Driving 101: The Nashville Way

Nashville-trafficSince moving to Nashville in 2014, I have had the experience of being “trained” by my fellow drivers in the Music City.  A national magazine recently awarded Nashville as the friendliest city in America.  When I heard about this I said, “They obviously didn’t drive here.”  I’m not saying the traffic or drivers in Nashville are worse here than in other city, it’s just frustrating and not that good old country friendly feeling you would think.   Over the past four years, here are the rules I have learned for driving here:

  1. If you are already on the Interstate, you should stop and let merging traffic on.   Yes, believe it or not there are a lot of these drivers out there.  They will get mad and flip you off if they are entering from the ramp and you don’t stop to let them over.  They don’t seem to be able to comprehend the idea of merging.  Traffic already on the Interstate are not required to stop.  Drivers entering the Interstate need to adjust their speed and safely enter.  Shocking concept I know!
  2. What is a yield sign?  The city/county seriously wasted their money making yield signs.  I have seen – and reacted – to other drivers blowing through a yield sign.
  3. If a turn signal is being used, you’d better let me over.  First, you are lucky if someone actually uses a turn signal but when they do they are getting over.  It isn’t an “indicator” that they plan to get over, they are doing it.
  4. I’m too busy texting to use a turn signal.  I think this mentality goes with driving in general but seems to happen more when drivers are turning and simply don’t have a free hand to use their turn signal because their hands are too busy with their smartphones.
  5. I am late for work and MUST get in front of you.  Thousands of people converge into downtown Nashville daily and there are some who think THEY are the only ones trying to get to work.  They will zip in and out of lanes trying to get into the fastest one.
  6. A roundabout is the automobile version of Russian roulette.  I don’t know whose idea it was to put roundabouts in a major Southern U.S. city but drivers have no clue how to use it.  If you get in one of these traffic wheels of fortune you’d better prepare to get out soon.
  7. At a four-way stop *I* go first!  No one knows how four-way stops work.  You will soon find out who the arrogant/impatient people are when you approach one of these.  Forget about the rules of taking turns.
  8. I have no time to brake so you can make your turn.  Be are extremely impatient.  No Southern hospitality at all.  If you need to turn and use your turn signal, be prepared for nearly being pushed out of the way by the driver behind you.
  9. I don’t have to yield to pedestrians…EVER.  I will say that many times pedestrians walk when they aren’t supposed to but when they do, drivers don’t want to yield (yes, there’s that word again) and Nashville has increased in pedestrians being struck every year.
  10. I can do whatever I want to do….especially if the driver is driving a Lexus.   Basically people will do whatever they can get away with.  I have seen so many violations and just some really dumb and unsafe maneuvers that not much surprises me now.  And if the driver is driving a Lexus, you might want to be prepared for anything.

With the city of Nashville growing, the traffic situation grows worse.  It doesn’t seem like anyone has a plan to do anything about it.  One thing about Nashville and the Interstate highway system is that truckers are forced to come through downtown because there isn’t a true bypass around the city.  We have no transit system.  Yes, there is a train but the route is only on the eastside of town so most folks around here have to use their Lexus (and other cars) to navigate the traffic everyday.  Nashville drivers are a different breed.  If you come here, you’d better be ready with some patience and sing to your favorite country tunes.

Driving 101: Patience Grasshopper

patienceThe common theme in almost every Driving 101 posts I have made is the impatience of drivers that roll along our highways.  You know the person – the one who pulls out in front of you forcing you to brake when there is absolutely no traffic behind you.  Then there is the person who flings their hands up in frustration because you didn’t run that red light.  Of course, who can ignore that driver who is tailgating you and would want to push you out of their way.

Impatience in driving is a huge problem.

Okay, I get it.  Driving is boring.  We hate it.  We are all trying to get from one place to another.  Unfortunately there are other people on the road doing the same thing.  Shocking I know.  It always amazes me in the morning commute when someone is driving at warp speed weaving in and out of traffic toward downtown.  I will usually say to that driver:  “We are all trying to get to work too.  You’re not the only one.”

The impatience thing is an epidemic.  Impatience often escalates into road rage.  So how can we deal with impatient drivers?

