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Top 10 forgotten rules of the road

Traffic deaths in this country are on the decline, according to Statistics Canada. Want to make them decline even quicker? Read the rule book!

Traffic deaths in this country are on the decline, according to Statistics Canada. Want to make them decline even quicker? Read the rule book!

Except we don’t, not unless we’re about to take the test for a driver’s licence. Pass the test and the 228 sections of the Ontario Highway Traffic Act get forgotten more quickly than last year’s Canadian Idol winner.

Which rules are the most forgotten?

How about:

1. Failing to properly signal turns and lane changes

Section 142 of the Highway Traffic Act consists of two directives: each driver shall see if the movement can be made safely before performing the act, and then shall give a “signal plainly visible” to other drivers.

Simply activating your turn signal does not give you the right of way to complete the task. Many drivers feel they have the right to make a lane change or turn simply because they’ve signalled, and then with just a solitary, symbolic flash. Or most likely in the GTA, they just move over with no signal, expecting other drivers to mind-read their intentions.

Newsflash! We’re not all psychics. Letting other drivers know your intentions is not only the law, it’s also common sense. Why surprise others when you can give them a clear indication as to your next move?

2. Running amber and red traffic lights

Section 144 (16): Every driver must stop for an amber traffic signal if it can be done safely, not speed up to make it through in time. The duration of each amber light is timed so that vehicles travelling at the correct speed will have plenty of time to stop before the light turns to red.

Newsflash! It clearly does not say every driver except you. There is no excuse for running stale amber or red lights. Some truckers have argued that their load will not permit them to stop in time, but if so, those truckers are driving too fast.

3. Committing improper turns at signalized intersections

Every driver must turn right from the rightmost lane into the right lane of the cross road, or left from the left-turn lane into the left lane of the intersecting road.

Newsflash! Lane wandering is bad driving, even if it does save having to pull so hard on the wheel.

4. Failing to drive in the rightmost lane

The most debated, yet least understood rule: “Any vehicle travelling upon a roadway at less than normal speed shall, where practicable, be driven in the right-hand lane unless passing.” What’s so difficult about this?

If conditions are poor, traffic will slow and if you are travelling slower than the adjusted “normal” speed, keep to the right lane. If conditions permit travelling faster than the posted limit, if you are not passing others, keep to the right lane.

The right lane is not the middle lane. On multi-lane roads, the middle lane is a truck passing lane and not a cruising lane. If a motorist or trucker finds they are being passed by vehicles in both the left and right lanes, then they should move over to the right lane.

Newsflash! If drivers obey this section, traffic will flow more smoothly and safely.

5. Driving is a privilege and not a right

Section 31(a) of the Act states: “The privilege of driving on a highway is granted to, and retained by, only those persons who demonstrate that they are likely to drive safely.”

Newsflash! This must be the most forgotten rule. If we all drive like we wish others around us would drive, our roads would be much safer and a lot less stressful.

6. Following too closely

At a speed of 100 km/h, a vehicle will travel about 28 metres each second. According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration studies, the average “perception and reaction time” to an emergency driving situation is 1.47 seconds, or about 42 metres of travel at that speed. The average vehicle length is less than six metres.

So following a vehicle at anything less than eight car lengths will not give you enough time to react – never mind stop – should the leading vehicle collide with something and come to a rapid halt. That’s why most driving safety experts advocate the “two-second rule” when following any vehicle.

Newsflash! Traffic will not travel faster because you tailgate the vehicle in front. It will always move at a speed dictated by traffic volume and road conditions.

If you find yourself being tailgated, simply slow down gradually in a safe passing zone and the tailgater will eventually pass you and go off to be someone else’s problem.

Do not slam on your brakes to teach them a lesson. If they happen to be distracted when you try that, you will both end up as traffic statistics.

7. Driving while distracted

This must be the most ignored common sense rule of driving, be it talking on a cellphone, text messaging, conversing with passengers, changing CDs or radio stations or just daydreaming.

If your brain is processing a conversation or which song you want next, it is not processing driving information that can save your life.

Newsflash! The most important thing you should do while driving is drive the vehicle. Nothing else matters.

8. Being a traffic parent

Many motorists will speed up to prevent another vehicle from merging into their lane in an attempt to make a traffic statement. That space in front of their vehicle is theirs and the invading vehicle should not even attempt to enter that zone.

Newsflash! The other driver will never learn how to be a courteous, safer driver from traffic parents in another vehicle. This, however, can easily turn into road rage.

9. Knowing when not to drive

There are times when drivers should not be driving. If anyone is impaired by drugs, alcohol or fatigue they obviously should not be behind the wheel. This includes a lot of over-the-counter drugs for colds, etc., that can make you drowsy.

When weather or road conditions are dangerous, stay put and off the roads. Many drivers put themselves and others in jeopardy by venturing out into treacherous conditions.

Newsflash! Stay put. There’s no reason to risk your life on unsafe roads.

10. Impatience

In a typical rush-hour commute of 30 kilometres, if a driver averages 60 km/h it would take 30 minutes to reach a destination. In heavy traffic, even if the driver averaged an extra 5 km/h by changing lanes and rushing, only two minutes of commuting time would be saved.

Newsflash! Do the math. You may save two minutes of travel time, but the stress will likely take years off your life.

Ian Law is Wheels’ Better Driving columnist. He can be reached at

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