Jim's Rules of Driving
As you might have seen, I own a performance car. Personally, I like the Italian view on driving rules-- the better your car, the faster you can drive. They're of the opinion that if you purchase a performance car, you shouldn't be denied the priviledge of driving it.

Of course, their basic unit of currency is worth so little that it's used for doing sub-cent microtransactions on the net, but hey, if you put down 30 trillion lira on a Ferrari, I'd bet you couldn't drive 55 either...

Sadly, the US has no such sensible rules. So I made up a few suggestions of my own, which should tick off anyone not driving a Vette, Porche, Viper, Mustang, Austin Martin, Lotus, or Ferrari:

1- Sports cars always have the right of way Ok, let's be realistic here; some guy just blew his kids' college education so he could have his mid-life crisis. He's not going to sit in the right hand lane doing 5 MPH under the speed limit, he's going to blast into the left lane and do whatever he thinks he can get away with.

Just because you can cut the guy off on the onramp, or beat him into the left hand lane doesn't mean that you should.

You're hauling concrete blocks for Habitats for Humanity in your little sub-compact solar powered import or ViewBlocker™ SUV with an acceleration rate that is measured with calendars; he's driving a car that they allow to do 140MPH on the Salt Flats with the extensive addition of a fire extinguisher, ok?

Bottom line: unless you are prepared to drive your car like Nick Cage in Gone In Sixty Seconds, get the hell out of the way. You are technologically (and probably hormonally) outclassed.

2- Look at the car on your right. Are you passing them?
No? Get the heck out of your lane!
It's called a passing lane because you are expected to pass people, folks.

There is nothing more annoying than getting stuck behind some wannabe Blue Angel practicing their precision formation driving.

What's more, it's dangerous-- you're now making anyone who wants to get around you go two lanes to the right, then cut back to the left.

Either suck it up, pass the guy, and cut back in on the right, or turn on your signal, slow down, and get the hell out of the way-- people will put up with you slowing down if they know that you are going bye bye.

3- Turn signals: not just a neat fashion accessory for your car Ok, I don't know why so many people out there think that these things are optional. You are required by law to signal before changing lanes or making a turn.

That's kind of important, so I think I'll say it again: You are required by law to signal before changing lanes or making a turn.

That clear enough? Turn signals let us know that you're about to do something crazy. If you put on your right hand turn signal when there's a solid phalanx of cars across the first 4 lanes, we all then know that you're about to cut over 5 lanes to get around em. We might not like it, but at least we know you're about to do it and won't go for that spot ourself.

4- Turn signals Pt 2: Let the guy in! Ok, if someone actually has the courtesy to broadcast his driving intentions, this does not mean that you have a chance to block them!

If they want in, either let them in, or make sure that they can get in behind you if they look like they're going to get in front of you then slow down to a comfortable 40 MPH.

It's called chaos theory-- if they want to get in your lane and you don't let them, then they will continue to slow down until they can get in. And you know what? EVERYONE BEHIND THEM WILL HAVE TO SLOW DOWN TOO!

It's called the Pauli Exclusion Principal; no two objects, no matter how small, right down to electrons orbiting an atom, can occupy the same space at the same time, or in simpler terms, everyone behind the guy has to either slow down with him or hit him.

Insurance costs being what they are, 99 times out of 100 they'll slow down. Then the third guy in line will slow down, and the guy behind him, etc etc.

Congratulations, you're now important, look at all the people who's lives you've affected.

Guess what, they're all now following you home to find out where you live.

5- Merging: It's called one-to-one Another basic concept that seems to be lost on many drivers-- when you have to merge, first one person from the left lane goes, then a person from the right lane goes, then one from the left, etc etc etc.

There is nothing more sickening than some ass who thinks that they're more important than the guy next to them, and they have to save the 3 seconds that they might have lost if they let the guy in.

You know what? Odds are that you're not a doctor or a law officer or the guy who makes the donuts, and that 3 seconds isn't going to save you a damn bit of time. On the other hand, the guy who you should have let in now has to slam on his brakes, the guy behind you has to now readjust his driving to let the other guy into the pattern, and everyone else slows down.

If everyone just played along, there's really no reason why ANYONE would have to slow down below 50 when a lane ends. But when you start playing the cut the guy off game, then everyone has to slow down until you're all crawling along at clutch-meltingly slow speeds.

