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COURSEY: One very good driver, and the rest

One of my favorite blogs on pressdemocrat.com is the Road Warrior, particularly when its editor Linda Castrone lets her readers take over with their rants, concerns and advice about navigating the crumbling pavements of Sonoma County.

It's a great study in the psychology of driving, and goes a long way toward emphasizing the one great Truth of the Road, which is: Every driver thinks he or she is a good driver.

The second Truth of the Road is that every driver thinks every other driver is crazy or stupid. And if that other driver also happens to be driving a bicycle, well, then that person also is self-indulgent and self-destructive, in addition to being crazy or stupid, and probably both.

But Road Warrior can be instructional in ways other than teaching us about drivers' quirks and pathologies. The latest installment, for instance, includes some good advice.

A reader named Elizabeth wrote in with a tale about "a driver on 116 who brought his lane to a full stop to wave me, in the turn lane, in front of him into a parking lot." She noted that this apparent act of kindness actually created the potential for calamity on the highway, because the good Samaritan was doing something unexpected in the middle of heavy traffic.

Elizabeth refused the kind-but-misguided offer, fearing that if she had decided to make a turn in front of the well-meaning driver, she might have been T-boned by someone else who decided to go around the suddenly stopped car.

"Think about it like this," Elizabeth wrote. "Traffic flows like a stream. What happens when you put a rock in a flowing stream? The water doesn't stop flowing – it simply flows around the rock."

Well, it would be nice if traffic was that predictable. But it's not, and that point is also illustrated by Elizabeth's experience. The situation was caused by another driver being unpredictable, and therein lies the danger.

It doesn't matter whether you're in a car or on a bike or astride a motorcycle or piloting an 18-wheeler, the safest rule to follow on the road is to be predictable. That means making your intentions clear (turn signals, anyone? Anyone?) and your actions crisp.

When you want to change lanes on the freeway, find a safe opening, signal your intentions and make your move. And please, if you're going to drive 10 mph slower than the rest of traffic, move out of the "fast" lane.


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