The signs of the upcoming summer are all around us.
Stores and restaurants closed last fall for the winter are re-opening for the coming tourist season. Museums that used the winter months to clean, refurbish, and reorganize have opened their doors. Garden stores are restocked, as are the retail stores that supply the cleaning products and yard furniture for the seasonal residents. Beaches are being groomed.
And that means cars with out-of-state plates are beginning to take over the roads.
We love them, and we need them.
But their arrival means that locals cannot make left turns until after Labor Day; have to plan on which of multiple days they will schedule the various errands they can do all in one day in the off-season; do their grocery shopping before the sun comes up so they can get out of the stores and off the roads before the traffic gets thick; have to stay away from their winter time restaurants and bars because they will be too filled to get into; and hope the tourists won’t discover the back roads that allow them to get around without the conga lines of traffic on the main streets.
As a public service I would like to present some rules of the road that, if the summer crowd follow, will allow people to get around with the least amount of frustration.
Nothing can ruin a vacation on Cape Cod like getting to a restaurant and having to wait for the person to serve your table who could have been there already but for the fact that your distracted driving had him stuck behind you somewhere on the road, and he hasn’t been able to arrive yet.
Feel free to share with your visiting friends.
1) Never relinquish your right of way
2) You are not alone
3) Use your directional signal.
1) Whether or not a person took formal driving lessons or got informal lessons from a family member, we all had to take a driver’s test both on paper and in the car, and to be successful we had to at least read the manual. So, we cannot claim we have no idea about the basic rules of the road.
-Every road sign seen by every driver says the same thing to each driver. “Stop” says “Stop”, “Yield” says “yield”, posted speed limits and no passing zones say the same things no matter who is reading them, and road work signs convey universal messages.
-Taking it upon yourself to reinterpret such signs causes problems as people driving behind you or toward you have seen those same signs, know what they mean, assume others are in the same position, but none of them have any idea what is in your head, nor can they anticipate when you intend to totally change the reality.
-You may be consumed with charity when you arrive at a four way stop sign, but those on the road with you assume everyone who arrives at the intersection will have a turn to go through relative to the order of arrival.
-Sitting there waving other cars through at your personally chosen order throws everyone off and puts people in the position of having to guess when it is their turn to go, and this greatly increases the possibility of more than one person assuming it must finally be their turn with more than one car entering the intersection at the same time.
-If you are on a main road, it must be remembered that it is a main road, and all other entrances are secondary.
-Side roads do not take precedence over anyone already on the main road. People behind you or coming toward you have assessed the road conditions and are not prepared for your unilateral desire to be nice to someone by letting people out of parking lots or side streets.
-When you are overcome with the desire to let people in, take a look in the rear view mirror and notice all the cars behind you, and accept the fact that they have already been stuck in a long line of traffic while that person you intend to let in from a parking lot may have just come out of an air conditioned restaurant after a nice meal during which they were relaxing while the people in the rear view mirror have been dealing with traffic. Unless you asked these people if it is all right for you to let someone out so they will be one more car further back in line, let the person with the full stomach wait until there is a lull in traffic.
-But if you cannot resist the urge to inconvenience those behind you so you can feel warm and fuzzy for having been charitable to someone other than those behind you, do it once. Don’t be the driver who lets all entering traffic in with a smile and a wave. Your charity needs to be extended toward those already in traffic.
-And if you happen to be one of those people who has been let in, remember that you are entering already existing traffic that may have been moving at a slow pace, but they were moving, so don’t set a slower pace because you just want to cruise along enjoying the sights so the already existing traffic that you have just made a longer line is further inconvenienced by your entry by having to go even slower.
-As far as rotaries, those big, round circular islands at places like Orleans, Hyannis, and Mashpee, the rule is that those already circling the thing have the right of way, and as the area does not have an infinite amount of space, only so many cars can be circling the rotary at any given time. Do not stop and let more people in, and if you are waiting to get in, wait until there is room. I have been stopped at the Cape Side Bourne rotary as someone up ahead was cheerfully waving people in. It not only clogs traffic, but it introduces the situation where people now have to guess whose turn it is to do what.
-Even though the Mid-Cape Highway takes on the appearance of a country road between Dennis and the Orleans Rotary, it is still a major highway. People may want to enter traffic, but they need to wait until there is an opening before they can ease in. Do not, and I have seen this done on more than one occasion, stop to allow someone in from an on ramp. No one behind you can evenly remotely expect that.
-If you rudely ignore the yield sign at the end of an on ramp and cut into traffic, remember you are entering a major highway. Don’t magnify your rudeness by then going at a speed that would be acceptable on a side road. The best thing to do is respect the yield sign.
2) Remember, you are not alone on the road, and among the tourists there are those locals who have to get somewhere.
-If you have no place to go, there really isn’t any need to get in your car and kill time. Just sit in your driveway making lip engine sounds and pretend you are driving, but stay off the road.
-If there are no cars in front of you, and you see a line of cars behind you in your rear view mirror that extends beyond the horizon, you are holding up traffic, so either pick up the pace, or pull over and let the cars behind you pass since you are not in much of a hurry anyway.