Just let the guy in. Make up the 3 seconds by screwing off at work later that day.

6- A lane ending is not a the creation of a special lane for you When you see a sign that says that the lane ends in half a mile, and all the other cars are moving out of the lane, JOIN THEM.

Do not decide that the remainder of the lane is now your own personal highway and merge in at the last possible second, because you know what? That lane now has twice the number of cars it used to BECAUSE THE LANE ENDED AND ALL THE CARS THAT WERE IN YOUR LANE HAD TO GO SOMEWHERE.

You're going to speed up right to where the lane ends, slam on your breaks, then cut some guy off to get in. He's going to slam on his breaks, making everyone slow down to let your inconsiderate ass in, and the next thing you know, instead of merging at 55, everyone is merging at 5.

If you want your own lane, move to the desert and build your own highway. Otherwise, pretend for 30 seconds that you have some respect for your fellow human beings and take one for the team, ok?

7- Look in your rear view mirror. Now look in front of you.

If the line of cars behind you is greater than the line of cars in front of you, you're in the wrong lane!

Obviously, this doesn't apply when everyone's moving at the same speed, but if you've got 10 cars stacked behind you and the road is wide open in front of you, and you don't have flashing lights on the roof and pace car emblems on your doors, get the hell out of the way! There are people behind you trying to drive!

No one cares that you're being illegal and doing 68 in a 65 zone, they all want to do 80.

This rule especially applies to two-lane highways like the I-5 between San Fransicso and Los Angeles, or the I-15 between Los Angeles and Las Vegas-- these are long boring trips, and many people want to get them over with as quickly as possible, to the point where they're willing to risk a reckless driving arrest to do so.

Don't deny them the opportunity; one less person on the road if it happens, right?

But do not sit out there and justify your slow-ass speed by the fact that you're passing the space shuttle crawler in the right hand lane; on these roads, you're either speeding or you're staying the hell out of the speeder's way; there is no compromise.

8- Does the car behind you more closely resemble a car or a trailer?

If you said "trailer", get out of the way!

This mostly applies to mountain driving and one-lane roads; if someone is tailgating you the whole way, and I mean really sticking right on your tail, holding the same distance no matter how fast or slow you go, guess what pal: they're a better driver than you are.

There is only one thing more annoying than getting stuck behind someone doing 15 around mountain roads that you could take at 40, and that's when that same special individual cranks it up to 50 at the only straightaway for the next 3 hours.

So do everyone a favor and pull over for the 30 seconds it will take for all these people to pass your sorry self; otherwise, you're just going to make that guy madder and madder until he's ready to do whatever it takes to pass you.

9- Guy behind you flashing his headlights? It's probably not a bad fuse... In Germany, failure to yeild to a car flashing it's lights at you is punishable by law. In America, most drivers seem to think that it's the exact opposite.

Let's face it, the person behind you is clearly taking their time to explain to you that they want to pass. 8 times out of 10, the odds are that as soon as you get out of the way, the guy is, amazingly enough, GOING TO PASS YOU.

So get the hell out of the way before he tries to wake you up by nailing you with his high beams, or even better, drives around you on the side.

10- When you pass someone, pass with authority! There are few things more annoying than giving the tailgater behind you the benefit of the doubt and moving to discover that the individual is driving a VW microbus full of Louie Anderson impersonators and you just started up a hill.

If you can't make the pass, don't ask for the lane.

11- If you ever make someone downshift, you shouldn't have cut in front of them. One would think that this is just common sense-- you don't take an action that's so different from those of the drivers nearby as to make them change how they're operating their vehicle.

The corollary to this would be that if the individual has to slam on their brakes or change lanes to avoid mating their car with yours, you probably screwed up as well.

Look before you go storming into a lane; forcing someone to shift is the minimal consequence of your actions. If your speed is that different from the guy you're cutting off, either punch it before cutting in, or wait for them to pass you.

12- Don't tailgate unless you mean it This isn't Days of Thunder and you're sure as heck not Cruise or Kidmann. (Or maybe you are, in which case I'd like to say that I loved M:I-2 and thanks for visiting my home page)

I'm not here for you to save .01 MPG by letting you draft off of me, and I don't need you swooping up behind me like CHP then holding there, especially if you're driving a Ford.

