Driving a car is fairly straightforward; you probably follow most of the rules of the road without much thought. But there certain challenges that crop up, especially when you’re traveling in an area you aren’t familiar with. Entering and leaving traffic circles and even knowing when to give pedestrians the right of way can quickly turn into white-knuckles-on-the-wheel situations.
Though some of the rules vary from state to state, here are five common driving challenges you’ll face no matter where you drive.
1. How to Tame a Traffic Circle
Also known as rotaries or roundabouts, traffic circles are cropping up everywhere. They’re proven ways to move traffic, replacing signaled intersections in some cases. They can also be chaotic if drivers don’t understand the rules of the rotary they’re in.
How do you approach a traffic circle? With care! Cars on the outside of the circle must always yield to those within the circle. Once in the circle, continue to move around it until you reach your exit. Signal your intention just before making your exit.
2. Give Pedestrians the Right of Way
If you see a pedestrian enter a crosswalk, you’re required to stop in most states. It doesn’t matter if the crosswalk has signs indicating what you should do. You must automatically brake and allow pedestrians to cross the road before continuing on your way.
3. When to Pass on a Two-Lane Road
You’re following a slow-moving vehicle and are growing impatient. You could tap your horn or flash your lights, but neither option seems right. What you can do is pass the vehicle — but only in certain situations. If you’re traveling on a two-lane road, you can move over to the oncoming lane, but only if there’s a broken yellow line on your portion of the two-line divider. Before passing, look down the road to ensure that it’s clear, activate your left-turn signal, move over to the adjoining lane, accelerate faster than the car you’re passing and — once safely ahead of that vehicle — activate the right-turn signal as you ease over.
This is all pretty basic, but it pays off to take a beat and consider whether you can perform each step safely in your situation. If visibility is poor or the road doesn’t have a broken yellow line, don’t let your impatience get the best of you.
4. How to Parallel Park
It’s the most dreaded way to park a car — parallel parking. Many people avoid it, but if you’ve driven on the streets of Manhattan or attempted to park on them, you don’t have much choice. For city-dwellers and visitors, it’s a critical skill.
The best way to parallel park is to locate an empty spot large enough to accommodate your vehicle. Next, pull up close to the vehicle in front of the empty spot, making sure your steering wheel is even with the adjoining car’s steering wheel. Activate the proper turn signal and check your mirrors to ensure that you can back up. With the transmission in reverse, slowly back your vehicle as you turn the steering wheel sharply in the proper direction. Once you’re even with the car’s rear bumper, swing the steering wheel in the opposite direction. You should have enough space to clear the car in front and edge your way into the space. As you approach the curb, straighten your steering wheel and come to a stop. Mission accomplished!
5. Truck Drivers Cannot Always See You
You can’t always pass a truck on a multilane highway — at least not immediately. If you follow a truck, never assume that the driver can see you. That’s one reason why large rigs often have this statement printed on the back of the trailer: “If you can’t see my mirrors, I can’t see you.” This means you need to be far enough behind a truck to see both side mirrors for the truck driver to see you.
If you follow the rules of the road and stay alert, you’ll drive safely. Laws may vary from state to state, so learn and follow them to help ensure the safety of everyone you share the road with.
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Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Matt Keegan has maintained his love for cars ever since his father taught him kicking tires can be one way to uncover a problem with a vehicle’s suspension system. He since moved on to learn a few things about coefficient of drag, G-forces, toe-heel shifting, and how to work the crazy infotainment system in some random weekly driver. Matt is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association and is a contributor to various print and online media sources.