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August 04, 2014

5 Rules of the Road You Forgot from Drivers Ed

Teen_Driver_safety_Week-student_driver-thinkstock-153681188Do you remember when you first learned to drive?  You probably focused 110% of your attention on the road as you gripped the wheel at 10 and 2 with nervous, white knuckles.  And, strangely enough, you probably knew the rules of the road much better then than you do now. 

Why?  Because your driver’s license test depended on it.

But in the passing years, you’ve likely become much more comfortable behind the wheel and you’ve probably let slide a few of the rules your driver’s ed teacher taught you way back when.

Realistically, some of those rules are a bit unnecessary, but there may be a few you’ve forgotten which would help you to be a better, safer driver.  Read on to find out what they are.

Student-driver-thinkstock-148350704-1200x8001.     Following Distance

This is one rule that many of us learn and follow to a T when we first start driving, but that we often throw out as we become older, more frustrated drivers in a rush.  It may seem like a small thing, but following distance is actually one of the most important precautions you can take against accidents.  Many people disobey this rule simply because they’re texting and not paying attention, which is especially dangerous. 

The idea is this:  It should take at least 3 whole seconds for the front of your car to reach a point that the car in front of you just passed.  It helps to use landmarks.  For example, watch the car in front of you and start counting as soon as it passes a light pole – you should be able to say, “1 Mississippi, 2 Mississippi, 3 Mississippi” before the front end of your car reaches the same light pole.

And that’s just for dry, daytime driving conditions.  That time increases if it’s raining, snowing, dark, or if the road is curved.  If you follow closer than this, you significantly increase the chances of crashing into the car ahead of you if they stop short for any reason.  Tailgating is not only annoying, it’s dangerous.

2.     Use the Left Lane Correctly

Contrary to popular belief, the left lane of a highway is not meant for speed demons – it’s actually supposed to be used exclusively for passing in several states.  In places like Illinois, Massachusetts, and Washington (and 7 other states), you can only use the left lane temporarily as you pass another vehicle. 

In the majority of the other states, the law says that left-lane drivers must be going at least “the normal speed of traffic.”  That can be a bit sticky because the speed of traffic can sometimes be over the speed limit, so you ought to be careful if you’re speeding to keep up with left-lane traffic.

Volvo_pedestrian_detection_w_full_auto_stop_33.     Yield to Pedestrians

You may drive so often these days that you’ve forgotten how it feels to be a pedestrian.  If that’s the case, head out for a walk in a busy neighborhood and you’ll soon appreciate the vulnerability of the walker.

When you’re in a rush, you might feel annoyed if you have to stop for a pedestrian, but you must stop, regardless.  In most states, if a person is waiting to cross the street at a marked crosswalk, alley, or driveway, drivers must stop to let them go.  You should also be careful about rushing to pass a car that has stopped at an intersection – you may not see that they’ve stopped to let a pedestrian go and you could risk hitting a person that way.  The biggest thing to remember is just to be extremely aware of the movement of pedestrians and always err on the side of caution.  Your vehicle is essentially a weapon on wheels to someone who’s walking.

4.      Use Turn Signals

Granted, you probably haven’t forgotten this rule but you may often “forget” to follow it.  The failure to properly signal is one of the most commonly broken rules of the road and it can have serious consequences.  Though you might not think it’s a big deal, you should think about how your failure to communicate your intentions affects other drivers.  No doubt you’ve been inconvenienced or even put in danger because of another driver’s lack of a turn signal.

Drivers are constantly adjusting their own actions to accommodate the actions of others, and the best drivers are always looking for what’s ahead so that they can be prepared.  When you don’t use a turn signal, you’re preventing other drivers from being prepared to do the right thing.  If that results in an accident, it could very well be determined to be your fault. 

5.      Merge Fear

I get it, merging onto an expressway can be a bit scary if you’re not doing it every single day.  But you should understand that hesitation can do much more damage than confidence.  Many drivers use the on-ramp of a highway all wrong, which is very dangerous.  The point of the on ramp is to allow you to reach the speed of the other expressway drivers so that you can seamlessly enter traffic.

That means that maintaining the speed you were driving on the street or, heaven forbid, stopping on the ramp will make it very hard to merge onto the highway.  You need a bit of distance for your car to go from 0 or even 30 mph all the way to 60, so be sure to put the pedal to the metal as soon as you enter the on-ramp.  Don’t worry, the drivers in the right lane of the highway see you coming and should make an allowance in their speed to accommodate you. 

Woman-driver-thinkstock-169280608_sYou may have felt a little guilty as you read through some of these oft-broken rules of the road, and that’s OK.  Even the best drivers among us make mistakes or forget the right way sometimes.  Teens, especially, are prone to making dangerous driving mistakes and should take care to form good driving habits early on.

The important thing is that you fix the bad habits you’ve formed so that you can do your part in keeping the road safe and avoid getting yourself into trouble for causing accidents.  As many mothers are known to say, you can’t be responsible for other people’s bad driving, but you can be responsible for your own. 


Jay_deratny_headshotAuthor Bio:  As the founder of The Deratany Firm, Jay Deratany is a top Chicago accident attorney, philanthropist, independent film producer and boutique hotel owner. 

He’s a frequent contributor to several online publications and is passionate about advising readers on how to stay safe. For more, visit and follow him on Google+.




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