I, like many others, spend too much time in my car. I drive about 124 miles every day, five days a week. If you aren’t a commuter, let me tell you that driving makes a person really tired. It zaps one’s energy and instills feelings of anger and frustration on a minute by minute basis. I think we all feel protected by our car. We feel we can be mean to each other because we’re not looking at, nor physically standing with other drivers. It’s all quite shocking and it’s easy to walk the road of rude. My driver’s education teacher, Coach Fenton, told us to always remember that a car is a weapon and you should treat it as such. A car can be used to dramatically and sometimes fatally, hurt oneself or others. Here are five easy tips for all of us to keep in mind as we’re “flipping the bird” to some poor old lady in the left lane.
- Use a turn signal. I know it seems like basic information, but you’d be surprised at how frustrating it is for the drivers behind you. Being cut off makes people angry and their day has only begun. Also, it’s quite dangerous to weave in and out of lanes especially during a busy commute. Drivers are tired and distracted and they may not see you drifting over into their lane. But a little flashing light may catch their attention. The turn signal is located on the left side of the steering wheel in most cars. Up indicates right and down indicates left. Now you can’t say you don’t know how it works.
- While we’re on the subject of turn signals and making people angry, let’s talk about the courtesy wave. When another driver allows you room to change lanes or moves forward at a red light to let you turn right, why not give a friendly wave to say thank you? I find that a wave alleviates any angry feelings that accompany a hasty lane change. It only takes a moment to execute. Simply raise your hand with all fingers raised and gently wave in the air so that the driver behind you can see. (A peace sign is also acceptable.)
- Try to leave early. This is a perfect example of the pot calling the kettle black as I am constantly running late. That being said, on the days I do leave plenty of time to get to work, I am a more forgiving, laid-back driver. Therefore, when I finally get to work, I’m not angry or stressed. There is less of a need to snap and yell at my co-workers. I am spreading joy to the world. I know it’s hard, but just try it for one week and see how you feel. Set your alarm for ten minutes earlier and then…leave ten minutes early.
- Please stop using your cell phone while you’re driving. Please. There are countless studies, including a study done at the University of Utah in 2006 claiming that talking on a cell phone while driving impairs a driver in the same way a few drinks would. When a driver is on the phone, obviously they are not paying attention to the cars around them. How many times have you been stuck behind a car that is leaving about a quarter of a mile of space in front of them in the left lane? Maybe they are weaving in and out of the lane a little bit. After miles of aggravation, you are finally able to pass the offensive driver only to see that he or she is on the phone. That other driver has no idea that you were even behind them. That should make you realize that you shouldn’t do it either. Everyone thinks they are good at driving and talking. Guess what, we’re all bad at it. Please stop angering your fellow drivers. Learn to enjoy your own company and stop ruining everyone else’s day. (On a side note, don’t back up traffic applying your makeup or shaving while driving. Yeah, I’ve seen it. So annoying!)
- Don’t take it personally. This is a tough one. Sometimes I wonder why I’m so angry while driving and why I am going to make it my business to make sure that other car doesn’t get in my lane…ever. I feel like many drivers take every action by other drives personally. If Car A attempts to pass Car B, Car A gets defensive and speeds up preventing Car B from passing. If someone wants to pass you, let them. Better that they get around you and move ahead than tailgate you for miles creating a dangerous and frustrating situation for your both. No one thinks you’re a bad person and you don’t “own” that lane. We all need to get somewhere and when you think about it, we’re all in this crappy commute together. Let’s do our best to behave. 10 and 2, People!