There's a stark difference between being able to operate a motor vehicle and actual driving. Just about anyone can start a car and move it about, but being a safe, courteous, and decisive driver is another thing. You can find examples of the previous pretty much everywhere, and it's a terrifying thought when you realize that you share the expressway with people like that. At greater speeds, the risks multiply, and a life-changing incident could happen in the blink of an eye.
So here at Autoindustriya.com, we aim to educate and remind the motorists of the land how to drive on the highway. Here are six things you should do, and seven that you shouldn't, when you're along the country's open (and maybe) fastest roads.
Do: Merge with care
Merging on the the highway (or any main road for that matter) can be broken down into three simple steps: mirror, signal, turn.
As you head to the on-ramp, check your mirrors to see if the coast is clear. From there, use your turn signal and adjust your speed accordingly. As much as possible, try to maintain a steady speed.
Don't: Dart immediately to the middle
Just because you're wheels have touched the expressway, it doesn't mean you should immediately get on to the middle of the highway or straight to the passing lane. A sudden maneuver like that could come as a surprise for those who are running at speed on the expressway. Instead, speed up gradually, watch out for other traffic, and carefully make your way on to the next lane, which brings us neatly to our next point.
Do: use your turn signals
As they say, 'one must always signal their intentions', and more so out on the highway. With most traveling at high speeds, a little heads-up goes a long way. Always let people know where you're headed so they can adjust their driving to your maneuver. That way, nobody has to slam on the brakes or swerve violently just to avoid you.
Don't: cut off people on the road
Also remember that, just because you were using your turn signal, it doesn't give you the go signal to just enter a lane. You have to consider your speed, as well as the speed of the car you will be in front of. The same goes for exiting the highway. Do not make a sudden turn just to catch your exit. Yes, the alternative is taking the longer route, but you are risking your life, your passengers', and the motoring public's if you do that.
Do: Practice lane discipline
Always remember: the leftmost lane is for passing, the center lanes are for cruising traffic, and the right lane is for slow moving vehicles, or for those who are exiting the highway. As much as possible, stay on the middle lane/s if you are just cruising, especially if your exit is still a far way off. Use the left lane for passing and slowly merge right as you near your exit. If you're not passing anyone, stay in the middle lanes and let those on the right pass you.
Don't: Be a left lane hogger
This has been discussed time and again: stay off the left lane if you are not overtaking. The left lane is not called the fast lane, it is called the passing lane. Now some may be thinking, “but I'm doing the speed limit anyway. No one will pass me. If they do, they are speeding”.
First of all, not all speedometers are calibrated the same way. It may say 100 on the dash but you're really just doing 96 or 97; it's never exactly 100 km/h. One person may be 2 or 3 km/h faster than you, but it also shows 100 km/h on their dash, and on your dash as well. Again, stay out of the passing lane if you are not passing.
Second, it is not your job to enforce the speed limit, you have the men and women of the highway patrol to do that. Third, that lane must ideally be kept clear should there be an emergency vehicle making its way to a call.
Do: Keep distance
In the laws of physics, the faster you go, the more distance is needed to scrub off speed; which is why keeping your distance from the car in front of you is very important.
Let's say the car in front slams on the brakes. If you're far away from it, you will have time to react to whatever is unfolding in front of you. Not only that, you have more time to decide whether or not to hit the brakes, take evasive action, or both. Keeping your distance also allows you to scan the scenery ahead and gives you enough time to take the necessary action in a certain situation. Stick too close to the car in front, and the you might not be able to react in time. Which brings us to our next point.
Tailgating is the act of sticking too close to the vehicle in front of you, and it can get very dangerous at highway speeds.
Going back to the example of someone slowing down suddenly in front of you, you will have less time to react and you risk hitting the vehicle in front. Try to swerve out of the way and there's a chance you will still clip the car ahead, and a sudden maneuver like that can even cause you to lose control of your vehicle.
If you've been seeing three to four cars piled up on the expressway with front and rear damage, that's one of the possible outcomes of tailgating. So if you don't want to be involved in an accident like that, stop riding the bumper of the car in front. Ideally, be about 2 to 3 seconds behind the car in front.
Do: Keep your eyes peeled
When driving, anything can change in a split second. Your reactions can be the difference between avoiding an accident, or being involved in one. This is why you should always keep your eyes open far and wide, and not just focused on what's ahead.
Always check your surroundings. Is the car to the left drifting into your lane? Is the car to the right thinking of exiting the highway sharply? Did the car in front just slow down suddenly? These are just some of the things that you have to look out for on the expressway, not to mention signs that warn you of possible hazards ahead, such as construction areas. Keep your eyes stuck to the car ahead and you might end up missing those warning signs.
While it is highly recommended to constantly scan for things in front of you, gazing too long at other things, isn't. We're talking about rubbernecking, or in Filipino, "usisero".
Yes, there's that morbid curiosity to stare at an accident or any other roadside activity, but it is a form of distraction. For starters, you're not looking at what's going on ahead of you, and therefore you are also unaware of what's going on in front of you. Worse, if the person in front of you is also rubbernecking and slows down with you unaware of it, you might just hit them, or worse, cause a chain reaction.
And because there's a tendency to slow down when rubbernecking, it also affects the flow of traffic on the highway, and it eventually snowballs into a traffic jam.
Do: Use the shoulder if you must stop
There could come a time where you will encounter a situation that requires you to stop the vehicle on the highway. It could be because of an emergency like a blown tire or an overheating engine, or it could be as simple as answering a phone call (if you're not linked to bluetooth, perhaps) or reconfiguring your navigation system. If you need to stop, pull over into the shoulder and not in the middle of the road.
It may seem like an obvious reminder but we feel that it's worth pointing out again. Stopping in the middle of the highway is downright unsafe and irresponsible. Not only are you putting yourself in danger, you're also making yourself a hazard to other road users. With cars whizzing by at 80 km/h or more, other motorists could get into an accident because of swerving just to avoid you. If they can't avoid you, the results will likely be catastrophic if not fatal.
Don't: Use the shoulder as a passing lane
As we've pointed out, the shoulder is for stopped vehicles, and that brings us to our next point. The shoulder is not an extra lane for you to use when it gets a little bit congested. It's also not a lane for fast overtaking either. The shoulder is there only for emergencies.
Not only is it illegal to pass on the shoulder, it's downright dangerous too. You could run over road debris which can damage your tires, or worse, your entire suspension. You could also run into people who are actually using it for its purpose, and the consequences could be lethal. Then, there's the matter of merging back on to the highway. You're essentially cutting off people who patiently waited in traffic by doing that. If you do, you could just be the next viral video sensation.
Bonus: Don't jump the line at the toll
Speaking of doing things that can bring you infamy, cutting in line at the toll booth is a sure fire way to annoy other motorists. Yes, the lines can get long and people can get impatient, but we'll all get there eventually, folks. It's all about common, and basic, courtesy.
And that pretty much sums up driving on the highway, or even anywhere for that matter. The tips you can get from highway driving can also be applied when you're slogging through the city and heading to the province. Be defensive, follow the rules, look ahead, think in advance, and, most importantly, be courteous.