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The rules of the road

Posted: January 30, 2014 2:14 p.m.
Updated: January 31, 2014 5:00 a.m.

Sometimes I think I’m becoming the typical "grumpy old man." There are some things that bother me much more than in my younger years. But there’s something that has bothered me since my teens and that’s people who simply don’t know how to drive. Believe me, there are many of them out there.

I took driver’s education in high school and learned a lot that I still remember to this day. I’m not saying I’m the world’s best driver, or the world’s best at anything, but I pride myself in knowing and practicing the rules of the road. One good example is the use of turn signals. People, the auto industry put those signals on your cars and trucks for a reason. It’s a pretty good idea to let your fellow motorists know what your intentions are. On the other hand, you shouldn’t blindly trust a turn signal, either, because they’re not always true. I find myself from time to time driving along with a turn signal on when I have no intention of making a turn. If someone assumed I was going to turn and pulled out in from of me -- WHAM! And it really would be my fault.

So, I always use my turn signals. I grew up a few miles outside of town in the country. I had a good friend who said to me "I bet you use your blinker when you’re turning into your own driveway at 11 o’clock at night with no other car around for miles." He was right, I did. That’s because if I had the habit of using my signals even on a deserted road late at night, I would use them all the time -- in town, on the highway and when a cop was behind me.

When my son got to the age to learn to drive, I gave him a simple piece of advice. I told him that as he took to the streets and highways to have the attitude that everyone else out there was trying to hit him. That’s known as "defensive driving" and it’s a good policy. When a driver roars up to a stop sign on a side street, don’t assume they’re going to stop. Assume they’re not going to stop. I know it sounds cynical, but you can’t trust anyone on the road.

Another thing is the rules of right-of-way. The town I grew up near is about the size of Camden. There weren’t many stoplights, but there were plenty of stop signs, mostly the four-way kind. I learned even before taking driver’s ed how to deal with a four-way stop when other cars were involved. It amazes me how many people don’t know. They’ll either go when it’s not their turn, or when it is their turn they’ll sit and stare at you, waiting for you to go. Frustrating.

Now, here’s the big one, my number one gripe about drivers. When you see an emergency vehicle with its lights activated, whether approaching you from the front or coming up in your mirrors from behind – PULL OVER! Give that policeman, deputy, ambulance or fire truck the road. They have important business somewhere that they need to get to, far more important than what you or I are doing. I see it happen far too often that an emergency vehicle is on the road and I pull over to the shoulder, only to have the driver behind me pass me and go on at full speed. What if that ambulance was on its way to help your grandpa who was having a heart attack or stroke? What if that fire truck was on its way to put out a fire at your house? Wouldn’t you want them to have a wide-open roadway that would allow them to get to their destination as fast as possible? I know I would, so I pull over. Not only that, it’s the law, and a good one.

So please, if you’re not well informed or practiced on the rules of the road, study up on them. The Department of Motor Vehicles or the S.C. Department of Public Safety has a lot of information available on the subject. I’ve always been told that driving is not a right, it’s a privilege. So, learn to drive properly. The life you save may be your own, or more importantly, mine.

(Gary Phillips is a staff reporter for the Chronicle-Independent, Camden, S.C. Email responses to gphillips@chronicle-independent.com.)

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