A Lesson In Road Etiquette

In case you weren't aware, my friend Sarah is the next Emily Post. She rightly believes in "home training," and I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if she wrote this generation's Etiquette, with special additions regarding cyber-etiquette and proper use of technology (especially when NOT to use social networking devices). I would buy several copies, and then distribute them to everyone I know. Manners are important, people. That being said, I am writing this post in honor of Sarah (but not directed at her, mind you).

I realize that, when we go out onto the road in our vehicles of choice, we are taking our lives into our hands. I often feel stressed while driving. I've been known to drive above the speed limit, but I try not to make risky moves, because I know that stresses out those with whom I am sharing the road. Because I understand how nerve-wracking driving can be, I try to be as polite as possible. If someone lets me merge in front of him I wave for a few seconds, acknowledging his kindness in allowing me to get where I need to go. If a driver pulls to the shoulder on a narrow road so I can pass, I give the four-finger wave from the top of my steering wheel, so she knows I didn't just feel entitled to the road. My mother taught me to wave a thank-you to my fellow drivers way back when I was learning to drive, and it is a habit that has often elicited a wave or smile from those to whom it has been offered.

Did other mothers not teach this gesture in Driving 101? Because some drivers are kind to me, I like to be kind to other drivers. If there is a particularly long line waiting to merge, I might let two or three cars go instead of the generally-accepted one. If someone wants to turn left, and there are several cars behind me, I may slow down so that person can quickly and safely make a turn. If possible, I move to the right when I feel someone is trying to pass me, and if someone arrives at two-or-more-way stop shortly after I do, I will invite them to go first if it would better suit the flow of traffic. And how often do I get a wave? Maybe once out of every ten times. For shame.

Is it really that difficult to lift your hand and wiggle your fingers in acknowledgment of kindness from a stranger? I realize that it is not always obvious that someone is being a kind driver, but if you suddenly have a place to merge on a busy highway, another driver probably made that space for you. I don't think it's too much to ask that we thank one another for kind deeds, especially if it only requires minimal movement. Now, if you cannot possibly remove your hands from the wheel, please do not take my advice; we wouldn't want to cause an accident. But a little thank-you goes a long way, and could maybe work towards eliminating some of the stress we all feel while driving.

Fortunately (or maybe unfortunately), I feel like you, my loyal followers, are already skilled at acknowledging acts of kindness on the road, so you probably don't need to take my advice. But pass it on to those in your lives who could use a little road etiquette. Let's make our commutes less stressful, one wave at a time.


  1. In general, I abide by this rule. But in my daily commute? Nope. Mainly because I am already beyond stressed out. And also a little bit (OK, a lot) because the people with whom I share 95 and 895 on a twice-daily basis are typically those who do not obey ANY rules of the road and therefore are not deserving of my gratitude when they accidentally do something polite. See, this commute has made me mean-hearted. And also probably raised my blood pressure.

    But hey, when I move and am walking to work every morning? I'll certainly wave to those who let me cross the street. :-P

  2. I'm so proud that my Etiquette tips are well-received.

    And you will receive the first copy of my Etiquette book, probably an acknowledgement for letting me bounce my ideas off of you.

  3. If you had to fight to get the spot, it doesn't count as kindness in my book. But maybe I'm too mean, the jury is still out.

  4. I waved to the person who let me onto 43 from the 95 ramp tonight. Just for you. Even though I'm positive they couldn't see me in the dark and the rain.