The Cruising Chronicles: 35+ Unwritten Rules Of The Road That Are Worth Repeating

By Vukosi M

Have you heard of the phrase, “when you know, you know?” In case you haven’t, don’t worry; we’ll bring you up to speed. So, some things are just obvious, common knowledge. Although they aren’t codified, you know them by heart, like certain road rules. There are many rules and gestures that have become standard practice, and yet you won’t find them written anywhere… until now. 

Since driving comes with the same dangers as any extreme sport, it’s always best to take precautions because anything can happen at anytime, anywhere. So, stay alert and always be prepared for the good, the bad, and the ugly. 

To keep you safe, we’ve compiled a list of some uncodified rules of the road that everyone should know.

Keep calm and drive on.

If you’re a regular driver, you’ve probably encountered situations that pissed you off on the road. Whether it’s another vehicle cutting in front of you or a crazy driver crossing the red light, situations always arise to test your patience.

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It’s not easy to share the road with thousands of other motorists daily, so the best thing you can do for yourself is to keep calm. Try not to lose your cool and avoid taking your frustrations out on the accelerator because road rage can be lethal.

Always have an exit strategy.

Keeping a safe following distance doesn’t only apply when doing your driver’s license test, folks! If you’ve ever driven in a rough neighborhood before, you’ll know that things can get heated in the blink of an eye. The last thing you want is to be caught in the crossfire, literally.

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We know it’s tempting to drive bumper to bumper every once in a while, especially when you’re attempting to prevent those shoulder drivers from cutting in front of you. But try and resist the temptation when driving in a rough neighborhood, okay?

Lost? Turn down the music.

For some strange reason, eyes see better when there’s silence. So, you might want to turn down the volume next time you’re lost and trying to locate an address or street sign. This doesn’t seem to matter, but trust us, it works!

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Think of it like driving around with a car full of preschoolers screaming at the top of their lungs. Do you think you can really focus with all that noise? Good thing your stereo has the option to turn down the volume.

In the fast lane? Go fast!

You’ve probably seen quite a few highway signs reminding drivers to only use the left lane to pass. However, we all know those people who ride the road in the fast lane the entire time. The only thing we’ll say to them is: use it!

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It’s okay to speed up in the fast lane, but don’t loiter there if you’re going to go the average speed limit the whole time. Oh, and can someone please remind our grandparents that the fast lane isn’t for everyone?

Take turn signals with a grain of salt.

Trust issues aside, you can’t ever be too sure about the actions and intentions of other drivers. Never take a turn signal for granted. For starters, it’s easy to accidentally flip the lever and turn on your blinkers. Even if it was on purpose, the driver could change their mind at the last second.

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Think about it; how many times have you been in a new area and left your blinker on while you tried to figure out which was the right turn? We strongly advise you to slow down whenever you see a turn signal and have your foot carefully placed on the brake pad in case of emergency.

Thank drivers that let you merge.

Don’t you feel a little offended when someone takes advantage of your kind gesture without even acknowledging it? Just like you should thank someone who holds the door for you, you should acknowledge a driver that lets you pass them.

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Sometimes we forget that other motorists don’t owe us anything on the road, so when a fellow driver shows us some kindness, a good old thank you won’t hurt. So, better smile and wave before you drive off into the sunset!

Green is legal, but not necessarily safe.

Some drivers just don’t pay attention while driving, and you shouldn’t count yourself among them. It’s always best to exercise extra caution. Never assume that it’s safe to drive simply because the traffic light is green. Always look left, look right, and left again to make sure the coast is clear.

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Most road accidents aren’t due to car malfunctions; they happen because someone fails to keep their eyes on the road. Once you get in the driver’s seat, your focus should be on the road and nothing else. Multitasking behind the wheel endangers everyone on the road, including yourself.

Assume the worst of other drivers. 

This sounds like next-level paranoia, but you’re better off safe than sorry. Although we hope that everyone behind the wheel is on the road legally, there are plenty of drivers who are uninsured, have lost their license, are drunk, or even stole the car!

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If you assume that the other drivers aren’t as cautious as you are, you can save yourself from dangerous accidents and hefty repair bills. While getting into an accident is bad no matter what, it gets a whole lot more complicated when the other driver isn’t legally allowed to be behind the wheel.

Don’t rely on others to tell you when it’s safe to pass.

If you have trust issues, then this doesn’t apply to you. You’re already smart enough to know that you should always check for yourself to see if there’s oncoming traffic before passing through an intersection or merging into a new lane. 

