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August 29, 2002
Road Rules

Everybody gripes about other people's driving. This is, of course, because other people drive like monkeys on crack. But everybody complains about driving, and nobody does anything about it -- for the most part, beyond some encouraging signs of road rage a few years ago which have since petered out. Well, today I'd like to remedy that situation with some proposed Rules of the Road:

1. Left turn lights: Anyone who allows more than two car lengths between himself and the preceding car during the brief opportunity afforded by the left-turn arrow will have his bank account reduced by a third, all his timepieces confiscated, and his right foot run through by a red hot javelin. He clearly does not appreciate the value of time, or the responsibility he has to free those behind him in the turn lane, rather than condemning them, through his insouciance, to another eternity waiting for the next green arrow.

2. Multiple lanes: People who drive in the passing (left) lane without making a visible effort to pass those on the right may be fired upon, so long as this is done with reasonable accuracy, by drivers and passengers in trailing vehicles. Given the high probability that the driver shares significant genes with passengers, collateral damage to the latter is acceptable.

3. Vehicle size: Nobody under the age of twenty-five may drive any vehicle larger than a Honda Civic.

4. Taste: Men over 50 driving pimped out 1990 or newer Corvettes, Cadillacs, or Firebirds will be stripped to have their inadequate manhoods displayed to all passersby with eyesight sufficient to notice.

5. Vehicle adornment: Drivers who display stickers of the cartoon character Calvin urinating on various objects of disdain may be pulled from their vehicles by nearby passengers, tied to the hood, and castrated with a reasonably sharp instrument. Drivers with a "My student beat up your honors student" bumper sticker may be pulled from their vehicles and physically beaten by any current or former honors student who believes he can take them.

6. Music: Drivers with their windows down so that surrounding passengers have to listen to lyrics about "ho's gettin' doggied" are subject to imprisonment in the solitary confinement wing of a state penitentiary for not less than three years, during which time they will be forced to listen to Donny and Marie Osmond's 1975 album, "I'm Leaving It All Up To You," played on a continuous loop 24 hours a day.

7. Intersections: Drivers are free to ram, at their own risk, the protruding front ends of vehicles on side roads that have failed to halt behind their stop sign or stop light. Drivers turning left at an intersection are free to do the same to vehicles in the left-turn lane on the street perpendicular to their own, when said vehicles protrude more than three feet into the intersection.

8. Four-Way Stops: One car per stop sign at a time, rotating counter-clockwise. All violators will be removed from their vehicles and placed in the middle of the intersection where the offense occurred, and required to dodge traffic for one hour, or until such time as hospitalization is urgent.

9. Highway entrance ramps: Drivers entering the highway are free to sideswipe passing vehicles that fail to give them entrance by temporarily moving to open left lanes. Highway drivers who brake in order to allow vehicles to enter the highway will be required to suck on a hot brake pad for one hour.

10. Parking: When waiting for someone who has entered his vehicle for the purpose of leaving a parking spot, drivers need wait no longer than two minutes once said individual has closed his vehicle door. Once this time period has elapsed, a driver may park directly behind the offending vehicle.

11. Litter: Drivers will be required to eat anything they throw from their cars. This includes cigarettes, which will be re-lit before ingestion.

There you have it: eleven steps to better driving. Email them to your Congressman, tape them on your dashboard, evangelize them to your friends and neighbors. And remember people, let's be careful out there.

Posted by Woodlief on August 29, 2002 at 01:18 PM


What about, um, drivers who crochet at traffic lights and thus are a little slow off the mark when the light changes? Not, of course, that I would do that. Just asking.

You also neglected to mention people who double park, esp those who just stop in the traffic lane so their companion can hop out to get a soda, not even attempting to pull in closer to the line of parked cars (thus giving other drivers room to pass) or, heaven forbid, actually pulling into an available parking space. I think those people should have someone park 2/3 of the way in front of their driveway for six months. Or something.

