Sharing the Road: What Drivers Need to Know
We all dream of getting our driver’s license when we turn sixteen and being able to have more freedoms to come and go as we please. Driving around with friends and going to places that maybe our parents would not let us go. Unfortunately, at that age, we are naive to the actual responsibility that comes with driving. You are not the only one on the road and others will get in your way, or behave badly while on the road. Everyone is in a hurry today, and because of that, we don’t always obey the rules of the road as we should and we forget that others are around us. In this blog, we are going to give you some pointers that might help you share the roads more efficiently and safely.
Vehicles Which Share the Road with You
There are a number of different types of vehicles that you will encounter while on the road. Many of these vehicles do have laws that help determine what you should do, but some do not and you need to use common sense. Here are some of those vehicles you may encounter.
Slow-moving vehicles: You are going to always come across drivers that are slow on the pedal. Now hopefully when you are on a highway, they will be over in the correct lane, however, in town when you are behind them, you will want to keep a safe distance. Riding directly behind someone, in other words, riding their bumper, puts you at risk. Doing this will not make the person go faster and because you are concentrating on not hitting them by riding so close, you are not paying attention to what is going on around you.
Trolleys and Trains: In the bigger cities, you will come across trolleys riding down the middle of streets. These rail vehicles have to follow the same responsibilities on public roads as other vehicles. Due to their size, you should be aware of approaching trolleys before you cross their tracks. Train crossings will sometimes have red lights, and gates, which allow you to be aware of an oncoming train. In certain areas, these are not found, and you will need to be extra careful before crossing these tracks. They will usually have a yield or stop sign. A train will always have the right-of-way, so do not try to beat the train.
Motorcycles and Bicycles: Motorcycles can be a dangerous vehicle on the roads to watch out for. They are small, sometimes quiet and can be invisible in the right spot on the road. Road conditions or weather conditions can change the direction a biker is traveling or how so being aware of them on the road is important. Always try to keep enough distance between you and them.
Bicyclists are now allowed the same rights are drivers, which means they follow the same traffic laws. Some cities will have bike lanes available for cyclists, however, when there are none of these lanes available, cyclists will be on the roadways. You will need to keep at least 3 feet clearance when passing a cyclist to be safe. Remember to watch for sudden turns that they may do, as most cyclists know the hand signs for insections, not all do and may make sudden changes.
Emergency Vehicles: These vehicles always have the right-of-way when using a siren or flashing lights. All states have different laws as to the space needed to be given to these vehicles, but make sure you know. When traveling on the road and one coming up behind you, please move over and slow down to a stop. If you are unable to immediately move over, do so at the first sign that you can. According to law enforcement, you are not to follow these vehicles at the rate of speed that they are going when their lights are on and do not try to. They are the ones vehicles will move over for, not you.
Construction Vehicles: Construction vehicles normally have flashing lights on them or some sort of wording. Most construction work done on roadways will have tons of signs before approaching them. These are most likely orange or yellow caution signs. These areas usually have lanes closed that are closest to the vehicles themselves, however, in some cases, these vehicles will pull out suddenly out of the work zone or merge over into the zone. You will want to be cautious and careful so that nothing bad happens. Please always obey these signs and know that if you don’t follow them, fines could be doubled in certain cities for any violations of these.
Large Vehicles: Semi’s or large trucks are a few of the bigger vehicles that you will encounter on the road. The dilemma with these is the line of sight. These vehicles have a tendency to take up most of the lane in front of you, and getting around them can be a task. Most people play the peek and boo around them and when doing this could have the potential for accidents. Another danger when coming upon these vehicles are their wide turns, they will move over slightly into another lane to make a wider turn. When approaching one of these vehicles, if they have their turn signal on, do not move all the way forward. Give them the distance they need.
Buses: Buses will make frequent stops, and sometimes it will be last minute. Make sure that if you are following a bus, you are not following too closely behind it in case this happens. Buses also will make wide turns which can cause you to be in a blind spot. Make sure that you are aware of any bus terminals or stops that may be coming in case you are following one of these vehicles.
People Who Share the Road with You
Teenagers: New drivers who are excited to have their license can sometimes be a little dangerous on the road. They are distracted by friends in the car, music too loud, or cellphones. They can drive too fast, or even too slow depending on what type of person is driving.
