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Saturday, Oct 27 2012 12:38 AM

It ‘Manners’ a Lot: Drivers: Watch your demeanor behind the wheel

By Lisa Kimble

What is it with drivers these days? From motorists oblivious to blaring emergency lights and sirens, to others grooming themselves behind the wheel, the discourteous driver has triggered a pileup of enragement. No wonder numerous studies blame inconsiderate drivers for most incidents of road rage. 

It’s easy to single out the newly-licensed, inexperienced driver for driving offenses, but more and more adults with many years of driving experience are the biggest offenders, putting the brakes on roadway civility.

The following types of drivers inch close to breaking the law, and ultimately flirt with disaster.

The multitasker

Sure, you may be able to text a co-worker, shave, inhale a breakfast burrito, read the front page of the paper and put on a tie while driving, but why would you do all that?

What’s next? Yoga? Scramble some eggs, or knit a blanket? This is the big train wreck everyone is watching, in slow motion. These drivers are too busy doing other things to focus solely on the business at hand — driving safely.

There’s an old adage about character, and how its real measure is how we behave when no one is looking. Guess what distracted drivers? You may behave behind the wheel as if no one can see, but everyone is looking and wondering when something as simple as applying mascara will harm others.

Road blockers

Don’t block intersections. Period. Despite signs posted in some locations, the motor blockade has become pervasive, especially downtown.

“People don’t take a moment to think about if they should wait behind the limit line,” said Robert Rodriguez, California Highway Patrol spokesman.  

The reason for this lies at the heart of nearly every thoughtless act you see these days — time, whether there’s not enough of it, or the fear of losing it.

“Everybody is in a hurry, and as a result you have a lot of discourteous drivers,” Rodriguez said.  

Yes, time is precious, but that doesn’t give drivers a license to endanger others in the next lane. Unless you are driving an emergency vehicle, don’t come to a stop in the intersection, or pass motorists on the right shoulder.

If the driver ahead of you can see the whites of your eyes in their rearview mirror, you are too close. Leave the tailgating for the football stadium. If you are traveling at 50 mph, for example, leave five car lengths between you and the one ahead.

The siren impaired

Law enforcement officers say indifference that motorists have for emergency vehicles is becoming a big problem.

“A lot of people don’t know how to respond (to emergency vehicles), so they panic, then find themselves in the intersection and think, ‘Now what do I do?’” Rodriguez said.

If an ambulance or fire truck approaches from behind with sirens blaring, take a deep breath, look over to your right, and if it is clear, move it! If you are the first vehicle stopped at the crosswalk, don’t blow through the red light. Wait until the next green light.

“Emergency vehicles will get around you,” Rodriguez said. “We want you to move safely, and we’d rather pass on the left.”

The yellow light runner

It used to be as elementary as signaling — stop for red, go on green and use caution for a yellow lights. Today, running a yellow light seems to be the rule, rather than the exception.

“If you are coming up to an intersection, and the light has been green for awhile, anticipate that light to change and reduce your speed,” Rodriguez said.

You can’t even measure the time you think you may be saving by gunning it. Trying to beat a red light is about as safe as trying to cross the 405 Freeway at rush-hour on foot. Don’t bother. It’s not worth the risk.

The lead-footer

Pedestrians in cross walks have the right of way. You may not feel like stopping in the middle of the block, but it’s the law.

If someone has entered the cross walk at an intersection, hit the brakes. They have the right of way.

Agree, disagree? Send your questions, comments or topics you’d like to read about to me at itmannersalot@bakersfield.com or visit itmannersalot.blogspot.com

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