Rules of the Road: a Refresher Course

I've forgotten almost everything I learned in high school math; it seems like most people have forgotten what they learned in driver's ed.

About ten years ago, my parents made their final pilgrimage to the Jewish Homeland (south Florida) and sold their house in Long Beach, NY. I went up into Yankee territory (actually, it was more Mets territory than Yankees territory, but that’s beside the point) to go through the boxes and boxes of stuff I had stored there. Many of the boxes were filled with old notebooks and the like from high school and college. Just about all of it went in the trash, although I did have fun looking at it before pitching it out. My favorites were the calculus notebooks.  There, in my very own handwriting, were pages and pages of numbers and symbols and Greek letters. It may as well have all been in Greek for all I remembered. At some point earlier in my life I was able to take derivatives of things and find the volume of an infinitely large cone and get a number like two. I don’t even know what those things are any more, much less how to do them. It really brought home how much I have forgotten from my earlier education.

I can only assume that I am not alone in this. Except what we use in our every day lives (or even once a year or so), those of us over thirty have probably forgotten most of what we could answer correctly on a test in high school. This is the only explanation that makes any sense about the fact that, to my personal observation, 98% of all drivers have completely forgotten everything they learned in driver’s ed except for which is the gas and which is the brake. So, as a public service, the following is a quick refresher course in the basic rules and courtesies of driving.

    1. That triangular red sign with the word “Yield” on it means that, if you are      facing it, you must yield. Yield, in layman’s terms, means it ain’t your turn, and you must wait until everyone else is out of the way before you go.

    2. Those white lines in a parking lot indicate the space in which you are supposed to park your car. You are supposed to park BETWEEN the lines, not on top of them, or all scrunched up on one side so that the person who parks next to you has to suck in her stomach, hold her purse and purchases over her head, and stand on tiptoe to get in or out of her car. And yes, there is a special place in hell for people who park across two spots.

    3. Relatedly, spots reserved for “compact cars only” are not appropriate places to park one’s SUV or dually truck.

    4. Signs that indicate the right lane is going to end in 500 yards do not mean “drive really fast 498 yards in the right lane so that you can squeeze in front of the other cars that politely waited their turn and jam up the traffic further.” They mean, “Try to get over as soon as possible.” If you don’t, you are no better than someone who cuts in line at the grocery store.

    5. If you are stopped at a light in the right (or only) lane waiting to go straight, and the lane is wide enough that a car can sneak around you to turn right, you have a very strict moral obligation to stop your car towards the left of your lane and far enough forwards so that people turning right can sneak around you and not have to wait for you.

    6. When driving on a highway, the left lane is for people who are going faster than the people in the right lane. If you find yourself in the left lane, and the same car has been right next to you in the right lane, you have an obligation to either speed up a little and get in front of that car in the right lane, or slow down for a second and get behind that car. There is no place for pace cars on the highway to set the speed for everyone else.

    7. The blinker is specifically designed to let other people know that you are about to turn or change lanes. If you use it, I promise you that your car will continue to operate in the manner to which you have become accustomed.

    8. With the one exception of the situation in which someone is sitting at a red light and looking down when it turns green, never ever in the history of the universe has honking at someone ever made someone think, “Oh my!  I have driven in a way that has offended someone! Perhaps I should re-evaluate my choices and drive differently in the future. Thanks, kind sir, for notifying me in this way!”

    9. If you are going more than ten miles an hour under the speed limit, and it isn’t raining extremely hard or snowing, you might want to consider not driving.  Ever.

    10. If you are coming to a stop at a light and there is a commercial driveway, a street, or a residential driveway with a running car in it (especially ones with hopeful looking people in them trying to get in the flow of traffic somehow, anyhow) along the roadside, do not cluelessly block these streets and driveways.  If you do, the concentrated evil eye given by the person who you blocked in (or the collective evil eye given by the twenty cars that have to stop and wait for the car that is turning left into the CVS that can’t get through because you blocked the driveway) might very well cause your head to explode and, well, that would just mean more traffic for the rest of us.   

