This is a time for all of us to resolve to improve ourselves in 2014. Iím not talking about getting along better with your boss at work or losing weight; this is much more important. We all need to be better drivers.
I will kick off with my own driving resolutions. Firstly, I promise not to peek at emails or texts on my phone, even if I am on a quiet road with little other traffic. Frankly, with the prevalence of Bluetooth in most cars today, plus infotainment systems that can read incoming messages, there is no excuse for picking up your phone while driving.
Secondly, I swear I will curb my tendency for rolling stops at stop signs. Itís a bad habit I have developed that my kids frequently and rightly criticize. Other than that I am just about the perfect driver. Not true, of course. We all have areas ó some more fundamental than others ó that we can improve on.
Better driving starts with better driver education and thatís one area where the U.S. is woefully behind other leading nations. Anyone who knows what it takes to obtain a driving license in Europe, for example, can attest to the primitive standard of driver training in most American states. Part of the problem is that we do not seem to be ready to pay for anything more than a basic level of training. While it costs a few hundred dollars to put a teenager through a driver course in America, in Europe the cost runs into the thousands.
This issue could explain why Americans in general have such poor driving habits, such as inconsistent use of turn signals and lack of lane discipline on freeways. The latter failing brings us to one of my pet peeves; specifically, people who think itís their God-given right to travel in the left lane of a freeway regardless of traffic conditions. Firstly, the rules of the road in most states dictate that the left lane is only to be used for passing. Even on multilane roads where the law does not specify the left lane passing only rule, it simply makes sense to observe it.
To underscore the point, in Europe it is illegal to overtake to the right of another vehicle. One problem that the left lane hogs on American roads do not realize is that their behavior leads to potentially hazardous lane weaving, as faster drivers endeavor to thread their way through these mobile road blocks. Again, the kind of lane weaving one sees, particularly on Detroit-area freeways, would earn you a stiff ticket in Europe, as would any visible displays of road rage for that matter.
Given that we are stuck for now with an inadequate standard of driver education, it is up to those of us who care to try to raise our game and pay attention to the way we drive, reduce distractions and generally make roads safer and more enjoyable to use.
John McCormick is a columnist for Autos Consumer and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.