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Driving etiquette refers to the unwritten or unspoken rules drivers follow. The term dates back to the early 1900's and the use of horse-drawn carriages. Driving etiquette typically involves being courteous and staying alert, which varies by vehicle, situation and location (e.g., etiquette for driving an F-1 race car has different rules than driving an RV). Failure to adhere to this behavior can cause an increased risk of legal consequences, road collisions, trauma and road rage.
Driving etiquette can extend beyond in-vehicle actions: When a courteous driver scrapes the fender or inflicts minor damage to a parked car without its owner present, he leaves a note giving his name, telephone number, and the name of his insurance company. If the owner is present, the courteous driver exchanges insurance information politely and contacts the proper authorities. Breaches in driving etiquette can often be addressed cordially with a simple and immediate expression of apology. Its guiding principle is "one good turn deserves another", and is considered a vital part of responsible driving. Speeding and aggressive driving, examples of poor driving etiquette, have been cited as negative factors related to rural highways. Drivers need driving etiquette education to lower the risk of causing accidents.
Driving etiquette by country
People have driven vehicles for well over 3,000 years in China. As a result, traffic can at times be chaotic, and some road courtesies are often ignored. Taxi and bus drivers will commonly aim their vehicles at pedestrians in order to get them to move out of the way more quickly, with regular honking of car horns as the norm.
In France, it is common for drivers to nudge other vehicles to fit into a tight parking space. Alcohol limit: For drivers and riders that have less than three years of experience, the alcohol limit is 0.2 grams per liter.
After analyzing the culture of German driving, "taking all this into consideration, it is not surprising that the Germans developed a driving etiquette that varies from the American. The German driver is aggressive".
Loud honking, always ceding the way to vehicles traveling on uphill mountainous passes and passing on blind curves is considered normal driving etiquette in Guatemala.
In Jamaica, drivers will honk their horn to say thank you if let out at a junction.
It is considered good etiquette in Kenya to honk your horn to warn other vehicles of rocks or debris on the road ahead. Turn signals are commonly used to indicate if a driver wishes to be overtaken or not. At night, some drive with their right indicator on so as to show you the extended width of their cars to avoid collision on the narrow roads.
Few Macedonians wear a seat belt, even though it is illegal not to in that country, or "follow any form of land discipline and driving etiquette".
New Zealand drivers generally follow the road rules, it is acknowledged that driving etiquette could be improved. Drivers observe lane lines and give way rules, indicate changes of direction and (mostly) adhere to speed limits. Drivers are courteous and will allow other road users to merge but tend to be impatient.
Puerto Rico's driving "tends towards mild anarchy". Speeding past traffic on the shoulder of a road is "perfectly acceptable". After letting ambulances or police cars overtake them, it is common for drivers to heavily tailgate that car. "Merging into a thoroughfare from a side road is simply a matter of nosing your automobile into traffic until a generous fellow traveler waves you in or until you force them to a screeching halt".
In Turkey, flashing of headlights is commonly used to indicate that the driver intends to go first.
A "strange but pleasant bit of South African driving etiquette" involves "pulling over onto the tarred hard shoulder to let the car behind overtake in safety". This is done regardless of whether there is traffic or not. The overtaker is expected to flick their hazard lights as a sign of saying thanks.
Recently, South Korea has improved its driving etiquette. It has been suggested that it is as if South Korea is learning how to be a modern country.
British driving etiquette includes:
- letting in / out other drivers
- pulling in behind parked cars, when the road ahead is too narrow for two cars to pass.
Although the Highway Code advises against flashing a vehicle's lights in most situations, many drivers use it to communicate with other drivers, such as to let them in to a stream of traffic. Due to this disconnect between rules and practice, some scammers use flashing lights to scam other drivers for insurance money, by making them think they are being let out.
72% of Americans believe that driving etiquette has declined over the last 10 years; however, nowhere near enough to be considered as chaotic as in countries like Russia and India.
Examples of poor driving etiquette
- "Nudging" pedestrians
- Involves drivers coaxing pedestrians who are trying to cross a crosswalk by honking or crowding them.
