18 April 2011

How to Not Be a Jerk: On the Highway

Writing an article on how to not be a jerk on a Snow Day was therapeutic. I finally got to say everything I have wanted to shout at people for several winters. Since then, the snow has (finally) gone away and life went back to normal. Normal enough that it brought into focus the other aspects of life in which one must contend with the jerkiness of others. Jerks are everywhere, but rarely do you find a place that has as many jerks as the highway does.

#1- Entering the Highway
THE JERK WAY: Jerks are mind-boggling in this situation. They have just finished speeding at 60 in a 45 en route to the entrance ramp of the highway. Upon entering the ramp, they seem to forget where the gas pedal is/how it works and coast slowly to the end of the ACCELERATION LANE, at which point they stop.
THE RIGHT WAY: It's called an ACCELERATION LANE for a reason, dimwits! The acceleration lane is a handy little invention that allows drivers entering the highway to bring their vehicle up to the speed of the other drivers already on the highway. The worst possible thing you could do in an acceleration is stop. Furthermore, you do not need to wait until the lane disappears to merge. If there is an opening for you to merge, take it! Don't be scared, it'll all be okay in the end.

This sign means "Get out of the way, more cars are coming"
#2- Merging
THE JERK WAY: Multiple lane roads provide a veritable smorgasbord of opportunities to fully exercise your jerkiness. Once you finally make it onto the highway, you do 75 in the far right lane, not allowing anyone else to merge onto the road. Occasionally, someone gets in your way and after tailgating them for a few minutes, you finally decide to go around them. You don't use your turn signals, after all, you're not turning. Eventually, you end up in the far left lane, cruising at somewhere around 90 when you see your exit is coming up. No worries, you have plenty of time to get over to the far right, so your best bet is to wait until the de-acceleration lane forms, that jerkily cut across three lanes of traffic to make your exit.
THE RIGHT WAY: First and foremost, stay in the middle lane. It allows other cars to enter and exit the highway. If you're not sure if you will be exiting on the left or right, the middle lane allows you to make that last-minute jump without cutting off every other lane. When you do merge, be sure to turn on your turn signal, check to make sure the lane is clear, complete your merge, and then turn off the turn signal. Being aware of your surroundings in merging situations will greatly reduce the likelihood of an accident.

#3- Distance & Speed
THE JERK WAY: Drive as fast as possible. If someone in front of you is going too slow, ride their bumper until they either speed up or move out of the way. Nothing is more important than you and where you need to go.
THE RIGHT WAY: Hey, I'm no angel, and rarely do I drive the speed limit. I tend to match the general traffic flow of the road. If most cars are doing 70, I'll hover around 70. If traffic is closer to 50, I'm doing 50. In general, that's the safest way to go. Regardless of speed, keeping a good three to four car lengths behind the car in front of me has given me ample reaction time to avoid dangerous situations (i.e. cargo flying off of a truck). If I need to pass someone, I follow the merging rules above, and always pass on the left, never on the right.

As with Snow Days, driving on the highway could be a much safer and more pleasant experience were people more considerate of others. Yet there are countless ways people behave jerkily on highways. Feel free to comment below with some of your highway driving pet peeves.

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