Construction Workers: Not unlike the construction vehicles, workers will be usually wearing orange vests and working closely on the roads. As before, the signs will be posted, or even in some cases, they will be holding the signs to stop or slow traffic. When they are doing their work, they might not always be watching what they are doing or how close they are getting to the traffic. Go slow in the area and if you see a worker, move over a far as you can to keep some distance from them.
Elderly: Senior citizens more often than not drive slower than usual. At the same time, and not to offend anybody, they are not always as alert as they should be. Eyesight is sometimes not as good or mobility to be checking blind spots before moving over in a lane. All of us take a look or can see who is driving the vehicles around us, so be aware and know who it is.
Impaired Drivers: Unfortunately not everyone obeys the laws and drives while not impaired. There are some that think they can do it, even though they shouldn’t. Any form of impairment driving could result in an accident. Most of these drivers will be noticeable in the way they are driving; swerving in and out of lanes or even frequent braking. It is best to keep your distance from anyone who displays these actions while driving.
Distracted Drivers: With technology being what it is today, more and more people are using cellphones, tablets, earphones, watches and so forth, distracted drivers are becoming more frequent. You will see people constantly on their cellphones and not paying attention to the road.
Pedestrians on Foot/Children: People crossing the roads in crosswalks always have the right of way. There are some though that will not use a crosswalk, and just walk out in front of you. Always be aware of any children in the area playing, or people not paying attention to the crosswalk lights or just in general.
Defensive Driving Courses: There are many defensive driving courses out there online or in classrooms. These courses are designed to help you identify hazards on the roads, and ask you specific questions to help you drive safer. In a standard class, they will help you develop crash prevention techniques, decision-making skills and give you the tools you need to better share the road and be safe. Some of these are free, while others you have to pay for.
Stay Out of Blind Spots: As mentioned above, larger vehicles have trouble seeing smaller vehicles and what they call blind spots. Get to know what those spots are and where, and try to stay out of them. Always try to stay visible!
Pass Safely: Make sure that you use your signals clearly before passing, and don’t linger in anyone’s blind spot. When someone is passing you, especially bigger vehicles, try to slow down and stay over.
No Cutting: Don’t cut other drivers off because you are in a hurry. The worst thing that you can do is not plan ahead for any turns you may have or ramps that you need to exit. Another bad idea is to pass in a hurry and have to cut off a driver because of oncoming traffic.
Don’t Tailgate: Obviously, we all have had that moment when someone has been riding to close behind us and it can make us all nervous. The first instinct is to do what they call a break check, and this could end badly for you and the other driver if they are not paying attention. Try not to ride behind someone too closely, especially when following bigger vehicles. Riding to close behind one of these vehicles will make you invisible to them. Especially during inclement weather, this can make those blind spots even bigger.
Buckle Up: Please always use a safety belt. There are a lot of people who don’t believe in wearing their seatbelts due to personal experiences they have had, but the decision to use them can save you if the time comes. These in combination with airbags in the vehicle can save you from collisions that you may not be expecting.
Stay Focused: Distracted drivers can cause an accident in a heartbeat. If you need to take care of an important phone call, text someone or adjust anything, try to pull over and get off the road.
Drive Alert: If you are going to be on the road for a long time, take frequent breaks. If you are feeling fatigued in any way, pull over and get some rest at a public safe place. So many people feel that they can drive thru it and get to where they need to go, however, you would be amazed at how many people make this mistake and something terrible happens. Staying alert when sharing the road with others is imperative to have a safe trip.
Don’t Drive Under the Influence: This is the obvious one, but some need a reminder. Any type of narcotic, alcohol or recreational drug can impair your driving abilities. All too many times do we hear of drivers getting into accidents because of being under the influence. You may not think you are affected but your brain will not react the same as it would clean.
When driving on the roadways, whether it is big cities or small rural areas, each presents itself with unique challenges. The key to sharing the road successfully with everyone is to have your wits about you and always be alert. Knowing the rules of the road, the area you are in, and who is around you will help you in your daily driving. It will keep you safer and those around you.
- FMCSA DOT – Tips for driving safely
- Safe Motorist – Defensive Driving
- DriversEd – Sharing the Road with Others