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Driving Etiquette & Safety Tips

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To be truly safe while driving, you'll have to learn how to share the road with others. Follow these general driving etiquette rules that will help to make highways a less stressful and much more safe place to travel.

Driving Etiquette & Safety Tips

Maintain a Safe Following Distance

Tailgating isn't just dangerous—it's also disrespectful to all the other motorists. Remember, other drivers have just as much right to the road as you do and shouldn't have to feel bullied because they're occupying space where you'd like to be.

To maintain a safe following distance, try to follow the 3-second rule as often as possible. To test, pick an object on the road up ahead, such as a sign. When the vehicle directly in front of you passes it, begin to count. If it takes 3 seconds or more for you to reach that same object, you're at a safe following distance.

Don't Cruise in the Passing Lane

While a lot of drivers may think of it as “the fast lane," the left lane generally should only be used for passing other vehicles. Cruising in the left lane, especially if cars begin to pass you on the right, creates a dangerous environment on the road.

Proper etiquette states that you should always drive the speed limit and only use the left lane when overtaking a slower moving vehicle.

Monitor the Use of Your High Beams

At night, high beams may be necessary to increase visibility and avoid potential hazards—especially when you're traveling away from the city. However, using your high beams when other motorists are in sight can be dangerous. It can cause temporary road blindness, as oncoming drivers can see nothing except the glaring white lights coming their way.

Similarly, if you have your high beams on (or you've installed extremely bright HID headlights), you can blind drivers in front of you as you come up behind them and shine your lights into their rear-view and side-view mirrors.

If you see another pair of headlights or taillights on the road, make it a habit to switch off your high beams to avoid blinding other drivers.

Always Use Your Turn Signals

Using your turn signals lets other motorists know your intentions. If you begin to turn suddenly without signaling, drivers around you may not be expecting it—and it could cause an accident.

The recommended distance from state to state can vary—for example, in California it's recommended to begin using turn signals at least 100 feet before you begin to make a right or left turn.

Check with your state's traffic laws to see their required or recommended usage of turn signals... you can often find this information in your state Driver Handbook.

Distracted Driving No-No's

Distracted driving puts other motorists at risk. To avoid disregarding the safety of others, you should focus solely on driving while you're behind the wheel.

Things you should try to avoid while operating a vehicle include:

  • Talking on hand-held devices.
  • Texting.
  • Eating.
  • Reaching for items.
  • Applying makeup.
  • Shaving.
  • Operating music devices, such as iPods.

For more, visit our guide to the 3 types of distracted driving, and take the pledge to stop driving distracted.

Keep Your Passengers Safe

When you operate a vehicle, you take on a responsibility for all the passengers inside the vehicle. Whether it's ensuring children are properly secured in the correct safety seat or practicing defensive driving habits, making sure your passengers feel and remain safe should be your number one priority.

At a minimum, here's what you should do:

  • Make sure all passengers are wearing safety belts.
  • Obey speed limit signs.
  • No sharp turns around corners.
  • No distracted driving.
  • Avoid reckless behavior.

Give Pedestrians Space

Pedestrians inside cross walks deserve the time and space needed to cross the road safely. Being an impatient driver by inching forward to complete your turn as soon as there's a foot of space isn't the right thing to do.

Instead, give pedestrians plenty of space before you proceed. Also be aware that in some states it's illegal for a vehicle to enter a cross walk while a pedestrian is still inside the white lines—even if they're on the opposite side of the road—and could result in a citation if observed.

Watch Your Speed

Weaving around slower cars is a dangerous practice. But impeding traffic by going too slow can be just as unsafe.

To avoid and accident or causing a traffic jam, it's best to go with the flow of trafficwhich should be right around the speed limit. Anything significantly higher or lower and you'll become a hazard to everyone around you.

Let Others Merge

Freeway ramps are a place for cars to enter and exit safely. When a lot of cars drive in the right lane, traffic can slow, and merging can become difficult.

If you're going to drive in the rightmost lane, expect to have to slow down occasionally to let others merge. Likewise, if someone needs to enter your lane and has on their blinker, let them do so instead of speeding up. It's the courteous thing to do and could help to avoid an accident.

If you'd like even more information about how to remain safe on the roadways, check out our top 5 tips for a stress-free commute.

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