Sunday, March 30, 2014

Helping smooth the flow of traffic.

We do communicate with other drivers. We signal intent. Honk different types of honks. Ask and give directions, offer courtesies. You’re entering traffic from a Starbucks, but the street is packed with cars. A driver nods and lets you know get in ahead of me. Who hasn't felt appreciative when that happened?

I like to drive, and curious about how drivers act sometimes. I remember a night in North Beach in San Francisco. Traffic was stalled. Somebody honked. I honked too. The other driver honked again and back and forth we messed around honking for fun.

Let’s say you fall asleep at a red light and don’t go when it turns green. A simple honk would nudge you back into business. But when the driver behind honks with a blast that is plainly rude. There are intermittent honks, blaring honks and notification honks when you see somebody you know and want to attract their attention.

Headlights signal too.  If you're in the fast lane, and see a car in back with its headlights going off and on it means to get out the way. You’re going too slowly for that driver, even though your speed may be a far cry from slow to you.

Just looking at another driver sometimes signals awareness. I see that when a driver is on ramp to a freeway, and she or he approaches to what feels like too close for comfort. At the same time, both of us look at each other. It's a signal of understanding that we won't allow a collision.

Anger does not go well with driving. I got angry and flipped the bird at somebody in a truck for some reason, and the guy did a U-turn and chased me. When he abandoned his chase I was definitely relieved.

Some actions of drivers sometimes go beyond courtesy.

I was driving south on 101 Freeway in Marin County. A car slammed into this other car and pushed it into the concrete divider. The offending vehicle sped off while the victim vehicle stalled on the freeway. The woman was in a daze as I guided her to the curb. People got out of their cars and stopped the flow of traffic. Others gathered and pushed her car off the freeway. We were communicating how we cared for a fellow driver.

I was driving east through Caldecott Tunnel once, in the East Bay region. It was hot and I was on an incline---the radiator cap burst and my car, spewing swirling steam, stalled in the tunnel. I was almost at the end of the tunnel, but cars were heading towards me at freeway speed. A beat up truck driven by what looked like a Mexican farm worker shoved my car out the tunnel and off to the side. That man signaled he cared about helping to avoid a collision.

I feel it’s always good to keep the ideal of courtesy in mind while driving, as well as to go out of your way to help when it’s needed.

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