Driving Do’s and Dont’s for new arrivals in the US
As someone who has driven well over 150,000 miles across America, including most metros and rural America, these are some of my observations and tips, which I hope will help you become a good and SAFE driver, whether you are commuting to and from work, or exploring some of the most beautiful and scenic roadways of this great country.
Remember. You represent the country you are from. If you are a bad driver, that’s the impression you create for the rest of your country men and women in America (and people remember the not so good stuff more than the good stuff).
1) MERGING ONTO A FREEWAY: When you are merging onto the freeway, it is your responsibility to match the speed of traffic. Trying to get on at a higher or lower speed disrupts traffic. It makes the other person have to judge if they need to speed up and pass you or slow down for you or change lanes to avoid you. Each of those affect the rest of traffic.
I say this because, a lot of drivers don’t accelerate on the on-ramp to a highway—instead, they maintain their speed on the on-ramp and accelerate AFTER they’ve ENTERED the highway. Please, PLEASE do not do this.
2) Be an engaged driver. Put down the phone, book, whatever, at the red light and pay attention. Notice the lines on the road. Move up to the line at the light. Be engaged with driving while driving.
3) Use your turn signals. Be predictable. The people behind you are in their own cars and don’t read minds.
4) Space yourself appropriately: Do not ride people’s asses (meaning, do not tail them). Give a car length or while in motion (the official guidance is 1 car length for every 10 miles of your speed. 50 miles = 5 cars length).
5) Check for cars before switching lanes. I see this all the time: some one in the right lane puts on his/her turn signal and just starts moving over into the other lane. Put the turn lights on BEFORE you start moving over to the other lane.
6) Allow others to merge. That turned on signal doesn’t mean speed up. Don’t be the douche that drives in their blind spot and then won’t let them in when they want to get over.
7) Don’t pace the car next to you. Known as the “holding hands” in the southern states. Either pass or fall back. Don’t drive the same speed as the car next to you especially when you are in the RIGHT lane. It blocks both lanes of traffic and prevents the faster cars from getting around you.
8) Slow drivers, get out of the left lane. LEFT LANE IS FOR PASSING. How do you know if you are going too slow? When people start passing you on the right. Especially if it’s more than one car.
8) Move over into the turn lane where it starts, not half way down. All turn lanes have a start. Start moving into the lane at that point instead of waiting until you see the solid lines and then moving over.
9) If you pull out in front of someone, don’t STALL! Don’t pull out in front of another car and putter along. Get up to the speed limit.
10) Don’t block intersections. Don’t enter an intersection if you’re not sure you’ll be able to pass through it.
Scenario: the traffic beyond the light is stopped, but you have the green so you, and the two cars behind you, go into the intersection…and then have to stop. Then the light changes and the traffic in the other direction can’t do anything because you and the other two cars have just blocked the intersection totally.
This is how traffic jams are created. It’s also a surefire way to create road rage. In NYC and many other metros, you WILL get points (those points are given to high risk drivers and you’ll pay more of car insurance too)
11) If you are at a light, please space your car appropriately. There is no need for a bus length between you and the next car. Again, this is how to create a traffic jam. No need to tail, either.
12) Don’t be afraid to pass a semi (common term for 18 wheelers or Long Trucks) on the highway. Yes they are big, they can be scary, but if you speed up a little, you’ll get past them in no time.
13) Don’t cut off semis, either. They don’t have the stop-on-a-dime abilities your car does.
14) Invest in a pair of sunglasses. They don’t have to be expensive. But it might just save on the sunny day accidents that seem to happen more often than the rainy day ones.
15) Parking lots are not highways. A parking lot is not the time to go faster than what you were doing on the actual road. People walk in parking lot, so be careful. Also, follow the arrows in the parking lot and don’t drive in the opposite direction of the arrow.
16) Don’t cut across the empty spots in a parking lot. Sometimes we all do this, but make sure that there are no other cars coming your way.
I’ve actually had to honk at people who have done this and were going to cause an accident. You should see how surprised they were. Not cool.
I hope this guide helps you become a better driver, quickly.
Feel free to ask questions, so others may benefit.