- Use your turn signals - here's the procedure:
- When you need to change lanes, put your turn signal on!
- let the directional signal blink for five seconds
- look left, look right (no matter what direction you are turning)
- change lanes if and when it's safe
- Don't expect other drivers to have keen intuition, ESP, or even for them to be looking at you. They're doing their makeup, eating a Kit Kat, watching and episode of Wife Swap, or reading People magazine on their PDA. They're not looking at you. This means you have to do everything in your power to get their attention, plan ahead, and do things safely.
- RESPECT other peoples' turn signals! If they are ahead of you in either adjacent lane and they turn on their signal, they want to change lanes! Don't close that gap - you are so not worth more than they are. I don't care what kind of car you drive or what kind of car they drive. I don't care if you or they have a fish on the back bumper, or if you're practicing your gang signs because you never learned how to spell, if you see their signal, defer.
- Pick a lane and stay in it and travel the speed of traffic! If you are in the #1 lane (the fast lane, duh), you will probably be driving faster than the other lanes to your right. The same goes for middle lanes. The same goes for the right lane - people need to exit once in a while, don't waste their time and make them use more fuel and spew more poison into the air just because you feel like doing 45 MPH in the right lane on the 405.
- A safe distance from the car ahead of you is one car length for every ten miles per hour - you can figure this out by finding a fixed object like a sign or fence post on the left, start counting one-one-thousand, two-one-thousand, etc., when the car ahead of you passes, and when you pass the same marker at ten-one-thousand, if the roads aren't wet you are probably driving at a safe distance from the vehicle ahead of you.
- We all know that driving a safe distance from the car ahead of you is virtually impossible on the L. A. freeways because someone will inevitably close that safe gap by merging, without putting down the Us Weekly, at a rate of speed just a little slower that yours, without using their signal. But keep trying.
- If you see a gap in another lane, analyze it to make sure that it is unreasonable, not just the proper distance between cars. You are actually slowing thousands of drivers by closing this gap, and you will have gained precisely one car length - congratulations, Lucy.
- Don't slow other drivers! Don't close the gap, do keep up with the speed of traffic in your lane, and especially, when the traffic slows, don't speed up, stop speed up, stop speed up, stop...pick a speed, and stick to it. Unless there is an accident in your lane or a really, really stupid driver (OK that's most of you), there is a speed that traffic will travel, even if it's idle speed (the speed at which your car goes with your foot off the pedals). Your speeding-up and slowing-down causes a ripple effect in the traffic behind you - each car that slows causes ten to slow behind them (with residual effect on adjacent lanes), and each of these slowed cars causes ten more to slow, causing exponential slowing, the main problem on the freeways - we actually have enough road to handle the cars we have, if people drive properly.
- Don't drive distracted - driving on the L. A. Freeways is probably the most difficult and dangerous thing you will do all day. Starting in July, 2008, you could get a $20-50 fine for holding a cell phone to your ear - get a headset for $3. Learn your directions before, so you won't have to stay glued to your map or GPS device. Put enough Linkin Park and Modest Mouse in your iPod so the music lasts the whole trip without your attention.
Every day, I encounter at least three situations in my 21-mile-each-way commute that puts me in mortal danger. Having been hit twice (totalled once) in the last few months puts me, let's say, on edge.
Oh, and let's make drivers ed mandatory for all highschool students wanting to get a license, provided free in school, as it was when I was growing up (many moons ago, in a state far, far, away, before Prop 13 in CA...). And make obtaining a licence for anyone a high bar to hurdle - this will be tough on immigrants, but the concentration of people in L. A. from many places in the world where the only requirement for obtaining a drivers licence is a pulse is a big reason why we see so much shitty driving.
Oh, and since auto insurance is mandatory (as it should be)
- Insure the driver, not the car. Who cares what we drive and where we park it - cars don't kill people, people kill people
- Make auto insurance No Fault. Spread costs around and insurance companies will spend the same amount of money they do now. Leave fault to law enforcement. Don't let insurance companies raise rates or cancel people simply because these drivers have had some bad luck.
I could go on...and I probably will...