Posted by: susanna at August 29, 2002 2:58 PM

How about people who sit at the front of a line of traffic in the left lane at an intersection, then flip their left turn signals on when the light turns green? I would favor stationing someone with a bucket of grenades at every heavily-used intersection, with instructions to toss one through the window of every inconsiderate bonehead who pulls that little stunt.

Posted by: Dave Lonborg at August 29, 2002 3:30 PM

Oh oh. No doubt Tony's soon going to find himself a pin up for the Concerned Citizens About Vast Right Wing Incitement to Violence Conspiracies:




Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan at August 29, 2002 3:46 PM

Please add a suitable punishments for:


Driving with high beams in two-way traffic

Driving with headlights that are aligned so as to scan the skies for incoming airplanes rather than illuminate the road ahead

Driving with a poodle or dachshund on one's lap

Finally, cigarette OR cellphone, not both at once.

Posted by: jim at August 29, 2002 4:40 PM

Thank God someone finally put it all down in one place. Tony, you can tailgate me any day. Everyone else, watch out for my oil slick-spitting tailpipe!

Posted by: Chad at August 29, 2002 6:18 PM

Kudos on all the others, Tony, but we part company on:

10. Parking: When waiting for someone who has entered his vehicle for the purpose of leaving a parking spot, drivers need wait no longer than two minutes once said individual has closed his vehicle door. Once this time period has elapsed, a driver may park directly behind the offending vehicle.

I say, politely, nuts. My sympathies are entirely with the individual exiting the parking space; as far as I'm concerned he may take as long as he pleases to exit. Where do people get the idea that the burden of courtesy lies with the parked driver? I feel stongly about this because for some years I suffered from severe arthritis in both wrists, and when they were inflamed it took me considerably longer than the average to enter the vehicle, fasten the seat belt, and even turn the ignition. Some of the clowns who would pull up seeking a space apparently felt that there was some kind of implicit "15 second rule" about exiting; at least, that about how long they would take before honking or rude gesticulation. I would also be harrased when entering the drver's seat to wait for another passenger, even when I would clearly indicate to the waiting driver by polite words or gestures that I did not intend to exit immediately. I would delight in stalling these idiots by picking up a book, going through my glove compartment, etc. until they drove on in a huff. On a really great day another driver would instantly, in full view, claim the space they had so boorishly coveted.

What griped me about these incidents was that virtually never was my space the only one readily available; there were always some an aisle or two away. (I might have had some sympathy had my space been, say, the only one open at a very crowded sporting event.) They chose to get in a snit because they had to pick a slightly farther space to park in.

I propose the following amendments to your list:

10. Prospective parkers who harrass exiting parked drivers with honking or rude gesturing, or who allow more than three vehicles to back up behind them in the aisle while awaiting a coveted space when other spaces are claerly available within a reasonable distance, shall be required to park not less than ten city blocks from their destination. The space chosen must be entered by parallel parking on a heavily traveled throroughfare, or must be immediately adjacent to the driveway of a heavily patronized business or a residence with not less than three teenage drivers. The insurance provider of the vehicle shall be liable for no damages sustained by the vehicle while so parked.

10a. Vehicles parked behing exiting drivers taking their own sweet time leaving shall be towed in as timely a fashion as possible. While waiting for the tow truck, the blocked driver shall have the option of covering all exposed glass surfaces of the blocking vehicle with duct tape or black paint, at his discretion, the cost of removing such covering to fall upon the driver of the blocking vehicle.

Posted by: Joseph at August 29, 2002 9:12 PM

I think Joseph's 10 city block punishment should also be imposed on people who endlessly circle the parking lot paying little to no attention to pedestrians while waiting for a "better" parking spot.

Likewise, any man who believes his car to be so precious that he can't park in a spot with even a remote chance of someone else parking next to him, WILL have his car keyed if he does not have the courtesy to OFFER to drop his female passengers off at the entrance and go to get the car when exiting.

Moreover, a kindergarten class eating chocolate sundaes will be let loose inside the automobile if you fail to perform this simple courtesy when it is either raining or snowing.

It's not my fault you're a phobic freak who has to park in a separate zip code from the restaurant you're taking me to. If there are no other spots, it's one thing. If you refuse to park in row upon row of spaces just because you don't want your freshly waxed car to get cooties, forget it, I ain't walking.