These are only the top ten, of course. I hope you found them helpful. If there are any glaring rules that I left out, please feel to describe them in the comment section below.

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Jimmy February 15, 2013 at 12:41 AM
You forgot one- HANG UP and DRIVE!!!!
Sondra Carlson February 15, 2013 at 03:42 AM
Very good advice. I have noticed that people here like to drive ten to fifteen miles an hour UNDER the speed limit until they hit a school zone. Then they are tailgating, speeding and trying to pass in an enraged frenzy.
David Binder February 15, 2013 at 05:45 AM
Yes, good advice indeed. Most of which should really be more than suggestions. In my 40 or so years of driving it's sad how much of a decline in common sense & courtesy I see. In the past I spent about 12 years in the local courier business. I finally had to get off the road because I got tired of people painting bullseyes on my truck.
K Wade February 15, 2013 at 11:22 AM
To add to number 7... Signal BEFORE you brake when turning.
Arthur Mills IV February 15, 2013 at 11:47 AM
I have a couple: #1: Flashing red means stop. Flashing yellow means proceed with care. It is not a 4-way stop. #2: School zones are, in fact, real! Slow. Down!
The Scarlet Pimpernel February 15, 2013 at 12:09 PM
Number 5,,boom you nailed it..it really isn't that hard
Chris Callahan February 15, 2013 at 02:03 PM
One more: the presence of a law enforcement officer does not mean that you must immediately slow to 10 MPH under the posted limit. Such slowing does NOT compensate for the fact that 500 yards up the road you were going 15 MPH over the posted limit. It's okay to ease up as a warning to your fellow motorists, but slamming on the brakes doesn't really help. Really.
Tank February 15, 2013 at 02:03 PM
^This^ All of Atlanta needs this branding into it's collective brain.
Lori Duff February 15, 2013 at 04:11 PM
Thanks, all! These are great contributions. Keep 'em coming.....if we get just ONE PERSON to see the error of their ways.....And as if on cue, this morning I was waiting patiently to turn right out of the CVS and a guy came up and blocked me in.
Melissa Page February 15, 2013 at 04:55 PM
Here's one...if you see an emergency vehicle (police, fire, EMS) behind you with lights and sirens - PULL TO THE RIGHT! Don't slam on brakes or go left. Don't try to outrun them. Don't hit the turning lane. If you can't get over, slow down and turn on your flashers so they can go around.
Karsten Torch February 15, 2013 at 05:05 PM
I try to just drive with the idea that I am a lone island, but so is everybody else, therefore pay attention to them and don't get in their way. Get out of the left lane, pull up and to the left so people can turn right around you, don't fly through or across parking lots (that last one really bugs me), and if somebody has started to move out of a parking space, let them out and don't hit the horn and expect them to pull back into the space. Pretty simple rules, IMO.... But this one bugs me all the time. Two lanes, coming to a red light. Two cars in the right lane, nobody on the left. As I come up, the one in the back will undoubtedly hit the left lane so they are first for the light, and when the light changes - THEY DON'T GO!!! Why the hell did you switch lanes if you weren't going to go faster than the car you went around????? I just think it should be harder to get a license in this country. You can be a blind retarded quadriplegic and still pass the driving test. And if you for some reason are incapable of passing the test, just keep trying until you can. If it takes you 7 tries, no problem. We'll give you the ability to pilot 4000 pounds of steel and aluminum at 70 mph. Sheesh....
Allison Rodgers February 15, 2013 at 08:01 PM
That would be all the snow birds who have moved here.
Sharon Swanepoel February 15, 2013 at 09:43 PM
You do know that all these people who defy these rules get up in the morning with the specific intent on doing so just to tick off my husband?
Amy February 15, 2013 at 10:13 PM
I've just uploaded a 'sharp turn' sign. I turn my signal light on for those signs. I don't know why, just a habit. Does anyone else do that?
Dorothy Clark February 16, 2013 at 02:18 PM
@Amy - Yep, force of habit when I am about to turn! :-)
