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The Unwritten Rules of the Road

We all take driver’s tests to demonstrate our understanding of the written rules of the road, but what about the unwritten ones? The written rules are important for keeping us safe, while the unwritten rules are important for smoother commutes. Think of them as a way of communicating with road users beyond your horn and blinker.

In North America, the left lane is the passing lane.

This might seem obvious to you but spend a few hours on the road and you’ll find that’s not the case for all. If drivers are passing you, move to the right.

Go with the flow.

As a general rule, your speed should reflect the flow of traffic. If you’re trying to go a lot faster or slower than everyone else, you’ll likely contribute to traffic jams (if not an accident).

Leave space to merge.

Are you on the freeway and nearing an on-ramp? See road users coming in? Move over, slow down, or speed up to create space for them to merge. While it’s their responsibility to merge safely, you can make it a lot easier for them.

Do the ‘Thank you!’ wave.

You don’t owe anyone a thank you but a wave sure makes the roads a friendlier place.

Prepare for your exit.

You can wait until the last minute to get in the exit lane and signal your intentions to exit, or you can prepare and give others plenty of time and space to maneuver around you.

Don’t linger at the gas pump.

While gas stations have diversified into basic maintenance and convenience stops, the purpose of gas pumps is solely to fuel cars. If you want to clean out your vehicle or buy snacks, the nice thing to do is move the vehicle to a different space.

Don’t steal parking spots.

Even if you have the opportunity, resist the temptation to sneak in. If one driver is waiting for another to leave a parking space, for example at a Costco parking lot, sneaking in is disrespectful of other drivers and a sure-fire way to ignite road rage.

Park in the middle of the spot.

It takes an extra 30 seconds to pull in and out of the spot until you are positioned in the middle, leaving enough space for you and others to comfortably walk by and get in and out of their vehicles.

Squeeze up when street parking.

When there are no parking spots marked on the street, you can technically parallel park as far from other vehicles as you like, but the unwritten rule would suggest you squeeze up and leave room for others to park behind you.

Leave a note if you’ve damaged a car.

Last but not least, if you open your door and accidentally hit another vehicle’s side mirror, write a note! Leave your name and number and a brief apology taking responsibility for what happened to ease the other driver’s worries.

Whether written or unwritten, the Universal Group encourages all road users to follow the rules that help keep everyone safe. This is especially important as you approach roadside work sites. If you work on the road, check out our roadside safety tips. And, just in case, always remember your roadside safety kit!