Tuesday, November 09, 2010

The Rules Of The Road: A Plea for Sanity on North Carolina Roadways

Greetings fair North Carolinians.

  I have had the pleasure of living in western North Carolina for the past 25 months, and for the most part I have had a great time.  The landscape is beautiful, the culture has a lot of character, and the people are fantastically nice.  You are also, however, some of the worst drivers I have ever shared a road with.  Seriously, no joke, y'all are horrible behind the wheel.  This is coming from someone who has driven in Taiwan and Honduras.  You are not as crazy as Chinese and Honduran drivers, but you are more dangerous.  The difference?  In Taiwan you expect chaos and sudden changes from fellow drivers sharing the roads, and you learn to adapt.  In North America you expect order, that rules will be followed, and one should not expect chaos at every turn.  In North Carolina you get the worst of both these worlds.

  Don't fret, my North Carolinian friends! This post is a small refresher course that will help you remember some of the contents of the North Carolina New Drivers Handbook, and some friendly advice that will help correct some of the major (understatement) mistakes I've seen (frequently) while driving on your very fine roads.  Worry not! Sane driving can be a label used to describe you once again!

So, lets begin:

  • Signalling.  You may not be aware of this, but in your car there are little blinking lights at the front and back on both sides of the vehicle.  These are usually controlled by a little stick protruding from the left side of the steering column.  Go ahead, try it.  Move it up and down. Get used to the blinking sound.  Thrill at the shiny lights coming from the corners of your car.

    You will notice that if you move the stick up, the lights on the right side of the car will start to blink.  If you move it down, the left side will blink.  Those blinking lights are called turn signals. It is OK to use these signals.  Using them does not hurt them.  It does not cost extra money to use them.  They are not there for decoration. They are useful. Using them is good.  Good is, well, good.  Be good, for goodness sake.

    According to your state drivers license handbook you are required to use your turn signals every time you switch lanes.  Yep thats right! Every. Single. Time.  Turning left at the intersection?  Put on your left turn signal.  Turning right into Bojangles?  Use the right turn signal.  Merging into another lane? Signal! Heading onto an off-ramp? Signal!  Turning into a driveway? Signal.

    I think you get the point, but just to underline the general concept here, let me be clear:  Signalling IS A GOOD THING.  Do it!.
  • Speaking of merging into lanes, it is a grand idea to check your blind spots, as well as signalling, BEFORE you start the merge, and if there is a car already in the lane, STAY IN YOUR LANE!  I cannot stress this enough.  Physics states that two solid bodies cannot share the same physical space without a lot of crunching and screaming going on.  To be clear, crunching and screaming is bad.  Don't be bad.

    To underline the problem here, I have been driving for a while now, and on some of the busiest highways in the world.  The only time someone has tried to merge into my car was once outside Cincinnati Ohio, and 3 times on 321 going from Lenoir to Hickory.  This is not a good ratio for y'all.
  • When you are turning you should always turn into the closest lane and then move over to other lanes as required (see the next point).  Yep, one should not switch lanes in the middle of the intersection.  That often leads to the violations of physical space mentioned above, and that violation is still bad.
  • Lastly, and this is indeed a plea for sanity, when you are driving down multi lane highways you may see signs that say "Slow traffic keep right".  What this should indicate to you is that slow traffic should keep right.  I know its a stretch, but if you read it a few times you can get the general gist of the signs message.  This means that if you are not actually passing another car, you should be in the right lane.  If you are in the left lane and someone comes up behind you, flashing his lights, and swearing loudly at you, you are in the wrong lane.  This is your queue to signal and merge into the next closest lane to the right (and repeat if there are three or more lanes).  To be clear, it is NOT ok to go 10 mph below the speed limit and camp out in the left lane.  No one likes a slow camper. 
Please remember that I love you, North Carolina.  You are some of the most fantastic people I have ever met.  You just have some issues when it comes to operating motor vehicles in a sane manner, bless your hearts.  Hopefully you will read this post and see it as a gently reminder to obey those rules of the road and become a safer driver.  Also hopefully you are not driving when you read this :)

Just to show there are no hard feelings, here is a funny picture of a cat for your amusement:

Be safe out there!