Goldie will be driving before long and so when we’re in the car together, I try to impart the wisdom of the road. She’ll learn plenty in Drivers’ Ed, but there’s so much knowledge to gain by simply taking the wheel, unless Jesus takes it first.
My mantra to her is and will continue to be, “Your job is to get from Point A to Point B as safely as you can, not as quickly as you can.” I drive fast when the roads are clear, when it’s possible, but even then, and always, it’s about paying attention. Fault can be found in every car accident. From the benign fender bender to the tragic fatality, someone wasn’t paying full attention.
There are so many cars in Los Angeles that it’s critical to be defensive. It’s about knowing who and what is around you and allowing time and room to react. Most drivers out here are very good. This post is not about them. It’s about the ten most egregious things I see when I’m out there in the thick of it, minus the very obvious, very real ‘driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol’:
#10. Don’t forsake the wave. “Seinfeld” first brought it to our attention back in the 90s (though I can’t seem to find the specific episode). Someone ‘lets you in’ – whether it’s cutting into a long line of cars, or exiting a driveway, or pulling out from a parking spot into traffic. You better wave your hand in their direction to show your appreciation, especially if it’s me, because if you don’t, I can guarantee bad karma is coming your way. No one will ever let you ‘cut’ again. Not. Ever.
#9. Short drivers, some of them. This is so not PC but it’s about safety, remember. One of my sisters is 5’1”. When we were teenagers, the driver’s seat in my mom’s Chevy Nova didn’t go up far enough to allow her to see really well over the dashboard, so she sat on phone books. You do what you have to in order to see as well as you can. I can’t even squeeze in behind the wheel of my minivan after my mother-in-law has driven it because she has the seat up as far as it goes to drive safely. I don’t care – she’s taking my kids around. If you’re under 5’2” and you’re having trouble seeing over the steering wheel, please sit on a pillow – please.
#8. Entitlement driving. You have a fancy car, good for you. You think you own the road? I hate you.
#7. Waiting for a parking spot and blocking everyone else. Seriously?! There’s another spot just up the way, possibly twenty feet at most. You have to wait for this one?! Go to the top of the parking garage, go directly to the top, do not pass ‘GO’. Do not loiter waiting for the mother with three children to put her infants in their car seats and her stroller in the back. We could all die tomorrow. Is this really how we want to spend our last hours, waiting for you to get ten feet closer to your destination? Move along, now.
#6. Driving fast in parking lots (not empty ones). Stupid, stupid, stupid. They’re filled with cars pulling in and out and passengers getting in and out. It’s impossible to see everyone or know which cars are backing up and when, so drive slowly and give yourself plenty of time to react. No more than 14mph – 10mph is better – so no one gets hurt. I once followed a young woman into a mall to berate her for flying through a lot during the holidays. The holidays! People everywhere. She was shocked by the confrontation, and then she was very sorry.
#5. Driving fast in bad weather. Remember, there is a cause for every accident. You can blame the elements (they’re often a factor), but what about all those folks who don’t crash when it’s teeming rain? They were driving carefully, which is what we should all do during inclement weather. Super slow is super smart. Or better yet, stay home.
#4. Blinkers. No, you don’t have to use them when you’re making a turn in a parking lot and no one’s around, but when you’re on the freeway, changing lanes – duh – ‘cause you’re not the only one on the freeway. That blue Prius two lanes over? Yeah, they’re thinking of getting into the same lane as you are. Turning into a driveway up ahead? Use your damn blinker!
#3. Driving slower than regular traffic in the carpool lane. People borrow other people’s children in order to use the HOV lanes here in L.A. This is serious stuff. If we see a car in the fast lane zip by on the right because you’re doing 60 in front of us, we will find you and we will eat your young and then you won’t be able to use the carpool lane ever again.
#2. Tailgating. Do you see the future? Do you absolutely know that the car six inches in front of you will never have to slam on the brakes for anything? No? Then get off my ass. Tailgating makes as much sense as saying “Heads up!” when you should be putting your head down.
#1. Texting while driving. It’s as bad as driving drunk, because the effects of looking at your phone and typing while you’re driving a car are immediate and terrible. (If you’re at a red light and check your phone, fine, but if that left-turn green arrow lights up and you don’t move forward and turn immediately, suffer the wrath.)
What have I missed? Chime in.
(By the way, #11 is the Highway Patrol because they never seem to be around to do anything about #8, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1. They’re too busy writing tickets for people on bikes. Alec Baldwin might be crazy, but if that was me in NYC Tuesday, I’d be in handcuffs, too.)