Etiquette on the open road

Dustin Gill
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Now that winter is in the air and the snow is falling, it seems as good a time as any to review some good driving habits and to review some common sense and common courtesies.

If you’ve read my column before you will know that I am a commuter. Of all the different things that being a commuter implies, if there is one necessary and sufficient condition that makes one a commuter, it’s driving a lot.

I’m doubtful that I have logged over 10,000 hours on the highway, so perhaps I may not be an expert in the field. Be this as it may, I’m going to tell you what irks me on the highway and what I consider to be proper highway driving etiquette, anyways.

First, let us review what some of the professionals have to say about seasonal safe driving and good driving habits. I’m sorry if much of this seems like obvious common sense.

According to the Canadian Automobile Association there are 10 things one should do in order to be a better winter driver. Here are some of the easiest and most obvious: 1. Give yourself extra travel time in bad weather. This is a real no brainer, you wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve seen people flying past me down the highway or on the Ring Road in Regina, only for me to see them in the ditch a little ways down. Who do you think is getting to class first? And no, I won’t stop to help you. 2. Slow down and wear your seatbelt — again, obvious. 3. Remove all snow from your vehicle. Now most of you probably already know, but for those of you that don’t — being able to see when you drive is fairly important. 4. Avoid using cruise control on slippery roads. Plan your trip, get winter tires and so on.

I feel this is too obvious to be worth mentioning, but CAA also has a brochure on distracted driving and impaired driving. The gist of which, as you can imagine, is don’t drink and drive and don’t text and drive. Easy.

The CAA also has a brochure for aging drivers. The brochure is more geared towards how you can approach a family member about whether or not they are still capable of driving safely. No one wants to give up their freedom or mobility, but if you’ve got a loved one in the family who you know is unfit to drive, you’ve got an obligation to do what it takes to keep them safe and others safe. As the brochure says, their ‘feelings’ and not worth anybody's life.

Now my very own recommendations of courtesy and etiquette. Let me begin with something that makes me angrier than probably anything else that I see on the road. Mud flaps: if you don’t have mud flaps on your vehicle, then there are a whole number of words which one could use to describe you including ignorant, self-centered, inconsiderate, unintelligent, unkind, vain, dandy — the list could go on, these are just the nicest words I can think of, but you can imagine the others.

If you drive a truck without mud flaps — that makes you a huge jerk (this is hard without using expletives). If you drive a jacked up truck with huge tires and no mud flaps, then you, sir or madam, are ignorant beyond belief and your stupidity is worthy of the greatest condemnation. Do you know how much it costs to replace a windshield? How it is not illegal to drive a jacked up truck without mud flap’s is beyond me. Just because you want to look like a big cool guy, and you don’t like the way mud flaps look on your compensation-mobile, you’re going to cost people hundreds, if not thousands of dollars — get a life.

OK, sorry, but I’m sure many of you have got a rock in the windshield and have felt the same way. Onto my next topic of cruise control. If you commute like I do, you’re looking to save as much fuel and drive as efficiently as possible. Cruise control helps. But, if I’m traveling 120 kilometers an hour and am in the process of passing a semi or other vehicles, and you come speeding up on my tail, I can assure you that I am not going to drive into the vehicle beside me to get out of your way, nor am I going to accelerate and waste gas just so you can save less than a second. I’m passing someone, I’m using cruise control, deal with it.

Now, if I were just driving in the passing lane without actually passing anyone, I could understand, as this drives me nuts also. So just for a recap: if you want to drive at a steady pace, drive in the right lane; if you want to pass someone, drive in the left. Simple?

Brights: Only use your brights when there is no one in front of you on either side of the highway. No one wants your high beams shining in their rearview or their face. Don’t be rude.

Cargo: If you’ve got a truck-bed or trailer full of stuff, then tarp it or tie it down good. My dad seems to have a rule of three straps per item being hauled, or, to just use as many straps as he can possibly find at the time no matter what he is hauling.   

Well I could go on, but it’s really quite simple to sum up in just a few words: I know it’s easy to start feeling alone out there on the open road, but rest assured you are not. Your time, or preference, or anything, is not worth anyone else’s life or property. This goes for wildlife as well, I see far too many dead animals on the side of the highway every morning and it breaks my heart. Simply paying attention can save countless lives on the road. Trust me, you’re not that special. So be kind, be courteous and be respectful on the roads — it will save your life too.

Organizations: CAA

Geographic location: Ring Road, Regina

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