Safer to give way even if it’s your right of way | Daily News

Safer to give way even if it’s your right of way

There are always exceptions to the rule there are many essentials of human conduct that are ruled not by laws or regulations, but rather by common courtesy, principles, egotism and social behaviour.

In the same vein courtesy is an important part of defensive driving as well as a mark of the professional, polite driver. The defensive driver knows that strict observance of traffic laws will go a long way toward preventing accidents. They also know that courteous driving gives them an extra degree of safety in these days of high accident potential on the highways.

The same is true for interactions between motorists, unfortunately, the insulating quality of an automobile retards or distorts these interactions. Most motorists have witnessed driving etiquette indiscretions almost on a daily basis. The truth is, there are very few exemplary drivers on the road today. No matter how great we think our driving skills are, when sharing the road, we all commit the occasional driving gaffe from time to time.

As a general rule Sri Lankans are a relaxed, easy going, polite and well mannered lot. We leave home all smiles, kiss the kids goodbye, give the neighbours a cheery wave. But all that changes dramatically when we slip behind the wheel of our vehicle. What is it that transforms the laid-back, tolerant character of ours into raging road monsters the moment we back out of our driveway and hit the road?

The sad truth is that we Sri Lankans are at the lowest end of the heap when it comes to road manners. There are few things in life I find more annoying than driving in Sri Lanka, Colombo in particular. Simply put I have found that the majority of drivers in this neck of the woods are, for the most part, idiots!

The biggest thing that irritates me is the complete lack of driving etiquette in our nation. I am not talking about people zipping around at high speeds. That really does not bother me at all. What I am talking about are the people who disregard any and all driving laws and driving etiquette that is supposed to be common knowledge.

There are certain behavioural norms that we are used to following in regular interactions with other people. But all that seems to go out of the window when you are on the road. Road rage is far more commonly discussed these days than driver etiquette, but it is our manners while driving that are even more important.

Always leave on time. If you are rushed and racing to get to an appointment or meeting, you will be more stressed out and far more likely to ignore proper driver etiquette which could cause some serious problems. Allow people in distress to pull up in front of you from ‘no-man’s land’. It really will not delay your journey if you let one or two cars get into the line and you will save yourself and someone else a lot of frustration. Slow down. Going too fast means you could miss a sign or signal and end up in an accident. This is not just about etiquette, it is also about safety.

Give advance notice. If you are going to turn, be sure to turn on your signal ahead of time, not just as you are about to make the turn. This lets the vehicles around you react appropriately. Dim your headlights. When coming up on another car, keep in mind that your bright full beam can blind the other driver, whether reflecting in his rear-view mirror or shining directly into the oncoming car.

The ability to drive a vehicle with courtesy and consideration for pedestrians and other motorists is one sure sign of a professional driver. Rude drivers bulldoze their way through traffic, race to beat a changing light or speed through crowded areas. If you perform any of these perilous manoeuvres, you are a poor example of a driver.

But people always ask: What does it mean to be courteous? How can we be courteous when the other guy is always trying to get the jump on your vehicle? Patience is the keyword here. Do not get caught up in any ‘me first’ and ‘my road’ situations. In all cases, yield the right of way.

In every situation, the right of way is something that is to be given, not taken. If the other driver is not following the rules, let him have the right of way, even if it really belongs to you. Otherwise, you will be gambling with the lives of your passengers and yourself. Give a little ground. Trying to squeeze two or more objects into the same space just does not work. Believe it. Many drivers have tried and have met with a violent crash.

Courtesy means respect for others as well as yourself. Being self centred and bull-headed while you are behind the wheel is asking for trouble.

Why not develop a courteous attitude? Obeying traffic rules, yielding the right of way, signalling your intentions and driving a safe vehicle are just some of the courtesies we professional drivers can extend. Traffic rules were established to minimise the road hazards and to give every driver a fair break.

Racing through stop signs, speeding and driving to the left of the centre line are all examples of a poor driving attitude.

Do not lose your temper. Take deep breaths or even pull over if you need to. Getting angry and giving in to road rage will only cause more trouble than it is really worth.

Move to one side when emergency vehicles come through. It might be tempting to race ahead, particularly if your turnoff is coming up, but keep in mind why they are in hurry and pull over. Let buses cut in. They are on a schedule and you will be able to overtake them at the next stop, which will not take much time off your commuting, but could make a big difference to those who travel in public transport.

Grant pedestrians every courtesy due to them while they are crossing in front of vehicles or at zebra crossing intersections. By law, as well as by the rules of courtesy, pedestrians have the right to expect the driver to permit them to reach the pavement safely. During wet or slushy weather, the courteous driver will take precautions to avoid ‘splashing’ pedestrians.

Driving courteously means keeping and maintaining a courteous and safe distance and allowing faster traffic to overtake you. The professional driver knows that situations often arise as to who has the right-of-way. If drivers or pedestrians jump the gun in these situations, an accident is bound to happen. That is why courtesy - the way-of-right rather than the right-of-way - is so important.

Being polite on the road is just as important as having good table manners. How you act will affect the people around you and driving etiquette will also affect how you go through your day. Being nice to people is proven to make you feel better and boost morale. So it`s a good way to start the day off right, by letting someone move into the line ahead of you during rush hour.

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