The joke goes that 98% of people consider themselves good drivers. Driving is such a tangible effort: everyone over the age of 16 can drive. Because that captures such a large percentage of the population, there are a number of ideas about how to drive. As I see it, traffic laws should be obeyed in spirit rather than completely literally.

Basic driving rules:

  • Keep right! If someone is going slower than you would like to go, pass them on the left and return to the right
  • Do not drive on the heel of another car! This goes with number 1 but represents a separate idea to which attention should be paid. do not hover behind a nearby vehicle: it is obnoxious to anyone trying to pass and it is dangerous because you may be in someone’s blind spot.
  • Know the speed limit at all times! Going under the speed limit hurts both you and others on the road. the government chooses a speed limit based on safety concerns and the average speed observed in an area. do not try to circumvent the law and drive at a lower speed–they’ve already set the lower limit for you. Going less than speed limit increases your commute time and likely increases the amount of gasoline wasted on idling. By driving slowly you are also slowing the general flow of traffic so your decision triggers a loss of time for everyone around you.
  • Travel at the speed limit to 7mph over speed limit at all times! In addition to knowing the speed limit, driving at 0-7 mph over the speed limit insulates you from 95% of speeding tickets and gets you places faster. Some basic calculations. One ticket a year costs an average of $100 ($50 administrative + $50 for defensive driving). If you are paid $20 an hour, the ticket is worthwhile if you can save 5 hours of time a year from driving. If you drive an average of 20 miles a day, 300 days a year, then you drive 6000 miles a year. with an average posted speed limit of 45mph, driving an average of 47mph will save 5.67 hours over the course of a year without appreciably increasing your chances to get a ticket. Driving the extra 2mph is clearly worth your effort.
  • Get happy! Leave the road rage at home. If you accomplish this, please tell me how!

The other day Andrea pointed out a disturbing trend: people driving with earphones in (cough iPod cough). Initially, I agreed without much thought; however, she went on to say that the disturbing part is that even people with nice cars are doing it. After she pointed it out, I’ve seen people in all kinds of cars from Fords to Mercedez throwing caution to the wind and driving with deafening music pumping directly into their eardrums. As a corollary, not a full rule, listen to music through your cars radio!

I imagine I’m missing some other rules, but I think this is a good start.