I don’t know what it is about Seattle drivers nowadays, but it seems to me like we’ve gotten much more erratic in general over the past few months. I’m guessing it might have something to do with the new toll lanes on 405.
My past few years of driving have been me trying to figure out the best ways to drive. Here’s a few things I’ve picked up over the years–feel free, as always, to correct me if you disagree.
- If it’s raining, turn on your headlights, regardless of how bright it is. This is especially important if it’s bright outside. Your headlights aren’t just for you to illuminate the road ahead of you, it’s also the best way to make yourself visible on the road.
- Avoid tailgating in traffic. Tailgating in traffic is the most dangerous and possibly the most foolish mistake you can make on the road. The key to doing your part to alleviate traffic and being safe is to leave a big gap between you and the car in front of you. That way, people can freely merge in, reducing traffic in the lanes next to you; you’ll have plenty of time to react to brakes in front, reducing the chance of a brake-slamming chain reaction right behind you; and you won’t be accelerating and braking constantly, saving you lots of gas and headache. Leave a distance of at least three cars in front of you and match its speed. Trust me on this one. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.
- In the same vein, make sure you match the speed of the lane you’re merging into before you merge. If you’re in a stuck lane and you want to move to the one next to you, leave a considerable gap between you and the car in front of you and use it to speed up. If you’re trying to get into a lane that’s not moving as quickly as yours, slow down and try to squeeze in–at a reasonable speed, of course. If someone doesn’t want to let you in, move on ahead and try again. Be careful and make sure you keep an eye on the road in front of you when you’re merging.
- Keep right except to pass (this includes small roads). Left-lane squatters have started being pulled over by police, because it’s illegal to sit in the left lane unless you’re actively passing people. In a sense, it’s legal to stay in the left lane for a long time, but if you look in the rearview mirror and someone’s tailgating you, move aside. If you don’t feel comfortable driving over the speed limit, don’t drive in the left lane.
- DO NOT BRAKE-CHECK. It seems like totally logical and safe (and vengeful) to get the person away from your bumper, but it’s also the easiest way to get into an accident. From where you are, you won’t be able to tell if the person behind you is also being tailgated. Give them the benefit of the doubt and just move. If he follows you, move again. Don’t recklessly speed up or you might find yourself being pulled over.
- That being said, keep the speed limit. Use the highway on-ramps to get up to the speed limit and off-ramps to slow down. If an on- or off-ramp is a mile long, that means you have a mile to speed up or slow down to the next speed limit–you don’t have to slam on the brakes immediately after you veer off the main highway. Also, getting on the highway under 55mph is incredibly dangerous. Make sure you’re up to speed when you’re ready to switch lanes.
- Don’t drive distracted. This should be a no-brainer. Don’t text, call, drink, eat, sleep, apply make-up, watch movies or study while driving. Your presence on the road makes your attention on the road a priority. This mistake could cost you your life, or worse yet, the lives of many others. It could also cause you to break any of these other rules, which is equally bad.
- Don’t run stoplights or stop signs. When you approach an intersection where you’re supposed to stop, you should ALWAYS stop and check for cars. It’s fine if you make a rolling stop at an intersection, as long as you are sure that a) there aren’t any cars that may interfere with your position, and b) that if there are cars, that you have enough time to take your action and continue moving afterward.
All of these rules can be summed up into one: be considerate of others. Traffic laws are only put in place so that everybody can be on the same page, but none of them are absolutely necessary. Don’t do something that you would loathe another person for doing.
Stay safe out there.