- Elongated/excessive honking
- Honking is acceptable in certain situations, however it becomes excessive when it involves, for instance, honking at a car that is already signaling to make a turn, or at a car with the hazards blinking (the car may be in poor mechanical shape or there is a problem on the road ahead of the driver). Also involves honking when there are other cars in front of the car in front of you, or at a red light. It is sometimes used to bully other drivers into increasing their speed, especially when they are already at or over the speed limit, but in this instance, it is also accompanied by tailgating. This is normally used by aggressive, high-strung drivers.
- Involves driving dangerously close to the vehicle ahead (often in an attempt to encourage them to increase their speed). This action can distract the operator of the forward vehicle and reduces the stopping time of the rear vehicle in case of sudden speed changes. This is generally used by aggressive drivers. Additionally, this may affect the driver of the forward car emotionally, sometimes to the point the offended driver may consider soaring to illegal speeds in an attempt to escape, which in turn creates an additional aggressive driver.
- Double parking
- Double-parked vehicles can disrupt traffic flow, causing other motorists to navigate their way around them.
- Driving in busy areas with high beams on
- At night this action can blind oncoming traffic, making it more difficult for vehicles to safely follow the road. When following another vehicle, glare from this action can reduce the effectiveness of the forward vehicle's mirrors — reducing situational awareness and increasing the likelihood of an accident.
- Refusing to yield right-of-way to other vehicles
- Merging vehicles must accelerate or brake unsafely or can be forced off the road at the end of a merging lane due to this action.
- Driving with loud, distracting music
- Reduces the driver's ability to hear and react to noises around the vehicle (including emergency-vehicle sirens).
- Driving a vehicle with snow and ice covering it
- Can endanger others if the snow-covered vehicle reaches highway speeds and chunks of ice/snow fly off behind the vehicle. Snow and ice can also slide down from the roof to block visibility from the rear window in the car, reducing the driver's situational awareness.
- Changing lanes and turning without use of signals
- Increases the likelihood of an accident by surprising other drivers with a lane change or turn unexpectedly.
- Cutting off other motorists
- Refers to a vehicle that enters a lane without proper caution, leaving a small amount of distance between other surrounding vehicles. This can be caused by unawareness of surroundings, impatience, and/or aggressiveness.
- Driving below the speed of traffic in center or passing lanes
- Causes a disruption in traffic flow as other vehicles must either slow to match the offending vehicle's speed, and may be forced to pass on the wrong side.
- Slowly passing another vehicle/Using cruise control to pass a vehicle rather than accelerating
- Causes a disruption for other vehicles in the passing lane for the duration of the time the passing car occupies it.
- Distracted driving (includes talking/texting on the phone, smoking, drinking, and eating)
- Reduces driver awareness of the road and the likelihood of collision increase has been linked to drunk driving.
Although in some cases they pose no actual threat or danger, some actions are seen as unpleasant or pet peeves and thus classified as bad driving etiquette.
Ed Janicki of the October 1981 issue of Scouting, cites the following as driving pet peeves:
- drivers ahead of [him] who do not use turn signals before making a turn
- teenage drivers who blare out music on the radio while they wait at a stop sign
- women who apply lipstick at a red light
- drivers who park in the middle of a yellow line ... taking up two car spaces
- vans that tailgate [him] on the freeway
- drivers who zigzag from left lane to middle lane to right lane...and exceed the speed limit because they're behind schedule
Vicky DeCoster, author of The Wacky World of Womanhood, cites "driving around the parking lot for an hour in order to get the closest spot" and insinuating that constantly pressing down on the pedal counts as exercise as driving pet peeve of hers.
The poem "Car Complaints and Pet Peeves", by Michael Burdick, expresses the perspective of a car which explains how certain pet peeves cause it to "rust" and "overheat" etc. The piece mentions the following as driving pet peeves:
- traffic jams
- cars stopping traffic to allow cars to enter traffic
- cars not following zipper method when merging
- parking-lot induced dents and scratches
- people who drive irresponsibly and use their handicap plates as an excuse
- pulling out in front of fellow drivers
- driving well below the posted speed limits
- weaving from lane to lane
- driving too close to the centreline
- terrible roads
- flying debris from uncovered trucks
- litter on the road
- people blinding oncoming traffic with headlights
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