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How To Be A Dang Cool Driver

This is not an excerpt from a Drivers Ed textbook. You won't find talk of checking your mirrors or maintaining a safe following distance. What you will find are things that make other drivers go, "Wow, that person's nice and cool."

And that should be your goal when driving. Everybody is trying to get where they're going safely and quickly. It takes the true Driving All-Star to quickly get where they're going and help other drivers quickly get to their destination. Let's get some skill-sharpenin' tips.

1. Stay right except to pass.
This is one where the street signs say it all: Slower traffic stay right. I don't care if you're doing the exact speed limit and the guy coming up behind you is doing mach 5. Unless you have red and blue lights on the top of your car, it's not your job to slow other people down. Besides, wouldn't your rather have Mario Andretti pass you and run into someone else? To sum up: If people routinely have to pass you on your right, you're a selfish driver.

2. Get into your turn lane before you slow down.
This obviously doesn't apply when you're dealing with a teeny tiny turn lane and you have to brake early to avoid skidding into the intersection. Most of the time however, we drive on familiar roads and we know which ones give us plenty of lane. Take advantage of the extra laneage and quickly exit the main road so people behind you can continue at full speed.

And, for the love of all things good and beautiful, please use your turn signal! I've heard the excuse, "There's no one around," but the people (pedestrians included) you don't see are the ones who most need to know where you're going. It's really not hard. Get off your high horse and extend those two fingers to move that wand.

You also lose cool points if you have to make every turn at 3 mph. Unless it has an orange triangle on the back and John Deere on the side, your vehicle can handle a turn at a decent speed. Giddy-up.

3. Go when it's your turn at a four-way stop.
Here we have a case of attempted politeness only making things worse. You approach a four-way stop just seconds before another car that will cross your path. You're a nice person so you wait for them to go first. The problem is, the other driver knows you have the right away because you got to the intersection first, so they're waiting for you, and we end up with two people waving at each other and no one going anywhere.

Sometimes the polite thing is to go first. If you arrive at the stop sign first, or if it's a tie and you are on the right, you have the right of way and the nicest thing you can do is come to your complete stop and immediately proceed through the intersection. This lets the other driver quickly go after you, and you don't have to wave at strangers.

4. If you miss your turn, keep going.
Man, this drives me nuts. Johnny Owntheroad in his Pontiac Sperm Whale is cruising along when all of a sudden he realizes he needs to turn left there. He squeals to a stop and, still in the main driving lane, flips on his turn signal and sits there until he can make his turn. There is nothing you can do on the road that more screams, "I am the only human who matters to me!" You made the mistake, and you should be the only one to suffer for it. Keep going until the next street and turn around or go around the block. You are guaranteed to annoy the people behind you if you illegally stop, and it's also not very safe if the next guy in line happens to be driving a GMC Brontosaurus.

5. Move over so the right turn lane stays clear.
Some may consider the previous tips to be merely common sense. But this one is the way you separate the uber-cool from just plain decent folks. One of the greatest driving gifts bestowed upon us is the ability to turn right at a red light. More and more intersections are coming equipped with their own turn lanes, which is great. But areas still exist where occupants of the right lane have the option of turning or continuing straight. If you are the first person in such a right lane, you have the opportunity to do something great. Simply slide as far forward and to the left as your lane allows so that people can get around you and turn right while the light is still red.

The beauty of this move is it can't be done if you're not thinking about the welfare of others. You're stuck at the light and can't do anything about it. Where you sit in the lane helps you not one bit. Moving over is an entirely selfless act that will make you a champion of charitable driving. Give it a try, and know that you have made the roads a better place.

Our nation's highways will always be infested with jerks. It's very easy to fall into thinking, "No one cares about me, so I just have to look out for myself." But we're better than that. We know that helping out our fellow man is indeed a good thing. And that's what makes us Dang Cool.

Disclaimer: Scott Terrell is just a swell fella. Any advice should be taken with a grain of salt and perhaps a pinch of garlic.

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