Much like cell phones, cars are a tool. These tools, however, are not ones to use to the annoyance of those around you. Where cell phones keep you mentally aloof to those who’s space you may be occupying, keeping you from realizing how annoying your conversation is to those around you, our automobiles act as an insulator. They act as a barrier to the outside world. In a car you can do what you need to do however you need to do it without anyone noticing…right??? Wrong!
One obvious item everyone should know is that we are not telepathic. Just like the etiquette world dictates that you actually say, “thank you”, as opposed to just figuring that person knows you are thankful, you need to perform certain acts to make sure the people around you actually know what you are planning to do. Turn signals are just one of those automobile tools which need to be used for obvious etiquette reasons.
Let’s consider the four way stop. If every car at a four way stop is waiting their turn. That’s positive. If one person is in the left turn lane and the people to the right and left do not know that there is a separate lane for making a left turn, are they idiots when they are surprised you turn left? Or are you the jerk who just “assumed” they would know? This is one of the many examples where turn signals are necessary. Changing lanes is another common courtesy when turn signals make everyone else’s drive run smooth.
Acknowledging the existence of pedestrians is another wonderful opportunity to display your driving etiquette (or lack thereof). Crosswalks are put in place so that foot traffic has a place to go. If you are in the driver’s seat and are approaching the crosswalk, your hectic day, you running late and your need for speed play no part in your obligation to stop for the people who want to cross. The same goes for bicycles and the poor moms juggling diaper bags and strollers. You are surrounded by metal, have inertia on your side and if you hit that moving target you will probably win. That does not mean, however, that you have the right to blow past the crosswalk and not stop for any or all of them.
There are quite a few drivers out there who don’t always consider their plan of attack before putting their key in the ignition. If you find that you are driving your car and are unsure of where you are going, your lack of planning is not the problem of the people behind you. If you feel the need to stop and consider your surroundings, please for the sake of those who are tired of watching you hit your brakes and drive slower than a turtle, pull off to the side of the road. And if you find out you are about to miss your turn, again consider those around you. You are not an island unto yourself and you have no right to stop in the middle of your lane so that you can move to the next lane. If you are going to perform an act that is going to make those around you either run into you or annoy, consider them before yourself and overshoot your target, pull into a parking lot and turn around. It’s for the sake of the 10 cars you are going to impact that you – in your one car – need to take the extra time needed to do the right thing rather than risk it all so that you can get in the lane you need to be in.
When driving in the city, think big picture. You are in a car which people will either remember because you have negatively impacted their day or someone they will enjoy sharing the road with. The more negative encounters, the worse we all are when we get behind the wheel of the car. Consider those around you and remember that even in your well insulated car, it’s still not about you.