August 29, 2007 Edition

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Do other people drive you crazy?

Linda Lou Moore
Guest Writer

Northeast Arkansas is growing. How wonderful to have better roads and highways. So, what in the world do manners have to do with construction, concrete, asphalt, cars and trucks? What do manners have to do with accidents? What do manners have to do with stress? And why should anyone be concerned about driving etiquette?

Because, civility saves lives!

Almost everyone is talking about how difficult it is to drive with the new construction. Factor in tailgating, failure to yield, talking on the cell phone and driving too fast or too slow and you only compound an already confusing situation. The stress of driving under these conditions can bring out the worst in all of us.

The American Automobile Association discusses safe driving tips in Choose Courtesy. Arline Dillman, Ph.D., traffic safety manager of the Automobile Club of Southern California, the largest affiliate of the American Automobile Association, states, "When we're enclosed in our vehicles, we're removed from the direct human contact that normally promotes courteous behavior in public settings. If motorists could see themselves acting in public in the same way they drive their cars - tailgating, yelling and making angry gestures - they would understand the rudeness of their behavior."

Here is a checklist of some of the questions Dr. Dillman asks:

Typically, how closely do I follow other drivers? Do I allow the recommended three-second following distance, and additional distance in bad weather?

Do I yield to other drivers, even when I think they're rude? How do I react when another driver follows me too closely or signals that he wants to move into my lane?

Do I let other drivers know my intention to change lanes by using my turn signal?

Do I let myself get distracted with other activities while I drive?

Do I weave in and out of traffic, or do I realize that lane speeds usually "even out" and that it's more courteous and less stressful to remain in one lane?

Do I honor the "every other car" rule when two lanes are merging into one?

Do I move to the slower lanes if traffic is traveling faster than I am?

Do I signal an apology if I inadvertently make a mistake while driving, such as cutting someone off accidentally?

Dr. Dillman discusses the importance of our behavior while driving. "The wonderful attribute of courtesy and polite behavior is that it really is contagious. If you smile at another driver and let him change lanes in front of you, he'll probably wave to thank you and be more likely to act courteously to other drivers. Just like a chain reaction can cause a collision, it can also work in the opposite way and create a more friendly driving environment."

Around here we just call it good ole southern hospitality.

Hazardous driving conditions, long commutes, traffic jams and road construction can turn anyone into a road warrior. At least we can make our time on the road more enjoyable by practicing courteous driving.

Quote of the day: "Natives who beat drums to drive off evil spirits are objects of scorn to smart Americans who blow horns to break up traffic jams." - Mary Ellen Kelly.

Linda Lou Moore is trained and certified by The Protocol School of Washington. She offers etiquette programs to children, teens and young adults. She offers business etiquette programs to adults. She may be reached at Post Office Box 145, Paragould, 72451 or at manners@grnco.net

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