So, today I'm proposing the 'New Driving Rules', because I'm positive that driving issues in the Ozarks are not just here (though...honestly this is one of the worst places I've ever driven). Some of these are just reiterations of existing traffic laws...while others are just unwritten rules of order and 'right of way'.
- Follow speed limits: The posted speed limits are set to manage traffic, safety, and throughput capacity on a road 99% of the time. The other 1% are the annoying times that a neighborhood petitioned their city to post a 30 MPH rule for a huge, mile-long, 4-lane street on their other side of their fenced backyard because they are afraid that their dog or kids may jump the fence and wander into traffic. But 99% the speed limit is for your safety and the safety of those driving around you. Follow them.
- Don't race to the next light: The posted speed limit, as I mentioned above, is partially to manage throughput on a road, and lights are timed to the posted limits. If you try to beat the lights, you put more vehicles than expected in an area and actually cause congestion. So, essentially, most of the time trying to beat lights makes the driving the road SLOWER than if you just follow the speed limits.
- Don't tailgate: People in the Ozarks tailgate constantly for whatever reason. I'm driving 67 MPH down Hwy 65, there is a someone driving behind me, and I can't see their bumper. Very unsafe, and I'm sure that someone not being able to stop or slow down in these kinds of circumstances is a cause of many accidents. Use the 3-second rule instead. Pick a point on the side of the road, like a sign, and when the person in front of you is passing that marker...count to 3 (one-thousands-one, etc.). If you pass that same marker in less than 3 seconds...then you are too close to the car in front of you. After a while of doing this you can pretty accurately judge how far behind someone you should be.
- Use turn signals: This really is the only indication to other drivers of the direction you intend to go. In most cases you inhibit traffic flow, especially at stops for other vehicles, if you do not indicate that you are planning on turning. Always use your turn signals, and use them at a reasonable distance from your turn...e.g. don't turn the signal on if your turn isn't for another couple streets or driveways...and don't only use it as you are actually turning. Use it appropriately.
- The turning lane: The middle lane in a street (designated by yellow lines on either side) is a turning lane for those making a left turn OFF of the road or street. It is NOT for people to merge into traffic with. DO NOT use this lane as a merging lane. I repeat...DO NOT use this as a merging lane! If you cannot make a left turn into your actual driving lane...then don't turn! If traffic is that congested...then turn right and find an alternate block path back to the street/road you need. Far too often do I need to turn left, but can't get into the turning lane because someone is driving 35 MPH in that lane trying to merge...making it unsafe for everyone around them and blocking traffic for those needing to get out of traffic to make that left turn.
- The stopping line: On most roads at a stop-light there is a line painted, which is where you are supposed to stop. In this area is seems that people usually stop past that line partially in the intersection, or 1-2 car lengths behind it. Just stop at the line. Many stop-sign intersections also have this line. If they don't...stop with the line that would be drawn at the sign-post.
- Green-light left turns: If you have a solid green light at a left turn, but there are cars coming from the other direction going straight...don't enter the intersection. Stop at the stop-line until it is safe for you to make the left-turn, and then pull out to turn. If you can't turn...don't pull into the intersection and then inevitably end up turning on a yellow or red light.
- Don't do wide-turns or cut-corners: Many times people do these wide and very lazy turns that don't require that the driver actually turn their steering wheel more than a quarter-turn. So, then they end up in the far lane, or have to drive some odd path to get around someone else's lane. Just make an appropriate turn and stay in your turn lane.
- Turn into the closest lane: If you are making a left or right turn, and there are multiple lanes....turn into the closest lane to you.
- Exclusive right-turn lanes: If you have one of those right turn lanes, usually blocked off by medians, that allow you to not have to stop (just potentially yield) while turning in many cases, if there is a lane after the turn....then keep driving! So many people will stop at the turn because the far lane has traffic in it...even though their continued turn lane has zero cars in it. Just keep going.
- Right of way: If there is a 4-way stop-sign and we both stop at pretty much the same time, the person to the right goes first.
- The "wave": If you are in your car and think you are being courteous by waving someone on, especially when you actually have the right-of-way...stop it. Most of the time the other driver can't see you in your car from glare on your windshield or from it being dark anyway. So just don't. Follow traffic laws and right-of-way.
- Wrong way in parking lots: Please don't drive down the wrong way in parking lots. It is just disruptive and annoying. And while I'm stating this...people...put your shopping carts in the receptacle for them...don't leave them where-ever in the parking lot.
- Shoulder turning: The shoulder of a road is NOT a turning lane. Please just slow down and make a turn correctly.
- No rolling stops: When coming to a stop sign, actually come to a complete stop. Then go when it is your turn. Merely slowing down is not a stop. And too often people will do rolling-stops (which are a traffic violation), and then go through the intersection out of turn. Annoying.
- No 'borrowed' stops: When I stop at an intersection...that is not your stop. You still have to make you own complete stop at the intersection. Too often have I seen cars use the stop the car in front of them made as their stop too. Crazy annoying and unsafe, especially if they aren't looking and they get in cross-traffic's way.
- Pedestrians have the right of way: Pedestrians ALWAYS have the right of way...even when they are jay-walking. So, if someone starts walking at the crosswalk...they get to go before you (the driver) does. They don't have to take turns with you, like other cars may have to.
- Use seat-belts: It is just safer for you, should you get in an accident.
- No texting!: Just don't.
UPDATE: Another friend of mine kindly asked what we were doing talking on the cell-phone in the first place while driving. I've seen the statistics on driving while on the phone, and I agree they don't look very good. I've seen people on cellphones change lanes without looking, run red-lights, and be distracted in other ways by their conversation. I know my friend mentioned in this article uses a hands-free earpiece...but still...I acknowledge that driving while on the phone is less safe. Perhaps it is one of those things I've just come to accept about driving (that cellphone use is permitted in the Ozarks). I admit I don't feel unsafe talking on the phone, just as if they were in the car having a conversation...but it doesn't surprise me that many areas make laws to prevent cellphone use while driving.
In the Ozarks it is mind-boggling to me that the police do not cite people for traffic violations all the time. Here the police seem to let ridiculous speeding occur without batting an eye while they are in with the traffic...but later will set up speed-traps. They don't seem to notice all the traffic violations that are common right around them as they are in traffic. I don't understand. I'm not asking them to cite everything they see...but there is VERY commonly gross disregard for traffic laws happening often, so why not cite those people since they are right there??!? In the Springfield/Ozarks area there is presently no shortage of violations that could massively surpass whatever ticket quota the police may have. I wish they would at least ticket the ridiculous traffic violations that are so very common.
Please follow these driving rules. It would make driving so much easier, pleasant, and safe for all of us.