We all carefully studied for our DMV driving test and intently tried to follow all of the rules and laws in the DMV handbook. So why is it that so many of us have forgotten so many of the basic rules?

Here are my top three:

–Turn signals. “Always signal when turning left or right, changing lanes … it lets other drivers, motorcyclists, bicyclists and pedestrians know your intentions,” the handbook says.

I see so many drivers not use their turn signals that I’ve been tempted to call a few auto repair shops to find out if there’s a parts shortage for replacement turn signals. It’s just plain safe to let me and others know that you plan to turn or merge into my lane. And don’t just signal and go: Give me a little notice so we can both be safe.

–Tailgating. “To avoid tailgating, use the ‘three-second rule’: When the vehicle ahead of you passes a certain point, such as a sign, count ‘one-thousand-one, one-thousand-two, one-thousand-three.’ Counting  these numbers takes approximately three seconds. If you pass the same point before you finish counting, you are following too closely. You should allow a four-second or more cushion when:
“• Being crowded by a tailgater. Allow extra room ahead, do not brake suddenly. Slow down gradually or merge into another lane to prevent being hit from behind by the tailgater!
“• Driving on slippery roads.
“• Following motorcyclists on wet or icy roads, on metal surfaces (e.g., bridge gratings, railroad tracks, etc.), and on gravel. Motorcyclists can fall more easily on these surfaces.
“• The driver behind you wants to pass. Allow room in front of your vehicle so the driver will have space to move in front of you.
“• Towing a trailer or carrying a heavy load. The extra weight makes it harder to stop.
“• Following large vehicles that block your view ahead. The extra space allows you to see around the vehicle.
“• You see a bus, school bus or a placarded vehicle at railroad crossings. These vehicles must stop at railroad crossings; so, slow down early and allow plenty of room.
“• Merging onto a freeway.”

I figure if I can’t see your bumper in my rear view mirror and we’re not in stop-and-go traffic, you’re way too close.

–Merging: “Whenever you enter traffic, signal and be sure you have enough room to safely enter the lane. You have to share space with traffic already on the road, and you must know how much space you need to merge with traffic, cross or enter traffic and exit out of traffic.”

And: “Enter the freeway at or near the speed of traffic. (Remember that the maximum speed allowed is 65 mph on most freeways.) Do not stop before merging into freeway traffic, unless it is absolutely necessary. Freeway traffic has the right-of-way.”

Yes, the traffic on the highway has the right of way. But while I didn’t find this mentioned in the handbook, drivers on the highway should help merging traffic get onto the highway. Way too many times have I seen drivers refuse to make room for merging traffic. Let them in.

For CHP Officer Jon Sloat, spokesman for the Sonoma County office, the failure to signal is his pick for the No. 1 rule that drivers have forgotten.

As for tailgating, “it’s three seconds, not three feet,” he said.

He said drivers following too closely is a primary cause of collisions.

Sloat theorized that many drivers don’t signal, tailgate and improperly merge because they’re not constantly reminded of the rules like they are for speeding or stopping with speed limit signs and stop signs.

For Roileen Miller of Miller Driving School in Cotati, her top three are:

–Drivers who fail to come to a complete stop. She noted a lot of police officers looking for this violation don’t watch the driver or the car, just the tires. If they don’t stop, you’re busted.

–Drivers who don’t turn their heads to check traffic before changing lanes or merging. Using your mirrors is not enough, she said.

–Driving too fast.

For Santa Rosa Police Sgt. Lance Badger, his No. 1 is drivers hitting their turn signals and immediately moving over without looking. “You have to yield the right of way,” he said.


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