good etiquette on the road, maybe a drive could be our way to de-stress rather than having the opposite effect.
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