If someone's riding my butt like Vader in a Death Star trench, my Darwinistic survival instinct immediatly sends a big message upstairs, and that message is "THIS GUY WANTS TO PASS YOU."

Since I don't want to be part of this guy's multi-car 15 seconds of radio traffic report fame, I get the hell out of his way.

More often then not, the guy does one of two things:

  • He suddenly decides that he doesn't want to be alpha male, and maintains the same distance from my rear bumper while I slow down in the lane to the right.
  • He decides to pass me at 1 MPH faster than I was going before he got on my six. This then forces me to drop it into 4th to cut him off so I don't get stuck behind the truck carrying the full scale replica of the White House on it's tour of the flatter cities of the west coast..

    Having some idiot keep riding you, but then never passing when you give them a chance, will drive you crazier than if you had Gallagher & Gilbert Godfried in the back seat and Carrot Top riding shotgun.

    If you're not prepared to pass a person at 10MPH faster than you are tailgating them, back the hell off.

    Ever wonder how much time you really save/lose based on your speed? Click here!

  • 13- Special for Los Angeles: If you're getting on the 5 North from the 110 North, don't pull in at the last second! There really should be a city by-law allowing us to shoot at people that do this (and note that I said shoot AT, not shoot).

    For those not familiar with the geography, there's an exit on the 110N to the 5N just outside of downtown L.A..

    There are four lanes, going through two tunnels, and the left lane is the exit. The exit lane starts a good mile before the exit, well outside of the tunnel.

    Lots of drivers, usually those breaking rule #6, like to speed down the #2 lane, then cut into the exit at the last minute. This usually means that he has to slam on his brakes and wait to be let in, as the exit is a sharp left hand turn and all the traffic on the exit is moving at 3 MPH

    As discussed above, this action means that there are now TWO lanes that are stopped dead.

    The reason people cut in is because they're so special that they feel they don't have to wait in that leftmost lane, and the reason why there's such a wait in that leftmost lane is because of all those special people cutting into it at the last minute.

    So here's the deal-- if you want to drive on the 5N, get in the leftmost lane as soon as it becomes the exit. If you insist on trying to beat the traffic by speeding up the number 2 lane, don't cut in unless you can do it without hitting your brakes, or making anyone else hit theirs. When you can't do this, suck it up and take the next exit & learn about all the wonderful surface streets that go to the 5N.

    14- You are allowed ONE lane. Sheesh, I can't believe that I actually have to list this, the most basic of all rules, but after nearly getting driven into 5 times in the last two weeks, I guess I'd better put it up.

    I'm not sure what the problem is understanding this, but let me try to explain it-- the nice people who make the roads get a big paint brush, and they make nice lines on the road with it,

    The idea is that you make your car go between the two lines without touching them, just like back in kindergarten, when you used your little crayons to color the picture of the puppy or the ducky or whatever.

    Of course, the penalty now is a lot higher-- instead of just showing that you can't follow instructions, thus leading to your teacher writing you off as an idiot, ignoring you in class, and setting you up for a dismal public education which will thoroughly prepare you for a life of asking "would you like fries with that?", you will now have to deal with insurance companies.

    Trust me, if you couldn't stay between the lines in the first place, you aren't going to be able to handle one of those forms.

    Bottom line-- if you can't keep yer oversized, environmentally unfriendly, gas sucking SUV in your own stupid lane because it's so big, sell it or move someplace with bigger lanes. I'm sick of thinking that I'm about to lose an arm when you drive by.

    15- If you're waiting for the light to turn green so you can make a left turn, wait BEHIND the line. Ok, I know the old joke is that it's legal to make a left hand turn on red in Massachusetts, but the reality is that it's just not allowed.

    So why the hell are people pulling forward into the crosswalk while waiting to make a left?

    Do they think that the light's actually going to change faster because they're closer to it?

    Not only is this dangerous for people making legal right-on-red turns, because now I have to practically pull into the intersection to see around your stupid SUV that's blocking my view like, well, me sitting in front of you at the movies, but you're also forcing any pedestrians trying to use the crosswalk to walk in traffic to get around your impatient butt.

    So quit acting like Saddam and stay the heck on the right side of the line!