Being a good driver isn't just a matter of following the laws of the road. It's also about sharing that road safely with others. Little things such as taking turns and giving thanks—which we all learned as children, but which some of us occasionally forget—are the keys to being a truly good driver. And driving politely is not just about being virtuous for its own sake. "Small efforts in courtesy can yield big reductions in risk for everybody," says William Van Tassel, manager of AAA driver training programs. Here are some ways you can make the road more civilized and less hazardous.
1. Back off.
Lately we've grown accustomed to giving other people ample personal space when we're out and about on foot. That's always been the imperative behind the wheel, yet more than half of U.S. drivers admit to following other vehicles too closely. Tailgating is not only likely to make other drivers nervous or angry, but it's also a leading cause of rear-end crashes.
Leaving room between your car and others gives you enough reaction time in case something unexpected happens. Remember the three-second rule: Keep three seconds of travel time between you and the next vehicle. In adverse conditions such as rain or fog, make it six.
2. Lay off the brakes.
Don't stop in the roadway unless it's absolutely necessary. Slowing to gawk at a crash is especially impolite; rubbernecking is, as the Emily Post Institute puts it, "disrespectful to the victims, a hindrance to those trying to help, and a sure way to cause a traffic backup." As much as possible, keep moving at a steady speed. If you must stop for a hazard ahead, Van Tassel recommends tapping the brake pedal a few times to flash your red lights before fully applying the brakes. "That gives those behind you a heads-up and makes it a lot less likely you'll get hit," he says.