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But in case you’re too trusting, save that trait for other areas of your life! Never rely on total strangers to check the road, no matter how sincere or friendly they may look. They could just as easily miss a speeding car or have an unknown blind spot.

Forget driving in Boston. 

Don’t drive in Boston unless you have nothing else to do because chances are you might be on the road all day. If, by some miracle, you don’t get stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic for hours on end, you might be circling the streets for hours just trying to find parking.

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Boston resident who goes by the username FleetwoodMacGyver on Reddit gave all visitors some good advice. They suggest that you abandon all hope of driving, park your car and call a tow truck. Have your car towed outside of town and plan ahead the next time you visit.

The right lights for the right time of day.

Please, always be visible! You might be a night owl, more accustomed to nighttime activities, but not every driver has dark light vision like you do. So please, remember to turn on your nighttime driving lights when the sun goes down.

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Even with street lights and the spill-over light from other cars, you should always make sure your car is visible to other drivers. And, if you have no regard for the safety of other drivers, keep in mind that it’s illegal to drive at night without your lights on.

Zipper merging is your friend.

Zipper merging is one of those rare situations in life where you don’t need to stand out, but simply follow the pattern. There’s no need to show off your impeccable driving skills by jumping ahead of other vehicles. You won’t gain anything from it.

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Patience is key, simply follow the line and merge when it’s your turn. Really, you don’t have to mess up the sequence, regardless of how much you’re in a rush. You’ll also be interested to know there’s no first-place prize for being the first to merge, so chill!

Use the passing lane to… pass. 

Perhaps this should be written in bold letters on billboards along highways everywhere because some motorists don’t seem to comprehend the purpose of a passing lane. Well, here’s a reminder: when you use the passing lane, make sure you pass the vehicles in the adjacent lane.

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You’re not supposed to take your precious time deciding where in line you want to fall. And you certainly shouldn’t use it to ride parallel to the other driver. You should actually put your foot on the gas and move on!

The more duct tape, the more allowance they get.

If you see a car with a lot of duct tape, they have the right of way. There’s a reason that car is held together by duct tape, and best believe, you don’t want to find out the hard way. So, try not to drive too close to them.

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Chances are they have no regard for road rules and are prone to bumping into other cars, so make sure to guard your car. Otherwise, you might find yourself stocking up on duct tape to cover a broken headlight long after they’ve driven off.

Take your turn at a four-way stop.

There’s an implicit sequence to follow when you get to a four-way stop. If you need a reminder, we’ll break it down for you. The first vehicle to get to the intersection has the right of way. So wait your turn, Lewis Hamilton! 

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Don’t try and play traffic officer from behind the wheel. When you’re up next, just step on the gas and drive; no need for the dramatic display and chivalry. Trust us; other motorists are aware of the sequence, so just move!

Leave home early.

“Speed kills” may be the buzzword of many road safety awareness campaigns, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true. Countless road fatalities are the result of speeding cars. So, to avoid this, plan your day and head out fifteen minutes early.

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With that extra time, you won’t feel the need to rush. Driving at high speeds doesn’t only put your life in danger, but it threatens the safety of other road users too. If you’re going somewhere and are running late, remember this—it’s better to arrive late than never. 

Slow before you turn.

Losing control is one of those things that drivers can never imagine happening to them. That is, until it’s too late, and you find yourself spinning at an exponential speed. Keep your foot on the accelerator and you might come face-to-face with a nasty surprise.

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The brake pad is your friend, okay! Remember to slow down first before turning into a new lane. You might love the adrenaline rush of flirting with disaster but don’t endanger the lives of fellow road users to get your dose.

Wave when someone lets you pass.

If you’ve ever given right of way to an ungrateful fellow, then you’re probably familiar with the mixed feelings of regret, disappointment, and mild anger from the lack of appreciation for your kind gesture. It’s really not that hard to wave your hand as you drive off, folks!

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Unfortunately, gratitude doesn’t come naturally for some people. Perhaps this list can help spread some basic common sense, such as thanking another motorist for letting you through. After all, they didn’t have to, but they did it. So, show some gratitude!

Merging is an active process.

You can’t afford to be in “tortoise mode” when merging onto a highway. It’s an active process that requires you to be highly alert and quick on the gas to match the speed of flowing traffic, no matter how many—or few—cars there are.

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If you’re going to join the highway, be prepared to rev up your chariot. If you’re too slow, you might get hit from behind or cause another driver to swerve into their own accident. We’re not trying to make a collision sandwich, so move it!

Winter tires can be life-saving.