Lori Duff February 16, 2013 at 04:05 PM
Really? Because my husband thought it was him.
Robert J. Nebel February 16, 2013 at 07:31 PM
I was in a far right interstate lane on a rainy, very low-visibility, dark morning. An SUV was tailgating me while flashing his/her brights. I suppose that flashing the brights in this situation means requesting me to speed up or for me to get into the lanes where drivers enjoy driving even faster. After 30 seconds, the SUV operator flew into the highway's middle lane. Note to driver: do not tailgate and do not speed on a cold, dark rainy morning. I have seen drivers do highway spin-outs way too many times on these roads. I've also witnessed drivers outrunning trains as well as rescue squads -- all true stories.
Wendy Fine February 16, 2013 at 08:01 PM
Geez - I see we all know the same people!!!
Tim February 16, 2013 at 10:17 PM
Despite the texting laws, I see people doing it every day on my one hour commute home from work. I see people reading books that they have placed on their steering wheels while going 75 down Hwy. 78. One woman was actually looking at the pictures in the "Fifty Shades of Gray" book.....Do I mistakes, yes, I did once.....but it wasn't intentional.....I mean I don't think it was intentional....errr...never mind
Decaturette February 16, 2013 at 10:30 PM
Really? Not that I think it's ok to speed. But I've always figured that if I am going 60 mph in a 50 mph zone at X distance from an unnoticed police car that I notice at X/2 distance from the car, then I slow down to 40 mph for the rest of distance X, the police car's radar will register at 50 mph. No?
m February 17, 2013 at 02:45 AM
You stole mine!!! Every time I see this it drives me insane!! Believe it or not a Dekalb county Marshall stopped at a flashing yellow not two weeks ago!!!!
doc February 18, 2013 at 12:55 AM
One more comment about turn signals. You don't use your turn signal AS you're changing lanes or AT the corner where you're going to turn...the whole point of a turn signal is to signal your intention WAY BEFORE you change lanes or turn at the corner. It allows everyone to either LET you change lanes or brace themselves for your turn. Turn the signal on way before you're going to do what you're going to do.
Stacy Fox February 18, 2013 at 01:29 PM
Sorry, but you're wrong about #4! I agree it doesn't mean to speed up/drive really fast until the lane ends, but a "Lane Ends" sign does NOT mean to merge as soon as possible. It is an alert that the lane will be ending, but you USE THAT LANE until it does. There is nothing more frustrating than people who stop at Yard 2 of said 500 Yards, causing a jam behind them because they're trying to merge over long before is necessary. The road is there to be used, afterall. Drive cautiously and slow down if necessary, but merge when the roads do, not before.
Karsten Torch February 19, 2013 at 12:38 AM
Decatur Mom - no. If they hit you with radar, it's instantaneous. No averages. Jamming on the brakes will do nothing more than get you rear ended. Or honked at, at the very least....
Sondra Carlson February 19, 2013 at 12:29 PM
Allison, I do not notice many snowbirds driving at times of school zones, mostly young local looking people, soccer moms and work trucks. These seem to be the biggest offenders
Good Grief Y'all February 19, 2013 at 03:04 PM
Lori, your take on the subject is funny but sadly real. It's too bad common sense isn't more common.
Lori Duff February 19, 2013 at 03:43 PM
This is interesting, because it was actually a rant on Facebook on this very point that inspired me, and then before I posted it another friend ranted about the same thing, I agree with you, that you shouldn't stop at yard 2 and cause a jam -- I'm not saying that at all. Just don't speed up so you can get in front of everyone. Get over when you can means when you can -- stopping at yard 2 to make your way in is not when you can.
Brian Crowe February 20, 2013 at 03:00 PM
The advent of the ubiquitous cellphone has made for much worse driving behavior. Those who claim the bans on texting while driving are unenforceable must never look to their right or left. I could easily write a dozen tickets a day if I had such power.


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