Courteous Drivers Are a Dying Breed

You’re driving to work in the morning, your coffee in the cupholder and the news playing through the speakers. You try to merge onto the interstate. The car on the on-ramp in front of you is going 45 miles per hour for a 65-mph zone, in which most cars are traveling at least 70 mph. The person in the right lane doesn’t move over to let you on, despite there being room for them in the left lane. You end up either having to speed up or brake before merging.

You eventually move into the passing lane, only to be blocked by another driver who cannot seem to pass an 18-wheeler for miles, and you end up frustrated because they should know better. At some point before arriving at the office, you encounter that one guy in a BMW who cuts in front of you at the last second for the exit, squeezing in between you and the car in front of you without bothering to flick the turn signal stalk.

lack of courteous drivers in a highway traffic jam

Driving has always been sort of an art, and a skill that, you would think, one would get better at doing every time they get behind the wheel. But with the increasing amount of distractions for drivers, and bad drivers teaching their kids how to be, well, bad drivers because they themselves don’t know any better, driving continues to become more frustrating.

Every day, I encounter so many drivers who just sit in the passing lane, driving side-by-side with another vehicle while a line of traffic piles up behind them. They never hurry up, finish the pass, and move over into the right lane to let traffic actually flow. Instead, they keep obstructing traffic, creating a mountain of frustrated drivers behind them, which results in someone rushing up in the right lane to cut them off as they move back into the passing lane. They are not courteous drivers.

“But I’m doing the speed limit. Other people should be following the rules of the road. I’m not doing anything wrong.” I see this argument too many times whenever something about this bad driving behavior is brought up on Facebook. But while those drivers may believe that they are causing no harm, they’re instead in the wrong. Being that driver who insists on hogging the passing lane and just cruising in it can lead to them getting pulled over for impeding traffic. In Indiana, the fine for blocking traffic in the left lane can be worth up to $500.

In fact, being a left-lane hog is illegal in most states. While drivers think that since they are going the speed limit it is perfectly fine, hindering the flow of traffic, no matter how fast it’s going, is less safe. When hogging the passing lane, one is essentially causing a moving traffic jam, making faster drivers weave through traffic and, therefore, increasing the possibility of accidents and road rage incidents and decreasing traffic efficiency.

And then there’s the growing “me first” mentality on the road. You know, those drivers who could wait two seconds for all of the traffic to clear, but instead, they decide to pull in front of approaching vehicles, barely accelerating and causing other drivers to hit the brakes hard to avoid a rear-end collision. These are not courteous drivers, either.

But what if one believes they are being a courteous driver, stopping on the main road to let someone turn in front of them from a side street, all while traffic backs up behind them? Honestly, whenever I encounter a driver signaling to me that I can turn onto the busy road like this, I just sit there. I don’t have right of way, and I sure as hell don’t trust that other driver. It may seem like a nice gesture to them, but it’s still impeding traffic for the others on that main road.

There are also the drivers who neglect to turn on their headlights when it’s pouring rain, their windshield wipers going at the fastest rate possible. “But I can see where I’m going perfectly fine.” However, they are not being courteous to other drivers on the road, who are unable to see their silver car in the cloud of mist while they attempt to change lanes. As I always say, it’s not about you being able to see, it’s about you being able to be seen.

If there were more courteous drivers on the road — if more drivers paid attention to their driving instead of posting to their Snapchat or Instagram story or texting — the roads would be a safer place. People wouldn’t feel aggression or road rage while behind the wheel, there would be fewer accidents, and the roads would just be a happier place. We wouldn’t have moving traffic jams or 10 cars piled up in the left lane with just one in the right.

The truth is, courteous drivers are a dying breed. We should be working to improve our driving skills, using common sense while we’re behind the wheel every day. If you think about it — maybe unless you’re a utility worker who goes up on 20-story-high poles — driving is the most dangerous thing we do every day. We need to teach ourselves and future drivers to be courteous.

No wonder why there are people looking forward to the day that autonomous vehicles rule the streets.

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