Posted by: Cis at August 29, 2002 10:49 PM


Nice post but...

I believe the rules of the road of "yielding to the right" would result in a clockwise rotation at the 4-way.

Posted by: John at August 30, 2002 8:38 AM

11. It shall not be a criminal offense to run over a jaywalker; any damage caused to a car by the impact of car and jaywalker shall be paid by the jaywalker's estate.

Posted by: jon at August 30, 2002 9:21 AM

What about drivers who speed up when you try to pass, only to slow down when you pull back in behind them?

Posted by: Tim Plett at August 30, 2002 9:51 AM

Good start, Tony. I'd like to make an addendum to 9 - Drivers who proceed to the very end of the entrance ramp before glancing at the merge lane in order to pick a spot at which to enter traffic, only to chicken out at the last second and stop at the end of the ramp, may be pushed into oncoming traffic by the car behind them that has been forced to slam on its brakes to avoid hitting them. All cars forced to stop behind said individual on the entrance ramp would be permitted to sideswipe the offenders car on their way onto the highway.

I would like to add another pet peeve - drivers who come up behind you at a high rate of speed and tailgate you until you are able to pull over and let them pass, only to slow down to your approximate speed of travel *before* they passed you once they are in front of you. Grrrrr.

When faced with any of the above situations, I find it helpful to close my eyes, find my center, and meditate on a cold malt beverage until my blood pressure returns to normal or I hit another vehicle, whichever comes first :)

Posted by: wylie in norman at August 30, 2002 10:11 AM

You are absolutely correct -- I'm left-right challenged, which is why people from both parties dislike me.

Tell me, are you from Ohio?

Posted by: Tony at August 30, 2002 10:18 AM

One comment and one addition.

Multiple lane abusers are also known as left lane bandits and should be dealt with as such. Gun play is acceptable.

I would also add pulling out in front of someone from a side street and not accelerating briskly enough to the posted speed. Ever notice how some folks seem wait UNTIL the distance is so small that a panic braking is necessary on your part? And then they act as if their V6 is missing three spark plugs? In their case, it is completely appropriate to sucker your tailgating teenage or cell yacking SUV driver into doing the ramming for you by dodging the slow merger at the last second.


Posted by: Steve at August 30, 2002 10:30 AM

let me add a few:

Failure to use turn signal: Any driver who fails to clearly indicate that he or she is turning, in a situation where such indication is necessary, deserve to be rear-ended.

Failure to turn off turn signal: Any driver who drives down the highway with one or both turn signals going will be subjected to sitting in a room with an angry man screaming "click! click! click!" at them in simulation of the sound of the turn signal.

Boom cars: Mike Royko suggested this years ago and I think it is the perfect idea: Anyone who subjects other people to the noise of a booming car stereo (particularly in cars that the individual has spent 6 or 8 months' salary getting tricked out with stereo equipment) shall be driven out to the desert and forced to watch as their boom car is blown up.

Driving too slowly on the interstate: if your car cannot go above 45 on the interstate, you will be driven to the nearest bayou and will have to watch as your beater is given the burial it deserves. Then you will be forced to walk home.
Extra penalties for people who pull onto the interstate and take 1/2 hour to come up to full speed.

and I am so with you on the "failure to yield so people can enter off the turn ramp when the left-hand lane is open".

Posted by: ricki at August 30, 2002 11:31 AM

You've convinced me! I'm selling my car and not going anywhere that this keyboard won't take me. Just kidding. :) But all that hostility does make me want to avoid driving entirely. I think anyone who isn't civil and polite should be (fill in the blank).

Posted by: Andrea at August 30, 2002 12:41 PM

What bugs me about #10 is that people around here will block the aisle waiting for some doofus to pull out so they can have that parking space, and almost always wait longer than it would take them to drive up a few spaces, park, and walk the extra distance. All while preventing me from going on by to get one of those slightly more distant parking spaces.

