I can remember when the turn signal, the horn, the brake lights and even the hazard lights were all communication tools. Now, using them seems to either make people angry or encourages them to drive more aggressively toward you. Even the sunroof is no longer only used to enjoy the pleasant weather. It is now used for wagging your finger of choice at another driver. Here, we will cover not only how communicating on the road has changed, but a few harmless pointers on how to perhaps diffuse each situation.
Let’s take the turn signal, for instance. Letting someone know that you are going to change lanes or turn is an awesome concept. Unfortunately, in heavy traffic, people agree that signaling to change lanes will sometimes guarantee that no one will let you over. You’ve just sealed your fate. Being a reformed non-signaler, myself, I can’t explain why I wasn’t using my signal. Perhaps I was trying to save the life of the bulb, so it lasts the life of the car. And, now that I do signal, I’ve learned that you just have to be patient and someone will eventually let you in. And then, make sure you give them their thank you wave in a timely manner, or that’ll make them mad, too. I know a young man who not only signals his lane change, but in heavy traffic, he also rolls down his window and waves at the person in the next lane to get their attention. He makes eye contact with them and literally begs them to let him over. Sometimes he even cries. He never really said that, but I know him, and he probably does cry.
Now, the scariest tool, by far, is the horn. Great for communicating on the road in the past, now honking the horn is likened to scolding someone in public. While the short beep means “shame on you…wake up and drive,” laying on the horn makes people absolutely bonkers. That long, nagging, whining horn reminds me of being screamed at by my mother, before being grounded for life. And, if the person you’re honking at happens to have a gun, and they use it, the grounding for them would certainly be for life…in the state prison.
Giving someone a brake check or tapping your brakes to let the person behind you know that you think they are following too close is also now taken as a sign of aggression. If they are tailgating you and you clearly cannot move over because that lane is bumper to bumper traffic, putting your hazard lights on may diffuse their anger. Now they’ve gone from being angry at you to feeling sorry for you. It’s a little passive-aggressive perhaps, but harmless, nonetheless. You still get to kind of “zing” them without causing their anger to escalate.
And those good old hazard lights have changed their meaning too. Yes, they may be good to diffuse a tailgating situation. But using them when broken down on the side of the road is not a good idea, as one would think. Apparently drunk drivers are attracted to flashing lights (kind of like how blonds are attracted to shiny objects), and the drunk driver may drive right into your car. Better than using your hazard lights, turn on your signal light as if you are planning to re-enter the freeway. Other drivers will see this and be afraid that you could pull out right in front of them. Which may encourage them to move over and put an empty lane between you and them for their safety, which turns out to be for your safety, too.
Until next week…use those tools the car manufacturer gave you…before they become extinct.
Daun Thompson Artist / Comedienne / Writer
Communicating On The Road – Comedy Defensive Driving