What is Driver Courtesy?

Welcome to Driver Courtesy Month! This blog is part two of our month-long series on Driver Courtesy. Check out Part 1 Here! Don’t forget to take the online quiz Are You a Courteous Driver?

This week I will take a deep drive into Driver Courtesy. Hopefully you will know most of this but it’s always a great idea to refresh yourself on courteous driving techniques because many of them are also now the law.

The basic concept of courteous driving, though, is quite simple—the Golden Rule of Driver states, “Drive like you want others to drive.”

Here is our list of driving courtesy and we’ll discuss each one in this blog:

  • Lane Courtesy—Drive Right, Pass Left
  • Use Your Turn Signal
  • Drive a Steady Speed on the Highway
  • Don’t Tailgate
  • Pay Attention at Stoplights—don’t Multitask
  • Don’t Text and Drive
  • Use the Zipper Merge
  • Pull over and Move over for Emergency Vehicles
  • Turn down bright lights when another vehicle approaches
  • Use fog lights only when there’s fog
  • Park between the Lines
  • Yield to the Right at Four-way Stops
  • Control your Urge to Road Rage
  • Thank other Road Users who Helped you by Waving

Lane Courtesy

Simply put, lane courtesy is the practice of yielding to or moving over for faster moving traffic. The concept of lane courtesy has also been called lane discipline. It evolved with the development of the US Interstate System, but the idea of slower traffic yielding to faster traffic is even older. Basically, lane courtesy means to drive right, and pass left.


  • You’re less likely to be an accident
  • You’ll get better gas mileage
  • You’ll get to your destination faster
  • You will not have to deal with road rage

Using Turn Signals

This is probably the easiest of driver courtesy ideas to remember. Always use your turn signal –it indicates to other road users what your intentions will be in the near future so that they can plan their actions as well.

Steady Speed

For years and with many reviewed studies, the safest traffic is one with a flow of steady speed. It is dangerous for vehicles to weave in and out of traffic. Maintaining a steady speed also saves on gas.


Don’t do it! The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration classifies tailgating as a form of aggressive driving. Some of the reasons motorists tailgate are aggressive driving, road rage, careless driving, distracted driving, and speeding.

Following another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent than road conditions warrant is never safe under any circumstances—it causes concern for the driver that is being tailgated and has been the cause of many accidents and road rage incidents. It’s distracting and irritating being followed too closely. Tailgating is a contributing factor in more than one third of all accidents. Most driving manuals recommend the following:

Distance of one car length for every ten miles per hour of speed to allow a safe stopping distance if the car in front of you brakes suddenly. Another rule of thumb is at least two to four seconds behind the car in front of you.

What to do if someone tailgates you?

  • Keep your distance if you can. Remain vigilant on what other drivers are doing around you.
  • Stay calm—letting your emotions get the best of you could aggravate the situation further and distract you from driving.
  • Pull over if it is safe to do so.
  • Maintain a consistent speed.
  • Don’t overuse your brakes (called brake checking) is not a good idea in any situation. This could easily escalate road rage. Let the other driver pass you.
  • Don’t become a tailgater yourself –maintain your distance to keep everyone safe.

Stoplight Multitasking

It is tempting to put on makeup or look at your phone at a red light but don’t do it. Stoplight multitasking is still distracted driving. Important to stay alert with your eyes on the street and aware of what other road users are doing. Otherwise, if you are startled out of your distraction, you can easily make a mistake. Instead, keep your hands on the wheel and your mind on what is going on around you.

Distracted Driving

Don’t do it.

Don’t text and drive. Don’t mess with your radio, AC, Heater, etc. Concentrate on driving—most drivers cannot multitask even when not driving. If the kids are becoming a distraction—pull over a moment to sort it out. Same with other passengers in the car. If your pet gets loose, pull over and sort it out. A bee gets in the car, stay calm and pull over. Don’t answer that phone and don’t fiddle with your podcast app. One second with eyes off the road can be all it takes to cause an accident.

