Driving etiquette: the things you must avoid so that people do not curse you

Putting your elbows on the table is something that will earn you some askance looks. It is reputed to be impolite according to dining etiquette. We personally do not give a damn if you care about this code of rules, but there is one you should know by heart: driving etiquette. When disrespected, that one will not only make people disapprove of you, but also swear at you, curse you or even cause accidents.

We have gathered some of the most pressing rules (and some of the most forgotten ones) when at the wheel. Respect them and make sure the ones you know also do that. It will be a fairly good way to avoid traffic crashes and a lot of nuisance. Not only to you, but also to the ones that share the road with you.


1 – When you see a yield sign, yield!


Don’t you get crazy when you have the preference and someone sticks their cars in front of yours? As if they were not paying any attention to traffic?


Besides being extremely rude, you are at risk that the other driver may also be distracted. Or may just be in a bad day, like Jules Winnfield. But the fact is that a yield sign is there for a reason. Primarily to protect you and the others around you from crashes. And also to rule traffic.


2 – After yielding and entering a road or street, match speeds!


It is great to see that you respect the yield sign, but that does not help if you enter a street or a road and slows down. Or enters in a lower speed than the other cars that are already there. This attitude slows traffic and may also cause accidents. And considering you are the slow element, the one in front of the faster ones, you are the one that should be more concerned to press the gas pedal and match their speed.


3 – If you want to change lanes, do it!


Don’t be that guy that activates the turn signal, sees others slow down to allow you to change lanes and does not make a move. Perhaps waiting for formal authorization. For the driver coming from behind to put his head out of the window and scream: “GO!”. Hesitation in traffic is one of the worst things possible. It discourages the ones that are gentle enough to let you pass to ever let someone pass again. Such as this guy:


If there is plenty of space for you to go, do it. If the other driver lets you go, do it. When you hesitate, you block the person in the lane you intend to move to, the driver in the lane you are still in and everybody that is coming behind them. Confidence is one of the major qualities you can have when driving. Just don’t let it be excessive. Such as in the case below.

4 – Don’t block crossings


Selfishness in traffic must come from a belief that you are better than everybody else. You may block a crossing simply by poor judgement, but if you keep on doing it, it is clear that you do not give a damn (we prefer to believe that instead of thinking you are so bad at taking decisions). After a while stuck in traffic, you get an idea on the time a traffic light will remain green. Seize this time to pass. In case the traffic ahead is about to block traffic or already doing it, do not contribute to make things worse. Wait. And put yourself in place of the ones also trying to move. One day, you may block their passage. In the other, they may be the ones preventing you to get where you need to go.


5 – Pick a lane and stick with it!


We do not think you should always stay in the same lane, that’s not like that. What we do not stand is to have cars that keep straddling as if lanes had no lines marking them. Even if you happen to find a road with no lines defining the lanes, you should have a good idea on how many cars fit side by side. Do not wander around. Do not drive as if there was no one around. There are faster cars coming from behind. There are other cars beside yours. Mind them. Choose the best lane for you and try to keep it. Change to another one in case you have to turn right or left, but make your driving predictable. That is safer for everybody.


6 – Use your goddamn turn signal!


We have already written about a song that practically begs for people to use turn signals correctly. You can read it clicking here. And using a turn signal in the right way is not only knowing it exists. It is about using it at the right time, which is a little before you have to turn. Not after, nor in the middle of turning. The idea of turn signals is to communicate with other drivers what you are going to do. Warning 5 miles in advance, as the meme above says, gives the others the impression you will turn right in each possible right turn along the way. In a road, do so only if there is no other detour you could take but the one you really intend to enter. In the city, you can use the same parameter. Or use the turn signal in the same block crossed by the street you are about to enter.

7 – Get out of the fast lane


There has been a recent episode both of road rage and people blocking the fast lane. We have reported it here with a video. Make sure you check it out. Summing up, a teenager was with his girlfriend in a Nissan 300ZX and blocked a truck from passing. The driver of the truck pushed the 300ZX out of the way. It is clear the teenager did that on purpose, probably to show off. Comments in the video both condemn him and the truck driver, but, from a driving etiquette point of view, the teenager provoked the truck driver. And provoking others in traffic is a very bad idea. Some may not have the self-control that is required, as the truck driver didn’t.

Leave the fast lane free, whether it is the right or the left, depending on the country you live in. If you are trespassing, do so and get back to the lane you were before as soon as possible. Remember our advice to pick a lane and stick with it? Make sure it is never the fast lane. You may not only get your car destroyed, but also put your life and the lives of others in jeopardy. Whether in an accident or by preventing rescue to reach them.


8 – Mind the green light


Have you ever experienced that slow driver that moves so “calmly” when the light goes green that, when it is your time to go through it, it has already gone red again? These drivers even accelerate when the light goes yellow, what makes it seem they meant to get you stranded. That is not cool, gentlemen, not at all.

When the lights go green, move on. You do not have to test times from 0 to whatever the speed limit is, but make sure to move fast so that the others behind you can do the same. If you are too distracted to see the light went green, maybe you should not even be driving. Try a bus, a subway or even a trolley, as the one in the meme above.


9 – Don’t double park


The last annoying habit some people have at the wheel is double-parking. Sometimes in very narrow streets, what blocks all traffic. Excuses are many: “I was just dropping them here”, “It would be sooo fast”, “I am lost” or even “There was no place for me to park”. What do everybody else has to do with it? There is place for only one car parallel to the sidewalks. In some streets, at just one of their sides. Isn’t it obvious enough for people not to do it? Even so…

This list may be lacking many more “procedures” that would earn their perpetrators a long list of bad names. I have even written a book about that, called “The Traffic Cholesterol”. If it has reminded you of any other bad attitudes that go against driving etiquette, feel free to contribute to the list in the comments box. And, most of all, do not take this as a license for being impolite or aggressive. Good traffic is not only about moving fast, it is also about being kind to others. One example of kindness is being aware of everybody around and making the best you can to keep traffic flowing.

Gustavo Henrique Ruffo

I have been an automotive journalist since 1998 and have worked for many important Brazilian newspapers and magazines, such as the local edition of Car and Driver and Quatro Rodas, Brazilian's biggest car magazine. I have also worked for foreign websites, such as World Car Fans and won a few journalism prizes, among them three SAE Journalism Awards and the 2017 IAM RoadSmart Safety Award. I am the author of "The Traffic Cholesterol", a book about bad drivers that you can buy at Hotmart, Google Play, Amazon and Kobo.

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