And here's my proposed penalty for tailgaters. I'd like to keep a paintball gun in my car so I can put a big, festively colored splat! right in front of the driver so they have to back off and -- preferably -- park the vehicle, get out, walk away, and never drive again. Any that get angry about the penalty would get another paintball between the eyes, and the loving attentions of a tire iron for not less than five minutes.

An enhancement would be appended to the tailgating penalty if the vehicle bing tailgated is an SUV, and the tailgater is heard to be complaining about not being able to see over or around it.

Posted by: Kevin McGehee at August 30, 2002 2:26 PM

Sorry cyclists (and I know what a huff many of you get into about this) - but you should also have rules. For example:

* Minimum speed limits. For example, cyclists must reach a minimum of 40 MPH in a 45 MPH zone.

* If a sidewalk is available - ride on it, not beside it. Drivers are big fans of puttering along waiting for the right moment to pass and avoid a head-on collision becuse "it's MY ROAD TOO!" I can almost hear the sniveling as I write that.

Posted by: Davey at August 30, 2002 3:15 PM

I think we can sum it up with one general rule.

1. Any person who drives as if he/she is the only person on the road shall be removed from their vehicle and given a bus pass.

Please note that this applies not only to all listed groups, but also to whiny douchebags who don't understand that (a) courtesy is a two way street and (b) they aren't exactly King Shit of Feces Hill in the driving department.

And while we're on the subject, the sidewalk is for pedestrians. A bicycle is a vehicle, and it belongs on the street. If you can't wrap your mind around the concept, see rule #1.

Posted by: disconnect at August 30, 2002 3:49 PM

Driving and writing are similar in this respect: Everyone who's done either one successfully for more than fifteen minutes thinks it is easy and that they are experts at it. Like chess, the basic moves can be learned in an afternoon, but it takes years to develop an expertise. And of course, some will never learn.

Posted by: Andrea at August 30, 2002 5:01 PM

Okay, I know what everyone who read Andrea's wise observation wants to add to driving and writing.

Don't. Just let it hang in the ether, unspoken.

Posted by: Tony at August 30, 2002 5:38 PM

AMEN brothah! Funny thing is I just wrote about my road pet peeves this morning! maybe we're psychic!

Posted by: JenBen at August 31, 2002 3:20 PM

12. Motorists being tailgated by drivers who flails his or her arms wildly, shaking their heads in disgust and visibly mouthing off profanities shall have the prerogative to pull out a laser pointer and shine a beam of intense red light on the tailgater's eyes to piss them off some more.

Posted by: Abdul Sharif at September 1, 2002 4:47 AM

Oh, dear...we're all enjoying this far too much.
Heh, heh.
A short post on the subject here, from a San Francisco driver.

Posted by: Toren at September 2, 2002 7:18 PM

12: Any driver who parks their beloved Lexus or Off-Road(TM) pickup occupying more than one space shall be forced to watch a crowd of people annoyed by this key their baby for a period of no less than 15 minutes.

12a: Parking Pigs as described above who commit this offense in lots that are rarely full may get a reprieve provided they a) use the spaces furthest away from any entrance, and b) they don't deprive anyone of the last parking space.

As for the anti-biker:
Any biker who fails to EITHER move right for traffic to pass OR achieve 90% of the speed limit may be nudged over by annoyed drivers.

I have commuted by bicycle, and have done some long bike rides. Anyone with a little, tiny bit of skill on a bicycle can ride within the width of the white line for miles on end. Most are just too lazy or too belligerent. The sidewalk, though, is for pedestrians. Ever tried actually riding on a sidewalk, when your tires are inflated to 90 PSI? Ever tried sharing the sidewalk with pedestrians when you're going 20 mph? It's a good way to get wrapped around either a little old lady or a tree.

Posted by: David Perron at September 5, 2002 10:46 AM

For those folks who drive mile after mile with their turn signals on: after one minute, a LOUD alarm would go off. After another minute they get the air bag.

Posted by: Ernie G at September 5, 2002 12:39 PM

I could use what Ernie suggests. Dang turn signal in my car is too dang quiet.

Eh? Speak up sonny, quit mumblin'!