-This applies to the state highways like 28 and 6A, and especially Route 6 between Dennis and Orleans. There are plenty of places to pull over, and it must be remembered that section of highway is a major artery, and no one needs a clot in a major artery.
-If you suddenly realize you are passing a Christmas tree Shoppe or a Dunkin Donuts, there is no reason to slam on your brakes to turn into the parking lot. Or worse, throw your car into reverse to get back to the parking lot entrance. There is another one of the establishments just a few blocks further up.
-If you are overwhelmed by the need to let someone in from a parking lot or side street, look in the rearview mirror and see how many cars are behind you. If there are less than five, that person can wait. It is not your prerogative to decide that the fifth car should become the sixth while the new one becomes the first.
-When traveling in the right lane behind a slow moving car on Route 6, don’t cut in front of cars in the left lane if you intend to go only slightly faster than the car you are passing. Let the faster cars pass before pulling over. Attempting to pass a car going 40 mph by entering the left lane at 45 mph without ascertaining the speed of the cars already in that lane can induce a bit of panic, especially in the person driving that a semi that is now behind him.
-You are not alone, so, just because you may decide to get from behind a slow moving vehicle, it does not mean you can simply change lanes to get around it. There may be cars already in that lane. Look before you simply swerve.
-If you join traffic exiting the highway due to construction related traffic, be aware that the other cars are doing that to avoid the snail speed traffic, so keep up. Don’t bring that slow speed with you.
-If after being stuck behind a car on Route 6 between Dennis and Orleans who is driving way below the speed limit as if it were a small country road instead of the main Cape artery, do those behind you the favor by picking up the pace when that car exits the highway, and do not continue at that slow speed.
-And lastly, if you are in the process of turning into a parking lot or a side street, and suddenly change your mind, check you mirror and the cars around you. They are driving behind you according to what you are doing, and have no idea what you have suddenly decided to do. Bite the bullet and continue the turn unless the road behind you is clear.
3) That little lever, usually on the left hand side of your steering column, is a standard feature, and not scary at all to use. It lets people know what you intend to do further up the road so those behind you, and those on side streets, can be ready.
-The signal indicating an intended turn should be made well in advance of that intended turn.
-It is more than annoying when the car at the head of the line of traffic begins an agonizingly slow deceleration that lasts for blocks, and, when finally coming to a complete stop, indicates it is going to turn. Cars behind could have made certain moves to pass this car, and those waiting in a parking lot or side street could have pulled into traffic if they knew that car’s intention.
-There are also those occasions, such as the two lane section of Route 6 past the Orleans rotary, where the highway goes back to four lanes with lights that stop traffic along the way. There are few things more annoying than when two lanes of traffic are waiting for the light to turn green, and when it does, the car at the head of the left lane then indicates an intended turn. Had this been made known earlier, the cars behind may have had the opportunity to change lanes rather than sit behind the discourteous car until it is able to make that left turn. Sometimes two cycles go by under these conditions.
-The directional signal is to let people know what you are going to do, not what you are doing, or have done.
-Turning on the signal as you begin a turn, or when you are pretty much into it is either your way of letting the drivers around you know you think they are stupid enough not to know what is going on, or it is your thumbing you nose at them as if you just pulled a fast one and now want them to know you intentionally confused them.
-And while we are on the topic of turning, it really is none of anyone’s business, except the person turning, where they are going. Don’t sit there watching them turn as if they need you to cheer for them or make sure they have been successful, or that it is your business where they are going. Let them turn without your watchful eye, and keep the traffic moving.
-And when you get to a corner yourself that you intend to turn, don’t sit there drinking in the fact that you have reached the right corner. Take the turn, and don’t stop when you have completed it as if you have time to spike the ball. There may be cars behind you that want to, or are in the middle of making that same turn.
-Remember, your greatest acts of charity should be reserved for those behind you in traffic.
-When entering a parking lot, enter the parking lot. Do not stop as if you are done, or you must survey all before you. Keep driving so that cars behind you can also enter. Look for the parking spot by driving around, not by scanning the parking lot from the entrance.
-Turning right on red has been standard procedure since the 1970s, which means it has been in effect for up to 35 years. There is no need to sit at a light wondering if you should turn if you intend to and your directional signal is on. Turn.
-Related to this, if you are facing a green light don’t stop progress to allow someone on the side street to take the right turn. Their light will be turning in their favor soon and they will have their chance.
-Anticipate. If a lane divides so that those who intend to go left have their own lane, decide ahead of the corner if you are turning. Do not be one of those drivers who waits until the last minute to choose your lane, or who, during that indecision stays straddling the line so those behind you have no idea if you are turning or going straight. Be decisive.
There are many more rules that will make the traffic flow like the current in the Canal, but these will have to do for now.
I may republish these as we get closer to Memorial Day, the official opening of the summer season, so more vacationers might see them, and I do encourage hotel owners to place a copy of the rules by the doors of the hotel and motel rooms, so their guests can familiarize themselves with them each time they head out to their cars.