Clippings by Andy Kirkaldy: Modern rules for the road, rotaries
Many drivers curse, shake their fists and make certain other impolite gestures at other drivers, including at me, to express their impatience and frustration.
OK, I won’t claim to be a perfect driver, but those other folks, let me tell you…
Let’s face it: Most of us think we’re pretty good behind the wheel, and that it’s other drivers who are dangerous and incompetent.
As the late wise philosopher George Carlin put it, “Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac?”
And there’s nothing like navigating three four-way-stop intersections on my daily commute and a recent trip to Massachusetts to reinforce an opinion that some motorists, even if they’re not maniacs or idiots, require a certain amount of remedial instruction. And I’m here to help, of course.
Let’s start with those four-way stops. As another philosopher, Barbie, once stated, “Math class is tough.” But even the Massachusetts man who lost a finger on a golf course during a recent altercation with another golfer can count to four on one hand.
Here are the rules for dealing with a four-way stop:
1. First come, first served. Unless there is eye contact and a friendly wave. Really, it’s true! This happens, at least in Vermont. But if you see a driver do that in Massachusetts, don’t trust him.
2. Look at the other cars when approaching. See which ones arrive before you. Wait your turn. Actually, three is as high as you need to count. You can do it! At least if you put down that illegal phone.
3. The value or size of your car does not change the right-of-way rule. This means you, drivers of German sedans and SUVs the size of dairy barns.
4. Your personal circumstances do not matter to other drivers, unless you have a flashing light bar on top of your vehicle and have just been called out to handle a fire, medical emergency or domestic disturbance. We do not care if you are late for work. Wait your turn. Back in the day the Middlebury College fieldhouse equipment room used to have this sign: “Your lack of planning and foresight do not constitute an emergency for me.”
5. These rules largely also apply to rotaries. Oops, I mean “roundabouts.” My formative Massachusetts years just popped up there for a second. For roundabouts, simply change Rule 1 to state the vehicles in the circle have the right of way. But if you are in Mass and are approaching a rotary, be wicked careful. To borrow a phrase from a great 1969 movie: “Rules? Rules in a rotary?”
Next, regulations for two-lane roads:
1. If you are looking to enter the road from another road or a driveway and you plan to drive below the speed limit and you see a car coming, do not pull out and cut it off. Especially after looking at oncoming vehicles and thinking about it. This rule applies especially to drivers of 8-year-old Buicks and Chryslers.
2. If you are in a line of traffic behind a slower car, say five deep in an eight-vehicle train with no hope of passing the several cars in front of you, relax, enjoy the ballgame, VPR or country music on the radio. And back off from the vehicle in front of you far enough so that you can no longer read its radio display. This rule applies, again, to many drivers of luxury and domestic imports and also to a number of owners of domestic full-size late-model pickups with tool bins, rifle racks and dual rear wheels.
Finally, we must discuss Interstate etiquette. If there is such a thing. But here are a few simple rules:
1. If you are driving below the speed limit, stick to the right lane. Those people waving and gesturing at you are not expressing their gratitude.
2. If a driver using cruise control passes your vehicle, and you then in turn overtake that driver and slow down, and the driver with cruise control then passes you again without changing speeds, you may not then pass the cruise-control driver again and glare at said driver or make any gestures unacceptable in polite society. This rule is based on multiple true stories. Corollary: Drivers who have trouble maintaining a consistent speed should consider relying on cruise control, or at least pay more attention to the task at hand and not to their phones, cigarette lighters or Happy Meals.
3. If you are flying along at 85 or 90 miles per hour on a 65 mph highway, you may not gesticulate wildly and tailgate mercilessly because you must slow down when a vehicle with cruise control set at a radar-friendly 73 mph uses the left lane to pass slower traffic.
Addendum: This rule might or might not be based on recent true stories involving an Audi from Quebec or a Mazda3 from Mass. Also, certain elements of this paragraph will be denied to law enforcement as embellishments for the entertainment of the reading public.
Now, I know some readers might disagree with these rules and/or suggestions. But remember, if you think I’m an idiot I probably think you’re a maniac.
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