[whacks whippersnapper's kne with cane]

Posted by: Kevin McGehee at September 7, 2002 8:07 AM

To David Perron:

If you believe you have the right to determine that only certain vehicles are allowed in parking lots and that it is correct for parking lots to have spaces delineated only for midget cars, then you may be right; otherwise, large vehicle drivers do the best they can under very trying circumstances.

Posted by: MommaBear at September 9, 2002 11:00 AM

If, on the interstate, you come up on me while I am in a *middle* lane, and soil your britches because you want me to move over, tough! I don't want to be in the right lane because I don't want to dodge merging traffic. So get your dead butt into the left lane and pass!

Cars who pull into traffic an inch at a time, as if it were bathwater, shall be crushed.

Cars who block the crosswalk at intersections shall provide their vehicle's hood for the gameboard in Twister tournaments.

All of the listed traffic infractions listed by the above posters shall carry quadruple penalties when perpetrated by drivers of luxury SUVs.

Posted by: The Sanity Inspector at September 9, 2002 3:44 PM

wrt #3: since I've been the victim of really bad driving(tm) by geriatrics in oversized vehicles far more often than I have been by some kid under 25, I'd like to amend the rule to state: Nobody under the age of 25 or over the age of 65 may drive any vehicle larger than a honda civic.

#12: police and motorists inconvenienced and further endangered by reckless braking and failure to pay attention to the road by rubbernecking at accident scenes may open fire.

#13: drivers who simply maintain the amount of space afforded by the twit that decided to cut them off in the left lane and not accelerate are not liable for tailgating punishments

#14: if you are incapable of handling your vehicle well enough to fit between the lines in a parking space, other drivers have no responsibility to avoid dinging your car. this applies equally to mercedes benz, bmw, suvs, and that pimped out chevy cavalier that the guy at the burger joint spent his last years salary getting custom painted.

#15: cars left running in the fire lane in front of the local starbucks because their owners are too lazy to park 20 feet away shall be towed away, sold, and the proceeds pocketed by whomever makes the call. the yip yip dog left in the front seat will be returned to his owner.

Posted by: Celeste at September 10, 2002 1:01 PM


I'm not talking about the shrinking parking space problem. I'm talking about those twits who are so concerned about their paintjob that they DELIBERATELY take up two spaces. Sometimes three.

Posted by: David Perron at September 11, 2002 1:15 PM

Celeste, funny you should mention (a) geriatrics in oversized vehicles and (b) people unclear on the concept that you park in between the yellow lines. I just encountered both this morning, wrapped up in one neat package.

There were very few open spaces in front of the drugstore this morning, and someone beat me to one. I was about to enter the other when I noticed that the landboat "in" the next space was actually hanging over well into mine.

The driver and a passenger, both women well over the age of 60, were still in the car. I called out to the driver in the hopes that she would start her car and reposition it. She yelled from her window, "Whaaaaa???? I can't hear you" several times before finally getting out of her Landskriegboot and walking over to me.

I said without any rancor, "You're parked in two spaces at once." She replied sourly -- pissily, in fact -- "Well, I am so sorry. It will never happen again. Don't you ever make any mistakes?"

The conversation deteriorated from that point onward, but fortunately it didn't last long, because someone a few spaces down was pulling out.

Tony: I have to disagree with you on this one:

Drivers with a "My student beat up your honors student" bumper sticker may be pulled from their vehicles and physically beaten by any current or former honors student who believes he can take them.

Come on, isn't anyone besides me sick of all those "My Child Was Student of the Month at John Pilger Elementary School!" stickers? Like any of us care that little Jaysonn or Breeee-ahhh-nahhh can kiss the teacher's ass better than anyone else in the fourth grade. If you feel a beating is too much violence against children, there's always Nancy Lebovitz's slogan: "My kid sold drugs to your honor student."

My geeky ex-boyfriend swears that when he has sprogs, he's going to have a bumper sticker made that says, "Your child might be an honors student...but my child reads his email."

Posted by: Reginleif at September 18, 2002 4:59 PM