Once again, common sense is not so common after all. Why drive without winter tires when you can clearly see that Jack Frost stopped by for a visit and turned the road into a winter wonderland? Even if you’re a long-time resident, it’s never too late to switch to winter tires.

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Okay, we’ll spell it out for you—your little old rubber tires will not carry you through the snow! So, get some snow chains for your tires. If not, then park your car and ski right along because there’s a long winter ahead. 

The left lane is the fast lane.

The rule is “keep right, pass left” for a reason. If you decide to take the left lane, best be prepared to put your foot on the gas because, hello, you’re in the fast lane! So, why are you still going at a snail’s pace?

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We don’t need all the lanes, be it two, three, or four, going the same speed, and we’re certainly not trying to bond over traffic. Some of us are trying to get somewhere, so if you want to cruise nowhere slowly, stick to the right lane and let us pass in peace!

Be nice to student drivers.

Next time you find yourself driving behind a newbie on the road, please be nice to them. Don’t speed up or cut them off. After all, we have all been through the nerve-racking experience of being a new driver before. 

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Don’t add unnecessary pressure on the student driver with your gas-happy foot. Give them enough space by keeping a longer following distance and only driving past if it’s safe to do so. We’re sure they’ll appreciate your courtesy, and you’ll feel fuzzy about it.

Always turn on your lights when it’s raining.

Visibility is key! Please switch your lights on when driving in the rain. We’re already dealing with slippery roads and slow brakes, so don’t add to the list of potential dangers by driving incognito. No one wants to get into an accident at any time, but especially on a rainy day!

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We are all just trying to get home safely to snuggle up on the couch and binge our favorite TV show while the rain waters the plants outside. You get the message, right? Keep your lights on, no matter the time of day, so other motorists can see you from a distance.

Flashing lights in a well-lit environment means your lights are blinding.

Night driving can be an extreme sport, especially when bright lights from other cars come at you like a thousand suns. If you are guilty of blinding other motorists, cut it out immediately! Your bright lights are blinding to oncoming traffic.

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Be considerate and dim your lights! You don’t need to see the interior of the vehicle in front of you, and we’re sure other drivers could do without your annoying brights. You need light to see, but there’s such a thing as too much of a good thing.

Blink before you hit the brake.

Public roads are not private property. You’re not the only one driving there, so be considerate of others. Don’t make abrupt stops without giving the driver behind you a heads-up. That’s what your blinkers are for, so you should use them!

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Unfortunately, not everyone has magic powers to read your mind and anticipate your next move. So, please communicate! You already know you’ll be making a stop shortly, so please share that classified information with other road users so they can slow down too. 

Be aware of your surroundings.

“Look left, look right” isn’t only limited to pedestrians. The same rule applies to motorists. As you keep your eyes on the road, make sure you have a 360-degree view of your surroundings—as much as you possibly can—by constantly checking your mirrors. 

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Where public roads are concerned, anything can happen, so always make sure the coast is clear before changing lanes to avoid unnecessary crashes. Your road safety is literally in your hands. Be vigilant and always know what is around you!

It’s okay to be the slower car.

Acceptance is key. When it comes to horsepower, agility, and torque, size does matter. So, if you don’t pack a mean punch under the hood, please step aside. Mind the hefty V8 behind you to avoid causing unnecessary traffic congestion.

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There’s honestly no shame in driving the slower car, and it’s totally okay to switch lanes when you can’t keep up. Simply move to the side swiftly, and let the big boys pass! They’ll thank you for it and think better of you for staying safe.

If you’re behind someone, turn off the brights.

If there’s a vehicle with properly functioning lights in front of you, then you can probably see the road ahead. So, there’s no need to use your brights unless you’re trying to see the contents inside the car in front of you.

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Hey, your strange love for your brights is really making life unpleasant for the driver ahead of you. The reflection of your brights in their rearview mirror can be distracting and blinding. So, please dim your lights at your earliest convenience.

Flashing lights aren’t meant to be obnoxious.

When someone flashes their lights at you, don’t take it personally. In fact, you should consider yourself lucky that your fellow motorist is a safe driver and wants to make sure you stay safe. It could be a hazard behind you, broken taillights, or any number of things they’re warning you about.

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It’s best to slow down and drive with extra caution, looking out for any possible obstacles ahead. Check your mirrors again, and make sure your lights are on the right setting. You don’t want to find yourself in a preventable accident.

Get out of blind spots.

Some drivers will go out of their way to make you anxious by driving too close behind you, as if there isn’t enough room on the road for everyone. They’ll have you thinking twice before stomping your foot on the brake pedal to avoid getting bumped from behind. 

