Driving III: Brake Not, Lest Ye Be Beaten

Okay, about the exit and entry ramp. We all face the challenge of adjusting to those around us. Some of us, like the Unabomber, fail miserably. Others, like Regis Philbin, are annoyingly good at it. Still others, like Dick Clark, or my own child Caleb, adjust nary a bit, but let the world mold itself to them. These are the golden children, happy and oblivious.

But for most of us, there is some change required from time to time. Some modification of our habits. A curbing of our wants. An acceptance of demands placed upon us. This is the nature of living in civilized society.

What this means in particular for those of you attempting to join freeway travelers by way of an entry ramp, is that sometimes you just have to slow down and wait.

Stop right there. You, in the back, the one who thinks he knows something about driving, the one getting ready to assert that people entering the highway need to accelerate, for crying out loud, not slow down. You know who you are. Shut your piehole and listen for a minute.

Of course acceleration is necessary, when there is space. But acceleration is foolish and wrong — yes, wrong — when it slings you up next to a line of cars, some of which are trying to exit. In that circumstance, dear driver, it is incumbent upon you to adjust your speed so that you slip in behind the people exiting.

Otherwise, there is chaos. A free-for-all. The red tooth and claw of primitive man comes rushing to the surface, and we are once again thrown back into the state of nature after the Fall but before toilet paper.

Entry-ramp protocol is one of the most difficult skills to understand and master, so you are forgiven if you’ve spent thirty years cursing at people exiting in front of you while you try to accelerate into traffic. Mend your ways, go forth and sin no more. The yield sign is there for a reason. Look it up.

And now for you muddleheaded do-gooders who think you are doing your fellow man a good turn by slowing down so he can enter the freeway. Look in your rearview mirror. See all those people behind you? Do you know what they do when they see you hit your brakes? They brake. Do you know what that causes a half-mile back? A seemingly random braking, which in turn causes a panicked overreaction, which results in an accident. Like many people in the world, you may think you are helping your fellow man, but in reality you are inflicting damage. You’re like Greenpeace, or one of those mothers who always cleans up after her kids.

Save it for the UNICEF can. Keep your altruistic foot off the brake and drive. Better yet, if you don’t need to exit, get out of the bloody right lane. But be sure to stay out of the left lane, because some of us have places to be. You are a middle-lane driver, my friend, the one who reports 12 hours before the election that he still hasn’t made up his mind, the one who always chooses “5” on a ten-point scale, the one who voted for Clinton but never really liked him, the one who thinks we ought to reform things but for heaven’s sake be really careful about it. You go to bed by 11pm and you like Leno. It’s okay. Just stay in your middle lane, and nobody has to get hurt.

But step on that brake to let one more driver onto the highway, and there’s going to be trouble.


  1. Rachel C

    Did all of these drving posts spawn from being in the midwest? Seriously? I think we have it so easy here we forget how to drive sometimes.

  2. Paul

    I am convinced that nearly all highway traffic jams are a result (directly or indirectly) of poor merge/exit skills. Civil engineers have not always been helpful, making entrance and exit lanes dreadfully short at times. (oh, my kingdom for more “continuous lane” entrances…)

    Here in Colorado they put in these wonderful devices at the busiest entrances of the busiest highways (and only operating at busy times) — metering lights. Placed about halfway along the entrance ramp, looking just like a stoplight, these “allow” two cars at a time (at about 10-second (or less) intervals) to enter the highway. Result: a nice, steady stream of generously-spaced vehicles entering the highway, avoiding the need for people in the right lane to unnaturally brake or accelerate.

    Okay, so sometimes the Civs get it right… 🙂

  3. explummer

    Two cars alongside each other, one wants to enter the freeway, and the other wants to exit. The exiter should get behind the enterer.

  4. Lenise

    I’m with explummer. The exiter has to slow down anyway, and usually (where I run into this) there either isn’t anyone behind him, or they are all going into the weigh station and will be slowing down precipitously in short order. You do have a point about the yield sign, though, Tony.

  5. Julia P.

    OK, Tony. It’s been a week. Surely you haven’t run out of things that really bug you about your fellow drivers! The supply is inexhaustible–I’ve had to deal with a few obliviously bad drivers today. They seem to be blissfully unaware that the maneuver they just pulled is both stupid and dangerous.

    However bad the drivers are that I encounter, I have noticed that the Lord has used them (and children) to teach me patience. I no longer scream expletives in the car. Progress!

  6. the wife

    “The exiter should get behind the enterer.”
    “I’m with explummer. The exiter has to slow down anyway…”

    Okay, have the rules changed? Has someone been altering the laws of the road and therefore those pesky little handbooks that prepare you for legally obtaining a license?

    Because last I knew the law was this: the exiter has the right of way and the entering car DOES NOT, and must allow the exiting car to exit, first. In fact this is the rule across the board, the car IN traffic has the right of way. There’s something helpful about consistency. One never has to think very hard. But alas, one still has to think.

    Now “should” is another matter altogether. This has the ring of “free love, I did it my way, it’s all relative” to me. But then, to each his own.

    I thought the folks reading this blog were all right like us honey.

    Sorry for the attack on your adoring fans. I think I’m a little touchy today. Hmmm…

  7. buzz

    funny, when I lived in Wichita I was convinced it had the worlds worst drivers and that traffic was terrible. Then I moved to Columbus, Ohio where I was convinced that Wichita was the promised land, with all the safe and friendly drivers and lack of traffic. Now that I am in Grand Island, Ne I am positive that the worst drivers in the world have moved back to Wichita and that traffic? What the hell? Speaking of on/off ramps, I highly recomend the 235/west Kellogg ramp. Someone with a huge sense of humor or a brother-in-law with a body shop designed that one.

  8. The Gnat's Trumpet

    Great post! But despite all of this discussion about which driver has the priority to the exit/entrance ramp, I think the real gold here is your point about the altruistic right-of-way donator who forgets, or is oblivious to the fact, that he is stealing that right-of-way from those behind him in order to provide it to those who have no right to it. Great analogy of our current culture. First time here, via PDS’s site, but I’ll be back.

  9. Across the Flow

    Having been in, through, stopped in, and/or gassed up in 28 states, I can testify that Pigeon Forge / Gatlinburg (Tennessee) drivers (composed of as many tourists as locals) is the best place to observe lunatic driving in the nation.

    “The light is green. Are your brakes in working order?”

    ( Yee haw !! )

Comments are closed.