I commute now, and not like before. Before, I had this breezy thing I could pretend was a commute, where I could drive at speed limit through rolling hills, past fields, and through blasted rocky cliffs, and laugh at those attempting to make progress in the opposite direction, were I so inclined to jeer.
Now, I’m in the shit. I have to merge and unmerge and compete with volume. And in doing this, I have made a couple of observations.
Here’s one: In Nashville, we have three kinds of delays. Idiot delays, asshole delays, and sheer volume delays. These types interact and often exacerbate one another.
The third type is something we can’t really help as individuals, but idiot delays could be minimalized if fewer people would drive like idiots, and asshole delays would lessen if people would only behave less assholishly.
If you’re an asshole, I probably can’t really help you. It’s going to take more than a little bit of typed-out wisdom. I could say, “Stop being an asshole,” but as with most behavioral issues, merely telling people not to do it is unhelpful.
If you’re an idiot, there is a Catch-22 in play whereby you probably don’t realize you are an idiot, and therefore won’t bother reading my or anyone else’s advice.
With this understanding of futility, I would like to share a couple of tidbits of information.
First of all, if you text and drive for any reason at all, you are both an idiot and an asshole. Watch some PSAs and get your shit together.
The red-and-white triangle sign is a yield sign. It means you have to wait. It means you don’t get a turn as long as anyone else is coming. It does not function as a four-way stop. It does not mean merge at full speed.
It is an impossibility of physical mass for your car to occupy the same space as anyone else’s car at the same time.
If you are in a lane that is ending (and there are signs that will tell you), it is your responsibility to merge safely into the lane beside you. Yes, it would be nice if other drivers would move out of the way for you, but it is not their responsibility to make a space for you to speed into – sometimes, they do not have any place to put their car. Rather, attempt to match the speed of traffic flow, and slow down if you are running out of lane. You may even have to wait a bit if there is high volume.
There are some physics involved in acceleration, directional change, and negative acceleration (i.e. deceleration). Basically, heavier items need more space to slow and stop. The heavier the item, the more distance needed. That’s why big trucks get moving slowly and why it’s safer for them to have extra space in front of them in case they need to slow down or stop. It’s also what makes tailgating or cutting people off a bad idea.
Addenda: The tiny flashing lights on the front and rear corners of your car are communicative tools. You can turn on the left-side ones to indicate you would like or intend to move left. You can turn on the right-side ones to indicate you would like or intend to move right. You can use these in times of corner-turning and also for lane changes. This is highly encouraged, so that other drivers may become aware of your intentions. They may even try to help accommodate a lane change!
It is still your responsibility to look before you take a lane, however. Mirrors, yes, but throw a glance at your blind spot too.
The “blind spot” is the area that you will simply not see if you rely on mirrors alone.
While most of us seem pretty aware of the meaning of the yellow lines on the road (don’t go across these – cars coming in opposite direction at similar speeds), there seems to be a lot less understanding for the solid white line. Cars on the other side of a solid white line will typically be going the same direction as you, but, the solidness of the line means you are not to change lanes. I know, it’s hard. Who even made this rule. But someone with more knowledge of physics than you put that white line there for a reason. The dashed lines are the ones you can turn-signal-then-shift over. And if you’re stuck behind a slowpoke or need to mosey toward an exit, don’t worry, there will be a dashed-line-opportunity soon. They didn’t forget about you.
Similarly, engineers decided where the stop-lines go. Those are the super thick white bars that go across the lane where you are supposed to stop, found at stop signs and red lights. Front tires go on or just behind the line. If your back bumper is on the line, you are probably hanging out too far into an intersection, and you’ll likely see this only when cars start turning left by pivoting on top of your front left bumper.
Talking on the phone while driving (even if hands-free) makes you an idiot. Even if you are normally a non-idiot, dividing your attention like that reduces you to idiot-level driving ability. As they say, you don’t multitask, you just do multiple things simultaneously and poorly. If you were already an idiot before you decided to talk on the phone and drive, you are now operating at sub-idiot levels and are therefore actively endangering everyone.
It’s okay to be from out of town, or going to a new place, or trying to find something. We all need Google maps sometimes. But GoogleMapping and driving is the equivalent of texting and driving, so if you don’t have a copilot (this is the person riding in the so-called “shotgun” seat) to handle the device for you, you will morphed into an asshole-idiot danger to us all. Find a place to pull over (an out of the way place, like a parking space) so you can consult your device.
Other advice for the idiots you encounter? Post a comment with helpful info.