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You should always keep a safe driving distance and don’t speed too much, but it’s okay to do so in order to drive past the vehicle in front of you. It’s safer than staying in their blind spot too long. And, if you don’t feel like speeding up, slow down a little!

Not all horn honks are mean.

Hey, don’t go around looking for reasons to take offense! A light tap on the horn is a kind gesture—a “heads up” to warn you of what lies ahead. So, instead of getting angry at a good stranger, slow down and drive with extra caution. 

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Be grateful; you may have just been saved from driving into a gigantic boulder in the middle of the road or a hidden speed trap. Next time a fellow motorist gives you a polite heads up, flick your lights at them to say “thank you!”

Share information and intention.

You’re not the only one on the road. Whether it’s one other car or a dozen speeding vehicles, you all have the same goal. Be sure to make your intentions clear when driving. If you’re planning to make a turn, signal your move in advance so other drivers can drive accordingly. 

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Be predictable for your safety and that of the other drivers. By signaling your intentions, you’re avoiding the possibility of getting smashed into by fast-coming traffic. And trust us, tilting the indicator stick won’t break your nail, so use it!

Assume everyone else is an idiot.

Imagine that you’re driving in the quiet town of Brantford, New Hampshire, and all of a sudden, a crazy driver swerves onto the road. Now that we’re older, we can’t help but imagine the other cars in that scene in Jumanji.

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Avoid getting too comfortable and thinking you’re surrounded by law-abiding citizens with a strong passion for road rules. We’re not trying to scare you from getting behind the wheel. We’re simply giving you a real-life survival guide and tips to keep you safe on the road. 

Trucks don’t stop as quickly as you do.

Never trust a truck to stop on time. Those gigantic vehicles have a lot more going on than your [comparatively] tiny car. If you find yourself driving behind one, make sure to maintain a good following distance. Don’t get too close!

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You want to ensure that, in the event of a collision, you’ll be able to make a smooth stop without swerving or slamming into the back of the truck. The last thing you want is to end up underneath the truck with a minced pile of metal you used to call a car. 

Go with the flow… of traffic.

Public roads are not a race track. Speed limits are there for a reason, so don’t try and set your own pace. Stick to the speed limit! If you have a need for speed, then perhaps you should join the Grand Prix instead. 

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Resist the temptation to be the fastest driver on the tarmac, perhaps even the slowest. There’s absolutely no need for theatrics and certainly no Formula 1 trophy at the end of your trip. So, just maintain the same speed as the other motorists!

Predictability over kindness.

Driving predictably means making it easier for the driver behind you to anticipate your next move. Don’t try and surprise them by making an abrupt stop without any warning. The last thing you want is to get bumped from behind. 

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So, just drive carefully and move to the side to let the car behind you pass—only if it’s safe to do so. Driving courteously has nothing to do with being nice. It’s simply common sense, and besides, it’s not your road.

Move over, don’t speed up, if someone is tailgating you.

Some drivers seem determined to make life difficult for the slower motorists on the road. If someone’s driving too close behind you, don’t try and prevent them from going past you. There’s no finish line and definitely no prize for the faster driver. 

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Since you’ll never know their reasons for getting too close to your car, it’s better to simply move aside and let them pass. We wouldn’t advise you to speed up because the last thing you want is to end up in an unwanted drag race.

Put away your phone.

Texting while driving is a major cause of most road accidents. You might be used to juggling numerous tasks at the same time, but multitasking is not an option while driving. It’s really that simple; don’t text when behind the wheel. 

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When it comes to your safety, everything else can wait. Don’t compromise your safety over a text message. If it’s really urgent, then simply find a spot to stop your vehicle and attend to your cell phone. Your life is too precious to lose over a simple text!

Don’t drive when tired. 

You’d think people would rest when they feel tired, but that’s not as commonplace as you’d think. Most car crashes are caused by physically exhausted and sleepy drivers. Rather than taking some time to rest, reckless drivers get behind the wheel instead. 

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If you’re driving over long distances, be sure to rest along the way. Park your car, stretch your legs, and replenish your energy. There’s no point in pushing yourself to complete a journey in record time. The aim should be to arrive alive, not quickly. 

Be careful when opening the door after parking.

We know it can be hard to open the door without hitting the car next to you, especially in those tight parking garages, but try not to bang an unsuspecting stranger’s car with your heavy metal door. Take it slow and open your door carefully.

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No one wants to deal with dents and scratches from another car, especially when it happens when you’re parked and away from speeding cars. So don’t leave your mark on other cars, unless you’re prepared to pay for repairs and paint jobs, all because you just couldn’t open your door slowly.