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Are You Naughty Or Nice Behind The Wheel?

Even if it’s a very, very long time since you believed in the white-bearded guy in the red suit who makes a list and checks it twice, you’re never too old to stop caring about whether you’re naughty or nice.  Especially when you’re behind the wheel of a car.

There’s something about being enclosed in a bubble of metal and glass that makes you feel isolated and in your own little world where you don’t have to worry about others.  However, this is an illusion or possibly a delusion.  It’s not just that we can see you picking your nose or singing badly when you’ve stopped at the red lights.  Even when you’re driving, good manners – being nice – are important.  You certainly aren’t the only driver on the road.

It’s especially important to be polite to each other on the road at this time of year, and not because you want to be on Santa’s Nice list rather than the Naughty list.  There tend to be more people on the roads for a number of reasons.  There are those who are doing a Chris Rea and driving home for Christmas.  There are those who are heading out Christmas shopping.  It’s school holidays, so the Mums and Dads who haven’t knocked off for their Christmas break need to get kids over to Grandma’s or the babysitter’s place and then get to work… and Grandma/the babysitter decides that a trip to the park or the swimming pool complex or the movies is the best form of entertainment for that day.  Those who are old enough to still have school holidays and are old enough to have a licence are also out and about on the roads.  Add in hot summer temperatures and less-than-stellar air conditioning and you have a situation where tempers are likely to get a little frayed.

In this situation, relaxing and having good manners on the road will help us all get where we need to and want to go without straying into the road rage or stress zone.

Situation:  You need to change lanes and a gap has suddenly opened up beside you.

Naughty Behaviour: Duck immediately into the next lane, after checking the blind spot over your shoulder (even checking it twice) and/or making the most of the blind spot assistance package in your nice new car.

Nice Behaviour: Indicating as you do that quick check before you change lanes.  It isn’t hard, people!

Situation: You’re in a queue of traffic and notice a car at the exit from a car park waiting for a gap.

Naughty Behaviour: Keep on going, serene in the belief that the traffic lights will arrange for a gap for that person, and that the Give Way rules were invented for a reason.

Nice Behaviour:  Slow down, let a gap open and wave the person waiting into the stream of traffic.  It only costs you a few seconds.  Incidentally, this is the sort of thing that driverless cars can’t cope with: they can’t handle the multitude of ways that people wave other drivers (and pedestrians and bikes) through into gaps.

If you are the person who has been let into the stream of traffic, acknowledge this with a wave and a smile.  It’s polite to say thank you (someone ought to invent a thank you indicator).

Situation: Someone cuts into the gap in the lane in front of you without indicating, forcing you to step on the brakes (or activating the collision avoidance system).

Naughty Behaviour:  Lean on the horn, shake fists, swear and pull fingers.  Tailgate them.

Nice Behaviour: Do nothing except grumble a bit, then get on with your driving.

Situation: Someone with an L plate or even a P plate takes their time at a roundabout and doesn’t take a gap that you know was perfectly safe.

Naughty Behaviour: Honk at them, tailgate, shake fists, yell insults, etc.

Nice Behaviour: Be patient.  The whole point of those L and P plates is to indicate to the rest of the world that this driver isn’t experienced and might not do things the way you would because it takes time to learn these things. Driving is kind of like handwriting and what we do for the first year or so tends to be a bit wonky.  It’s also possible that the driver of that car has seen something that you, being further back in the stream of the traffic, haven’t, like an oncoming ambulance with the sirens and lights going.  Or a line of baby ducks crossing the road.

Situation:  The light has turned orange ahead of you.

Naughty Behaviour: Speed up so you can get through it safely.

Nice Behaviour: Slow down and stop, as long as you can do this safely.  This is one of the basic road rules and the Naughty behaviour is Naughty in the eyes of the cops as well as your fellow drivers (and pedestrians).

Situation:  You’re cruising a bit slower than the speed limit, possibly because you like to take it easy around the corners.  The road straightens up and the car behind you gets close and looks like it could overtake you.

Naughty Behaviour:  Speed up and go at the full open road limit so the other driver either has to give up on the idea of overtaking you or has to really floor it to get past you (some vehicles are better at doing this than others).

Nice Behaviour: Either keep on at your slightly slower cruising speed or else pull over to the side (if you can) to let the other driver overtake safely.  It’s not a race, after all!

In all situations, the best things that you can do are the same things that you do with face-to-face interactions: say thank you (hand signal: wave), say sorry (hand signal: wave), be patient with other people and do unto others as you’d have them do to you.