How to Drive: Stop LightsThe following provides some simple instructions for how to drive without being a moron. Please learn and practice these rules, and share them with any poorly-informed drivers you know. As a fellow driver and frequent pedestrian, allow me to thank you in advance.

1. At a traffic light, stop at the stop line, not in the crosswalk.

Do not come to a stop with any part of your vehicle in a pedestrian crosswalk. Do not slowly inch forward into the crosswalk as if you’re trying to gain a 0.05-second advantage over the car next to you. Crosswalks are for pedestrians. If you stop your car in a crosswalk, even if there are no visible pedestrians, you are driving like a moron. Instead, stop at the stop line.

2. Pedestrians always have the right of way. Always.

You are driving a two-ton death machine. Try not to kill people with it. If a person steps into the street, you must yield to them regardless of  your personal feelings of righteousness. You must yield to jaywalkers. Ped_XingYou must yield to clueless persons, angry persons, children, old people, and arrogant persons. Slow down, and allow the pedestrian to cross the street.

Do not speed up, flash your lights, honk your horn, give the finger, or claim the right of way. Doing so makes you both a moron and a jerk. Yes, I know that dude back there wasn’t in a crosswalk, and the lady you almost killed the other day stopped in the middle of the street, changed her mind, and walked back to the place from which she had come. None of those behaviors gives you the right to endanger their lives. Yield to pedestrians.

3. Signal before braking.

Look – if I’m driving behind you, I would really like an occasional clue about what you intend to do, preferably before you do it, so I can avoid killing us both and destroying our vehicles. If you brake suddenly before turning, I may not be prepared, and I may run into your car. If you signal before reducing your speed, it gives me time to back off the throttle, come out of my daydream, and prepare to let you do what you intend to do, without all that nasty death business. Repeat after me: Signal before you brake. Signal before you brake.

If you never use your turn signals, WTF? Does failure to signal make you special, or clever, or justifiably lazy? No. It makes you a moron with a death wish. Repeat after me: Signal before you brake. Signal before you brake.

4. Show your amygdala who’s boss.

amygdalaHumans evolved from tiny animals that, to avoid death, had to compete for scarce resources by fighting, clawing, and biting. Those creatures developed brains highly tuned to danger and competition. Their brains developed hormones to trigger powerful instinctive reactions, such as rage and fear, when challenging stimuli were encountered again.

A remnant of that hyper-reactive animal brain lives inside your head. It’s called the amygdala. Among other things, it’s responsible for triggering aggression, fear, and anxiety. This tiny brain region can hijack your “thinking brain” and make you act like a jerk. When you’re driving, you need to show it who’s boss.

When you’re behind the wheel, try to relax for crying out loud. You are not in a race – you are in a parade. If your animal brain tells you that you must beat all the cars around you to the next stop light, remember that driving is not a competition for limited resources. You are not going to starve, or die, or otherwise miss out on something if you are the third car at the stop sign, or if you don’t make it through an intersection in one cycle of the light.

If you race like a dangerous idiot to beat me to the stop light, and I pull up behind you while the light is still red, we are both going to leave the intersection at the same time. There is no need to endanger people and property just so you can get to the front of the line. Try to use all of your brain the next time you drive. Don’t drive like an angry rodent. Take a few deep breaths. Relax.

5. Focus on the task at hand, and eliminate distractions.

Driving is a dangerous activity that kills about 100 people a day in the United States. Each day in the United States, more than 9 people are killed and more than 1,000 people are injured in crashes that involve a distracted driver. You need to keep your full attention on the road at all times. Please don’t text and drive, eat and drive, dial and drive, put on makeup and drive, or have loose pets roaming around the front seat of your car. Distracted driving is a dangerous epidemic on America’s roadways. In 2013, 3,154 were killed in distracted driving crashes. Don’t be one of the morons contributing to this problem. Thanks!

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