Tuesday, 8 January 2013

False Courtesy and Rules of Priority

Today, another rant. Sorry.

This morning, while my daughter and I were turning left from the main road at a T-junction, an oncoming car at the same junction was turning right. We stopped, but the oncoming driver, rather than taking her turn, motioned for us to go.

We, of course, refused to go. I waved at the car with the standard 'get out of the way' gesture and apparently I used some choice words concerning the 'right of way', because the crossing guard (it was near the school entrance) heard me and laughed in agreement.

The rules of priority are not just a decision that any road user can simply change on a whim. I cannot turn left while an oncoming vehicle is turning right - I am required to wait. If I don't, and I am hit, it is my fault because I failed to respect the rules governing priority or 'right of way'.

The Maryland Driver's Manual states:


Right-of-way rules provide drivers with guidance
for situations when other drivers or pedestrians are
present. These rules determine which driver should
yield the right-of-way and the sequence for entering
and driving through an intersection or other driving

You should yield the right-of-way to:
• the driver who is at or arrives before you at
the intersection;

• drivers in the opposing traffic lane, when you
are making a left turn;

• the driver on your right, if both of you arrive at
the intersection at the same time;...

These three situations - the first three listed under the rule - are the most common situations in which drivers urge me to go despite the fact that they have priority.

When motorists urge me to go when they have priority, it shows that they have no idea of the rules of the road. Not only that, but this false courtesy endangers other road users because it arbitrarily replaces tried and tested rules with chaos. I really wish people would stop doing this. Is learning the rules of priority and putting them into practice really so difficult?


  1. This is extremely common here in Canada as well. Especially when travelling with children. My kids and I often go through elaborate rituals of drinking water, checking lights etc. while waiting for traffic, because if we even look like we're planning a move, a car will slam on the brakes to wave us into traffic. No thanks dude.

    1. Thanks for the comment. Yeah, cycling with my daughter probably has a lot to do with it. I think the problem is that drivers see us in the middle of the road and think my daughter would be safer if we got off the main road as fast as possible, and that's true to some extent. But the situation becomes a lot less safe when drivers mess about trying to get me to disobey the rules of priority. If nothing else, it just delays us needlessly.

  2. I don't get it. Was she endangering you?

    1. Yes, of course she was! That's the whole point.

      Firstly, there's the obvious danger, which comes from the fact that, if I go against the rules of priority (right of way), both of us are disobeying the rules of the road. When the rules are broken, chaos reigns and chaos on the road leads to accidents.

      Then there's the potential for miscommunication. I hesitate, then I go, she goes, we collide and the collision is my fault because I failed to observe the rules of priority.

      Then there's the danger that comes from the pressure she's putting on me to go. When you are placed in a situation in which a person is being courteous on the road, you tend to want to please the person - there's a pressure to conform. This social pressure is a distraction and can cause you to be less vigilant.

      If she had simply taken her proper turn, all of these potential dangers would have been avoided. The road is no place for false courtesy or making up rules as you go along. The rules exist to keep us all safe.