Good Driving HabitsDriving 101: What Good Driving Habits Have You Forgotten Since Driving School?

Presumably, if you have a driver’s license, you passed written and hands-on driving tests to earn it. But if you’re like me, that may have been a long time ago! In this blog, I thought I’d revisit a few of the basic “Driving 101” lessons that we all learned when we started out with good driving habits, but may have forgotten over time. Hopefully, this will keep you safer on the road (or at least spare you a ticket)!

Stop Signs:

Believe it or not, those big red signs that say “Stop” really mean STOP! I see people rolling through the stop signs at my kids’ school all the time. Not only is that illegal, it’s a hazard to both the kids and to other drivers.  When you see a stop sign…

  • Anticipate the stop by slowing down.
  • Come to a complete stop.
  • Recognize the type of intersection. Is it four-way? A “T-stop?”
  • Look both ways for traffic. Then look again.
  • Are there any hazards blocking your line of vision? Make sure there’s not a pedestrian or a biker on their way to the intersection.
  • Obey the right of way rules. (I’ll cover that below)
  • Cross the intersection at a reasonable speed. (Don’t gun it on the heels of the pedestrians who may have just walked across.)

Right of Way:

We all do it: You reach an intersection with other drivers and think, “What was that rule? Who has the right of way?”

Here it is: “If you reach an intersection at close to the same time as another vehicle, the vehicle that reaches the intersection last must yield the right of way. If you reach the intersection at the same time, the driver on the right has the right of way.”

There are different rules for just about every type of intersection you may approach. Review this super-short video that I found on YouTube for a quick refresher and build up your good driving habits.

Of course, as proven by our own driving, not everyone knows the rules! And we often get in such a hurry that if the other driver pauses, we just take the right of way. Don’t be that driver. I encourage you to treat every intersection as though there are children nearby and pause, let other drivers take their turn first if they seem antsy, and just be calm! Our roads will be safer.

School Zones:

Speaking of children, pay attention to school zones! I even see parents speeding through their own children’s school zones. I don’t understand that behavior. Every parent knows that kids can dart out into traffic. They jump. They burst into runs. They are unpredictable. The slow driving areas through school zones truly save lives! This goes beyond the basics of good driving habits; when you speed through a school zone, you’re risking a child’s life. Are you ok with that?

Take these steps when driving through school zones:

  • Note the big yellow sign and, perhaps, the flashing light.
  • Slow down. All the way down to the posted speed limit.
  • Notice that there are probably all kinds of cars parked (parents dropping off kids) blocking your line of sight.
  • Expect increased traffic. Schools are busy places!
  • Watch for buses! If they are dropping off kids right in front of you, you’re in for a wait. But just sit tight and let those kiddos get to school safely.
  • Obey crossing guards, cones and other visual cues that are there to keep children safe.

If you ignore these rules, hopefully the worst that will happen is that you’ll get a ticket. Take note: fines are very high in school zones. Usually hundreds of dollars. Is it really worth the extra two or three minutes you’ll gain by risking children’s lives?

Learning to Drive

Our own Eli Ohlhausen, ever a source of interesting stories, had this memory to share about one of his first driving experiences…
“When I was a kid, maybe 12 or 13 years old, my parents got into a wreck; their car was hit by a police car that was in hot pursuit. They were fine but the car was totaled and was towed back to our house. The insurance company told us that they would send a tow truck to pick it up but it would be a few days. We lived in a very remote area, so I started driving that trashed car all over our property, up and down the roads. I even tried to jump it! That car was well and truly totaled by the time the insurance company picked it up!”

Road Sign Colors:

I remember when I was a kid learning to drive and I discovered that every sign’s color had meaning beyond just making it noticeable. It was like another language opened up to me. But do you remember what those colors mean?

  • Red: regulatory. You must follow the directions on a red sign (i.e. Stop).
  • Yellow: warning
  • Green: guide
  • Blue: services
  • Orange: construction
  • Brown: recreation
  • Fluorescent green: school zone

Highway Driving:

I was driving on a highway over the weekend and came across one of those left-lane drivers going five miles under the speed limit, just moseying along in the left-hand lane, oblivious to the cars piled up behind it and the people who, in anger, swerved around him.

Now, of course, the people who got angry should not take out their frustrations by driving erratically, but left-lane drivers should know that they need to move over and that they are making the roads less safe by holding up traffic. I’ve been behind people whom I think are literally behaving like hall monitors, thinking that they are keeping traffic at a safe speed for everyone by putzing along in the left-hand lane.  That is not their job! We have police for that task. No one is safer when you decide to block traffic in the passing lane.

Here are some other good driving habits to keep in mind when driving on the highway:

  • Maintain a consistent speed
  • Maintain a safe following distance (especially around motorcycles)
  • Keep right and leave the passing lane open (see above rant)

With school back in session, the roads are much busier than they were just a few weeks ago. Please stay safe out there and practice good driving skills!

First Fender Bender

And another story from Eli…
“My first fender bender happened when I was in my early 20s. I lived in California and it was nighttime. I was driving a big pickup truck. I came to a major boulevard where parked cars were blocking my view but I saw wall of traffic coming, so I backed up a little to wait. While I was waiting, a guy with a walker had to go through the intersection, so I backed up some more… and it turns out there was a tiny sports car sitting right behind me. I couldn’t even see her headlights she was so close!”
(Take note! If you drive a sports car, don’t park on the heels of a big truck!)