Dear Los Angeles driver,
Why are you trying to kill us all?
No, seriously. I’m having trouble understanding why we even have to take a road rules test if you’re going to flaunt them all constantly, by swerving through lanes like a boomerang, speeding in exit lanes, never using your turn signals, and generally driving like you hated the world. We’re all in this together, we all drive an insane number of miles, let’s try to be civil and develop some sort of L.A. driving code.
I’m half French, and in France, getting a driver’s license is extremely time-consuming, challenging, expensive, and actually HARD to do. By the the time anyone can make it through the gauntlet of an extremely difficult exam, and 35 hours of one-on-one classes wiht a driving instructor (mandatory), a driving culture is pretty much ingrained in every French driver.
EVERYONE indicates, EVERYONE overtakes on the left only, EVERYONE obeys the “fast lanes on the left, slow and exit lanes on the right” rule, EVERYONE uses high beams when they are alone on the road and lowers them as soon as they see a car coming from the opposite direction, to avoid burning their eyes, EVERYONE knows to change lanes to the right when they see someone coming in faster than they are driving, as a courtesy.
It occurs to me that maybe you don’t know about these courtesy rules, that are pretty much common sense, are mostly already in our California road rules, and would make all of our lives easier on the freeways, so I just thought I would put them together in one place that you can easily access.
The Three-Legged Duck.
The Sixteen Commandments of Driving (according to the Three-Legged Duck):
1. Come to a full stop at every stop sign, not your mutant-hybrid-lame rolling stop. You’re not saving any time.
2. Use your turn signals every time you make a turn or change lanes.
3. Use your turn signals in parking lots too.
4. Turn around as you back up, and back up very slowly to give anyone a chance to notice your backing-up lights. Yes, that’s what those “white lights” next to the “brake lights” are for.
5. Don’t make a right on red just because you can. Often, you really just shouldn’t. It’s not because you CAN make a right on red that you absolutely HAVE to. That’s not part of the law. In fact, making a right on red is illegal in most countries, and we really haven’t deserved the right to do it here, since we can’t really do the simple things right.
6. Don’t use your high beams unless you’re alone or on a country road. It is not OK to drive with high beams behind someone and burn their retina.
7. Check your blind spots before you change lanes. (Do you know what blind spots are? Do you know how to check them?)
8. Don’t just check your blind spots before changing lanes on the freeway, check the lane over, to make sure no one else wants to merge where you are merging. If everyone used their turn signals, this could actually be a useful exercise. As things stand now, you have to make sure no one looks like they want to veer into the lane you are about to change into so you have to read the car’s body language. Good freaking luck with that.
9. Don’t speed in the exit lanes. I am a little horrified to have to write that. It’s empty because it is where people slow down and merge into in order to exit the freeway. It makes it kind of hard when you’re barreling down that same lane at 80 mph in your black BMW.
10. Pass on the left. Don’t pass on the right. It’s confusing, dangerous and kind of stupid.
11. Leave a safety distance of about two car lengths between you and the car in front of you. Especially if it’s a huge truck. Especially in rush hour. Don’t drive bumper to bumper, it doesn’t “reduce” the traffic in any way.
12. Put your cell on silent when you turn the key in the ignition. Please. You already are driving at a qualitative disadvantage, you really don’t need an extra handicap.
13. Learn to parallel park. That’s what it’s called when you park in between two parked cars. It’s called “parallel” parking because in order to do it, you don’t actually drive in head first. You align yourself parallel to the first parked car, and back up into the space in 3 maneuvers.
14. Learn to park. This means you don’t park in compact spaces when you’re a Suburban or an F-150, and you park in between the lines that are traced on the ground to delineate each spot.
15. Learn to read. I’m sorry, I should have mentioned this before. My bad.
16. This is something you actually CAN do: you are allowed to make a left turn at a red light but only from a one way street onto another one way street. So go back and read the 2010 DMV booklet page 48 under “Left Turns” and stop giving me dirty looks.