Zipper Merge

This driving technique is a difficult one for many Americans. They have this notion that if other drivers wait until the last moment to merge that they are discourteous. Zipper merging, though, can keep traffic moving and traffic experts agree that this is the best way to combine two busy lanes of traffic into one. Drivers use both lanes until before one ends, then merge just like the teeth of a zipper coming together: one from one lane, then one from the other and hopefully all this is done with a minimal slowdown.

Pull Over and Move Over

We were all taught in driver’s ed to pull over to the right side of the street if an emergency vehicle needs to come through but it is now the law in many states to move over to the left lane when a disabled vehicle, a traffic stop, or some other issue on the right shoulder is a factor. Pull over and move over make the road safer for every road user.

Bright Lights

During night driving, dim your headlights when another vehicle approaches in the other lane. This is driver courtesy and the law in many states.

Yield Right at a 4-way or 3-way stop

Here are some rules for stopping at a stop sign

  • Always make a full stop. If there is no stop line, stop before the crosswalk. If there is no crosswalk, stop before the intersection, to see all intersecting roads.
  • Always look both ways at intersections.

At a four-way stop:

  • Drivers on the left must yield to drivers on their right.
  • Vehicles turning left must yield to oncoming traffic.

At a T-section (3-way) stop:

  • Vehicles traveling on the road that ends must yield to all traffic and crossing pedestrians on the through road unless otherwise signed.

Road Rage

You might have experienced road rage in one form or another in your driving lifetime. It might have been a gesture, a shout, or even a more aggressive action by another driver or even by yourself. Road rage, though, is a choice and one of the biggest ways to stop is stop raging yourself while driving.

Road Rage Factors

  • Traffic Delays
    Heavy traffic, sitting at stoplights, looking for a parking space, or waiting on someone can increase anger levels.
  • Running Late
    Late for an appointment or meeting can cause impatience and anger.
  • Anonymity
    If drivers will likely not see other drivers again, they may feel more comfortable in engaging in aggressive driving such as tailgating, cutting people off, excessive honking, and making rude gestures.
  • Disregard for the law and other road users
    May believe that the rules don’t apply to them.
  • Habitual or learned behavior
    Aggressive driving may be the norm for some drivers. Don’t make it your norm.

Most Common Forms of Road Rage

  • Tailgating
  • Yelling
  • Honking in anger
  • Angry hand gestures
  • Blocking another vehicle from changing lanes
  • Cutting off another vehicle on purpose
  • Getting out of the vehicle to confront another driver
  • Bumping or ramming another vehicle on purpose

How to Avoid Road Rage

  • Don’t Rush –make sure you have enough time to get to that appointment and don’t take unnecessary risks.
  • Cool off—take time to calm down if something upsets you. Don’t escalate the situation.
  • Give other drivers a break—if someone is driving slowly, maybe they’re lost or overly cautious.
  • Keep hand gestures positive—wave at a driver who lets you in when merging, for example.
  • Don’t tailgate—keep a safe distance no matter how slowly the driver in front of you may be driving.
  • Don’t use your horn aggressively—only has a precaution.
  • Don’t stop and confront another driver out of the car—this is a dangerous situation for everyone involved.

If Another Driver has Road Rage

  • Stay away—change lanes, maybe even exit highway to keep safe distance from the aggressive driver.
  • Don’t Respond—ignore the temptation because it will likely escalate the situation.
  • Don’t Make Eye Contact.
  • Don’t Stop.
  • Watch Out—if the driver continues to follow you, lock your doors and drive to the nearest police station.

Thanking other Road Users

Best thank you is a wave at another driver if they helped you in some way.

If you have another road courtesy idea, let us know by commenting below or write us at nma@motorists.org.

Thank you for your support of Driver Courtesy Month and the National Motorists Association!

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