If, like me, you suspect there’s been a drop in driving standards, you won’t be surprised to hear that, according to a survey by road-safety charity Brake, 80% of drivers have felt threatened by an overtaking manoeuvre.
However, we can all do something about the decline by driving more courteously and setting an example.
One of my bug-bears is the refusal of UK motorists to ‘zip’ together ('zipping' is where two lanes merge; the idea is that each lane takes it in turn to go into the single lane, like the teeth on a zip) at the point the roadworks start; our overly elaborate courtesy in queueing miles before we have to simply doubles the time it takes to reach the head of the queue – and there is a special place in hell for lorry drivers who sit and block the outside lane...
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Yet I, like you, am too shy and modest to drive to the head of the waiting line of cars in order to encourage others to do the same, but I’ve started waving braver souls in with a smile in the hope it will become the norm.
And if someone snarls at me in a fit of road rage, I acknowledge them with a raised hand and a rueful expression; if you’ve got the right mind-set, why worry who is right and who is wrong?
I also let lorries and buses out (let’s face it, they’re going to anyway…), pull back into lane one as soon as I can, leave a decent gap in front of me so I don’t have to brake when someone forces their way into my lane, and blink my hazard warnings lights briefly as a ‘thank you’ when someone has been nice to me.
None of this makes me a saint. Just less stressed.
How to avoid a lane-hog fine!
Try these little changes to your driving habits; they may help to make life on the road more pleasant.
Let other cars out of side streets and leave enough space to allow them to merge in front of you at busy junctions.
Indicate in plenty of time - indicators are there to signal an intention, not an action: give other drivers time to react.
Acknowledge when someone pulls over to let you through, e.g. when cars are parked at the side of the road. Even if it is your right of way, still hold up a hand to thank them.
Always give way to more vulnerable road users, regardless of who's in the right.
Let the bus or Royal Mail van out; chances are they'll be pulling over again very soon, so your kindness won't slow you down for too long!
Wait until the outside lane is clear before you overtake on motorways and dual carriageways. Just because there is space for you to squeeze out, that doesn’t justify forcing other cars to brake.
Pull into the centre lane of the motorway (if it is safe to do so) if a car is on the hard shoulder.
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Don't change lanes so much. If you hit a traffic jam, try staying in the same lane throughout the length of it. You'll be amazed how often the flow evens out and all lanes move at much the same speed - and even if they don't, the time you'll lose is more than compensated for by the reduced stress you'll feel.
Smile at other drivers and pedestrians more!
Remember - driving courteously won’t necessarily increase your journey times, but it will reduce your stress levels – possibly the most important benefit of all.
Next article: How to overtake safely >>>