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Common Courtesy Goes a Long Way on America's Interstate Highways

Updated on April 21, 2012
Westbound I-10
Westbound I-10 | Source

There is an unwritten guide for traveling America's Interstates.

There is an unwritten guide for traveling America’s Interstates. Most of it is common sense.

It was June of ’56 when President Eisenhower signed the historical legislation that began our Interstate Highway System. As a full time RVer, I am one of the appreciative drivers that use interstate highways to traverse America. Driving rules and regulations may vary from state-to-state but common sense driving etiquette is unwavering no matter where you wander and no matter how many wheels or axles you command.

Truckers may not own the road however the amount of usage tax they cough up as well as the efficiency of transporting their goods and thereby contributing to the economy should result in our overall respect for their industry. Besides, they are bigger than most of us. Though there are exceptions to every rule, most truckers follow a basic set of unwritten rules that make interstate travel profitable and safe. These rules aren’t much more than common sense.

A friend of mine from Brussels once commented that it isn’t speed that kills, rather the difference in speed. There aren’t many situations that are worse than cresting a hill at or near the speed limit only to find yourself bearing down on a vehicle crawling along even at or above the minimum posted speed limit. Drivers uncomfortable with maintaining speeds similar to all other highway traffic should find an alternate route.

A similar scenario is the driver that does not or cannot comprehend the concept of merging. Though it is a common courtesy for traffic to change lanes when possible to help drivers access the interstate, it is up to the driver entering the highway to make a smooth transition by merging into existing traffic. The reason onramps are usually long and parallel to the highway is to allow traffic to establish a speed at which they can access the highway amidst existing traffic. Stopping and waiting for an ideal opportunity to access the system is never recommended. Once again, if a driver is uncomfortable with this concept, they should find an alternate route.

Not all vehicles are equal. There comes the time when a trucker makes the decision to pass. And though the intent is to move quickly around a driver, changes in grade may occur thus slowing them. When possible it is not only a common courtesy but in the interest of safety to slow enough to allow them to reenter the right, slower lane in front of you. Chances are they will pull ahead out of your way soon enough. Additionally, as it is difficult for truckers to see the rear of their trailers (or RVers and their rigs), flashing your headlamps on/off or from low beam to high beam and back will allow the trucker to see that it is clear to pull back in the lane in front of you. Most truckers will signal their understanding and thanks by tapping their brake lights.

Most rest areas along the Interstate System are well marked with signs announcing their location. Off ramps leading to these areas are long enough to allow most vehicles to slow down after exiting the highway. Although a slight reduction of speed may be required, slowing excessively while still on the highway is unsafe. Doing so may force another driver into evasive and thereby a dangerous reaction.

I always find it amusing when a driver tailgates in the passing lane forcing their prey into the right lane and then passing yet only at a few miles per hour faster than the car they had forced out of the passing lane. When overtaking another vehicle it is polite to flash your headlights announcing your intent rather than aggressively bearing down on them. They in turn will move out of your way as quickly as safety allows. And when passing, pass. Drivers passing one another at only a few miles per hour difference will eventually tie up upcoming traffic.

Whether highway driving or running to the corner store, if it is raining or simply getting dark…please turn on your headlights. It amazes me to see vehicles in heavy fog or dust storms driving without their lights. Anything that helps other drivers see you is only a benefit.

The Interstate Highway System has made this country more than just about any other legislation on the books. It is one of the safest ways to traverse America. It can only be made safer by adhering to basic and common courtesies.


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      donnaMhicks 5 years ago

      Ahh-common sense...a trait many drivers on the road seem to lack! I enjoyed reading this and know several people who truly need to read it.

    • The RV Guy profile image

      The RV Guy 5 years ago from Somewhere In America

      bdegiulio, puter_dr and teaches12345...thanks for commenting. Sometimes even when the lane is clear it is difficult for me to move into the other lane due to the size of my rig in certain conditions like high winds...but I will always maintain a steady speed to help folks merge onto the highway...

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      I don't think my husband has heard of the merging courtesy concept. He always thinks the other driver should pull over. Sigh! This is helpful information and makes one aware of the proper highway privileges and rules.

    • puter_dr profile image

      Mike Bouska 5 years ago from Midwest USA

      It is amazing how far a bit of courtesy can go. Good information for our "road rage" society.

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Great advice RV Guy. As you stated, it all comes down to common sense and a little common courtesy.