Driving Tips from the Cold War Era

Let me begin on the subway.


A man sits, his three children running amok, grabbing others’ bags, yelling, punching at each other. He makes no move to stop them or to apologize. A woman standing nearby calls out: “Your children!”

“Yes, I know,” he says. “Their mother just died. What am I going to do? I’m so sorry.”


Let me next remind you of trucks.


Trucks1: flash your headlights, or highbeams if your lights are already on, to let another know that they can safely move in front of you and that you promise to leave them enough space to do so, even should this require holding back oncoming traffic with your car.

Trucks2: flash your emergency lights just twice say thank you to someone who has let you go in front of them, especially if they flashed their headlights to pledge that they would safely help you do so.

Trucks3: roll down your window, extend your arm, and make an L-shape (or reversed L-shape, if you are on the passenger side for some reason), curl and pump up and down your fist, to hear the horn.


Next I’ll share my ideas for eliminating traffic.


Traffic is caused by people having too much choice. If you want an enormous group of people to move quickly through a limited amount of space, take away as many of their choices as possible.

For example in a merge lane, the cars should alternate, one from the left, one from the right, and so on. Every person who has to decide if it is their turn has also to decide what kind of person they feel like being that day, weighing the relative importance of their forward movement against that of everyone around them and this takes a lot of time, during which we could all be moving forward.


At this point I will approach hazards.


In most states, it is illegal to drive more than 20 miles an hour under the speed limit without your hazard lights flashing.

It most states, it is illegal to drive without your headlights on if it is raining.

When you see a police officer crouched with his radar gun pointed at traffic traveling the opposite direction from you, continue driving as if you did not notice him until you are out of his line of sight. Then flash your headlights as much as possible at oncoming traffic to warn them. This is also illegal.


Let me conclude with a few words about politely avoiding danger.


If you are to the left of a car that suddenly finds itself behind a third car traveling too slowly, you might both be at a loss as to what is best for moving forward. Should you accelerate so that the car to your right may move behind you? This can be dangerous. Should the car to your right dart out in front of you? This can also be dangerous. Avoid both by slowing down (yes, you, in the left lane, slow down), and pulling behind the car to your right. This will let him/her know that he can safely pass the car in the lane you just vacated, with you on his/her tail, and you will both be clear of the slowpoke with a minimum of time and danger.

If you find yourself on a single-lane road with a car obviously in a hurry behind you, pull over as soon as you can, SMILE BIG, and wave as he/she goes by. We all have places to be sometimes, and varying levels of urgency. The goal of driving is for all of us to get where we need to when we need to. It is a common goal. This means sometimes you will be the one passing, but more often you will be the one slowing down, allowing others to pass.