We are always looking to contribute to the greater good. We also happen to commute into Seattle on I-90 everyday, and as it turns out there are a lot of people with large trucks and SUVs that commute into Seattle from the Eastside every day. All the large vehicle traffic makes me hopeful for the construction, pediatric medicine and farming industries, but I digress.
To help give back to society, here are some important safety tips for completing your commute on the freeway without injuring yourself and others in your large SUV or truck:
- The stripes on the road are not art
While it might be easy to fall into the trap of thinking that the dashed white lines on the freeway are a form of abstract art, they are there for a reason. They, in fact, indicate the general direction you should be going. But wait, there’s more! As an added feature the space between the dashed lines is moderately larger than most vehicles, even your F-150, Suburban and Escalade. If we all stay between the lines we can fit more cars on the road and all get where we’re going faster and more safely. The spaces between the dashed lines are called “lanes”.
On many sections of freeway there are even helpful bumps on these stripes so you can feel when you are drifting into a lane other than your own. (More on changing lanes properly in the next bullet point.) When you feel these bumps you should direct your large truck or SUV back into your own lane; that way other people don’t have to swerve to avoid you. I realize that these sets of bumps can help you track each dollar of gasoline or diesel you burn on your way to wherever you’re going, but please use your gas gauge for this instead, for the children’s sake.
- That stick hanging out the left side of your steering column is useful
As it turns out, that stick that is protruding from your steering column isn’t a practical joke on behalf of some GM autoworker in Mexico that constructed your “I only buy American” vehicle. When you move this stick up or down it will cause lights on the right or left side, respectively, of your vehicle to blink, alerting everyone else on the road that you intend to change from one “lane” into another. You’ll find that it’s a lot easier and safer to participate in freeway driving if we don’t all have to second guess where each other are going next.
While it is true that the likelihood of the State Patrol bothering to write a ticket for failing to signal while changing lanes is zero unless you manage to hit someone else doing it, it is still illegal and impolite. You wouldn’t want undue scratching and damage to the fancy paint your offroading truck/SUV when you hit someone who was unable to read your mind and tell you were going to drift over into their lane without signalling. So it’s for the safety of your SUV/truck and your children who want the vehicle not to be scratched as well. Think of the children!
- Keep right except to pass
There are signs on this particular stretch of freeway that remind us all that the laws of Washington state say that if you’re not passing someone you need to keep in the rightmost lane. It happens that if everyone followed this simple rule, we all wouldn’t have to change lanes quite as much to make our way to our destination. All that lane changing and vehicles going different speeds in the same lane leads to accidents. And even in an SUV your 8 children that are along for the ride might get injured in an accident. Think of the children!
Now again, I’m fairly certain no one is actually ever ticketed for this bad behavior, despite the fact that it results in a large number of speed differential-related accidents. This doesn’t mean it isn’t illegal, impolite and dangerous to your children, you know, the ones you’re supposed to be thinking of all the time when those bad, evil terrorists are making our threat condition burnt sienna.
Maybe some day in the enlightened future the various law enforcement agencies out there will actually bother to enforce traffic laws in addition to those related to speeding and the number of passengers in vehicles in the carpool lane. That way they could help encourage polite and safe driving behavior and reduce the number of accidents. Until that day comes, please follow these tips and stay safe, do it for the children!