Common Courtesy Isn’t So Common Anymore!

First of all, thank you for a wonderfully useful and entertaining column.  I can’t imagine why no one ever thought of this before.

Okay, here’s what’s bugging me.  Every time I’m out driving in darkness or rainy weather, I meet vehicles not using headlights as the law requires.  There are so many, in fact, that I get the feeling they’re part of a “nobody can tell me what to do” protest.  I always do the courtesy “flash”, and it is incredible to me how few drivers respond to this (unless it’s with the finger or a dirty look).  I’d say the average is no more than two or three percent.  I’m closing in on 60.  When I was coming up, if someone flashed you in this manner, it was under-stood to be a friendly, heads-up reminder meant to insure safety or prevent a ticket.  Now it seems to be taken as a personal insult.  Have we really become so stupidly, stubbornly hateful that we’d rather risk an accident or a fine than acknowledge a friendly gesture by complying?

Would you please spend a little of your column space talking about this?  Thank you.

It seems to be a common concern, especially among the baby-boomer generation.  What happened to common courtesy?  Now after making that blanket statement, I need to clarify that it doesn’t mean that young kids and adults of the past few decades are not courteous, it just appears that there is less and less of ‘here let me get that door for you’ or ‘go ahead, you were first’, and more of the ‘It’s all about me’, that we find upsetting.   But wait, isn’t that what are parents said about us?  Who knows? Yes that was a rhetorical question.

There really are no specific driving laws that deal with courtesy.  About the closest we come to it are right-of-way violations.  Granted there are some times when someone attempts to be courteous at an intersection and by allowing someone to go in front of you although they technically did not have the right-of-way, causes a disruption and other drivers to get upset.  So you’re darned if you do and darned if you don’t.

Signaling lane changes, not following too closely, yielding to pedestrians in the crosswalk, these are required by law.  Flashing your lights to alert another driver that they have forgotten to turn on their vehicle’s headlamps is as you said ‘’a courtesy’.  You just can’t teach courtesy.

Continuing with this same theme of what happened to courtesy?  Here is another email;

I enjoy reading your article but was wondering if you might hit on a couple of topics that seem to bother me that I see on a daily basis.  I am a firefighter and am constantly noticing that people have seemed to forgotten some of the basic rules of the road. I thought maybe if you wrote about them it might refresh their memories.

The first is yielding to an emergency vehicle when their lights are on..  I do realize that I am asking for the right of way but, it seems as though most people have forgotten that they are supposed to pull to the shoulder as to allow for the vehicle to pass. I rarely see this happen.  I am sure you are well aware.

Next is 3 and 4 way stops.  This one happens in normal day to day driving for me, but put me in my engine and it’s a whole other story.   I always seem to have the right of way on this one.  Go figure.  Why is it that most people seem to not understand how to pass through this very simple intersection?  As I recall the steps are simple.  The person to the right has the right of way.  Not the person turning.  All too often I see people not understanding how to perform this very simple task.

The one thing I see and it works just fine is the two opposite lanes going at the same time.  Which works fine until you throw in the poor person who needs to turn and gets stuck in the, you go.  No you go.  No really, you go routine.  This obviously is not the person to the right as the law is written which once again seems to mess everyone up when you do attempt it.   I could be wrong about the law on this but that is how I remember it.  If so, please correct me.

Lastly, merging.  Is it really that hard?  When a sign says merge, well, move into a space. Don’t stop on the on ramp or in the middle of the intersection.  I do feel that if people were more courteous drivers that this wouldn’t be such an issue.

Thank you for listening to me while I got on my soap box and maybe some more people will read your article and it will refresh some memories.  By the way, I remember the yielding in the intersection one because I received a ticket for it when I was 16.

Sometimes there is nothing for me to say.  You have said it all and correctly on top of everything else. I did write a column regarding yielding to emergency vehicles, but it never hurts to remind people of the simple points you discussed.

The issues that you raise are very much the same ones that many other concerned drivers have.  The question is, what are, or more to the point, what can we do to get the word out?  The fact that we are discussing them is a start.  Ever since that guy riding the palomino cut off the guy driving that buckboard, hand jesters were developed and they have steadily gone downhill from there.  The next time you see someone attempting to get your attention because you forgot to close your vehicle’s gas cap, or left the infant seat (with the infant) sitting on the roof of your vehicle, remember there are people out there that just want to do the right thing and help out once in a while.

Now that you’ve got that infant seat off the roof and secured properly inside your vehicle, continue on your way and enjoy the ride.

Monty Hight is a retired California Highway Patrol officer and Public Information Officer. He is the North State AVOID Campaign’s Public Information Officer. He lives in Redding. More information on AVOID can be found here.

Monty Hight
Monty Hight is a retired California Highway Patrol officer and public information officer. He is the North State AVOID Campaign’s spokesman. He lives in Redding.
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3 Responses

  1. Avatar Kandis says:

    Another one – people, use your turn signals! It's so easy, and like the original poster, I assume that if you aren't using your signals, you're part of a "nobody can tell me what to do" protest (I like that line, I'm using it for these people from now on).

  2. Avatar `AJacoby says:

    About merging. My dad, who retired from CalTrans, always maintained that there was a reason that those were called 'acceleration lanes!" Some people fail to understand that the closer you match your speed to the traffic into which you are merging, the less space you need to fit into the line.

    Also, a question in regard to emergency vehicles. When traveling on a divided highway (SR273 and such) and the emergency vehicle is approaching from the opposite direction, what is the protocol?

    Also, also, sometimes those of us of a certain age, find that our hearing acumen is diminishing and we may hear the siren but are unable to tell where it is traveling until we can see the lights. So, even tho' I realize it is a safety issue, at last cut us some slack when saying those nasty words in your mind.

    Thanks for the column . . . very informative.

  3. Avatar KarenC says:

    Thanks Monty, you took care the roads through our county for many years and did it well. Even in retirement, you are still watching and and caring. Your educational articles are great and we read and enjoy them all.

    Keep trying and keep educating…it is all we can do.