11 June 2012

Traffic Tips for Suburban Drivers

This morning, I dropped off my daughters at the local high school, which is just over a mile from my house.  I have done this every school day morning since September.  And, as is usual, I just barely escaped with my life.

I am not a traffic cop.  But maybe I should have been.  Because it would have given me great pleasure to issue expensive tickets to the bad drivers who do not follow the basic rules I am about to outline below.  (I, of course, am a driver beyond reproach, so I am perfectly qualified to engage in this little stress-relieving exercise.)

1.  When you have a stop sign, you actually need to stop and yield to the traffic that does not have a stop sign.  Stopping is tricky.  It involves depressing your brake (that pedal to the left of the gas pedal) until your wheels actually stop rotating.  I recommend practicing the skill before going out on the road.

2.  When you are pulling away from a curbside parking spot and into traffic, look over your shoulder to see whether you are about to hit someone.  Again, this is a tricky skill, but it can be mastered with a little practice.  It is worth noting that the requirement of looking applies to everyone, even people in Lincoln Navigators.

3.  I have mentioned this one before because it is a pet peeve of mine.  If you are turning left at a traffic light, you must yield to the oncoming traffic that is going straight.  Failing to do so is tantamount to hanging a sign on your windshield that says, "CAUTION.  I AM A SELFISH A-HOLE, AND THE RULES DON'T APPLY TO ME."  Also, one of these days when I don't have a car full of kids who might be injured, I am going to broadside you on purpose, mid-turn, just to prove that I'm right about this.

4.  This one applies mostly to people in dropoff and pickup lines, but it can also apply in heavy merging traffic.  Don't cut the line.  Didn't you go to kindergarten?  Didn't you learn this lesson a long, long time ago?  Cutting the line is mean and selfish.  And when you're in a car, it's dangerous.  On the highway, if you've missed the exit-only sign and find yourself needing to cut into a long line of traffic, roll down your window, make an apologetic face, and wait until someone kind lets you in.  Don't play the chicken game.  In the dropoff and pickup line, be warned that I have a cell phone and I will photograph you and post your picture in this space.  I'm not shy about that stuff.

5.  If someone ahead of you stops, consider that there could be a reason other than that they're a jerk trying to slow you down and ruin your morning.  Sometimes, sometimes, they have stopped for a pedestrian or bicyclist who is crossing the street.  Zooming angrily around the stopped driver, while leaning heavily on your horn, puts you at risk of running over the pedestrian or bicyclist and entitles you to wear the same sign as the guy in #3 above.

6.  Learn to parallel park.  It's actually quite simple to do, and with a little practice it becomes easy.  It is a useful, nay, essential skill in suburbia.  I don't know why people who have been driving for thirty years suddenly turn to mush when they have to parallel park.  It's on the road test for a good reason.  Do not ask me to move my car so that you can take the space that doesn't require you to back in (YES, this has ACTUALLY happened to me TWICE in my town.  I am not making this up).

Well.  I feel better now.  Thanks for reading.  Have a good morning.

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