  1. Let it go.  Get out of their way when possible.  It’s not worth flipping someone off or getting shot by someone who gets mad about it.  Driving isn’t a competition.  You aren’t losing a race.  Ignore them.
  2. Stay calm.  Don’t get mad or try to make them more angry by slowing down even more or continuing to get in their way.  The important thing to do in these situations is to operate YOUR vehicle safely.  Even if the other driver wants to push you out into the road, you proceed when you feel it is safe because if you get hit because you feel stressed by the other driver, you will be the one hurt by it.  More than likely, the other driver will just swerve around you and leave you dealing with the accident.
  3. Don’t be one.  Don’t be the impatient driver.  Leave on time to get to your destination.  Watch the traffic report for any problems to decide if you need to take another route.  Don’t be so quick to hit the horn.  Don’t put others in danger.  Don’t deliberately prevent someone from merging or changing lanes.

As frustrating as it is, you can’t control what other people do, you can only control what you do.  Impatient drivers are a reality in our selfie generation.  Impatient drivers think the road is theirs and no one else matters.   Impatient drivers cause five million deadly accidents each year.  Some of the top impatient causes of these fatal accidents are speeding, failing to yield the right-of-way (I’m not sure anyone really knows who has the right-of-way these days), reckless driving and failure to obey traffic signs and signals.

One of the things I often see is when drivers are turning and they cut the turn too short into the other turn lane.  I can see the colors of other drivers’ eyes when they do this.  Last week I counted six people talking on their phones while making the turn.

I am often driving through the intersection of Old Hickory Boulevard and Highway 70S in Bellevue and I dread it.  There are way too many things going on there with drivers coming from every direction.  I have seen drivers take too many chances simply because they are impatient and refuse to wait for traffic to clear before entering the highway.

Be patience grasshopper.  Pay attention to the drivers around you.  Stay calm.


Driving 101: Knuckleheads On Ice

Jan14-driving-in-snow-and-iceDriving under normal conditions is stressful enough but when you throw in the occasional snow and ice we get here in Nashville for the few days in the winter, it won’t surprise you why our Northern neighbors poke fun at us.  We simply don’t know how to drive in the wintry conditions like they do.  I spent a year in Greenland driving a huge mail truck every day but that was over 100 years ago (actually 40) and I don’t consider myself an expert on how to drive in the snow/ice when it occurs.  I don’t really think anyone is an “expert” because that would require someone behind the wheel with at least a dash of common sense.  When you live in Nashville (or most any Southern cities) you see the knuckleheads on ice – and I’m not talking about an ice skating show at Bridgestone Arena.

The main thing I see is that drivers refuse to be cautious.  If their wheels are turning, they think it’s good to proceed as normal – which is scary to begin with.  ice on the roads is no one’s friend and is very unforgiving regardless of what kind of vehicle you are driving.

I dare say that there are guys driving four-wheel drive trucks who incorrectly assume they can drive on anything since but what they underestimate is that when they hit icy patches that all four wheels can slide just as easily.

So what are the proper tips for driving in snow/ice conditions?

  1. Before you get on the road, make sure you clear off any snow or ice on your vehicle.  Don’t just jump in your vehicle and take off.  Accumulation of snow and ice can not only obstruct your views but could also be a hazard for other drivers when it falls off of your vehicle.  It’s annoying when you get an unwelcomed snow shower from another vehicle.
  2. As you approach a hill, allow your car’s momentum to take you up instead of pressing on your gas.  Then when you reach the top of the hill, reduce your speed and descend slowly.  The main thing is not to panic.
  3. When you start to skid do NOT steer into the direction of the skid but gently steer into the direction you want to go without slamming on the brakes.  I think we have been told (or confused) for years that we are suppose to steer the wrong way.  If you steer INTO the direction of skid then you will most certainly end up in the ditch.
  4. Allow extra space between you and other vehicles.  This is NOT the time for tailgating (as if there is any time for it).
  5. Gently apply your brakes before you have to come to a stop.  Don’t be the person who immediately applies the brakes at the stop line.  It won’t hurt to start braking early.

The key ingredient to driving in winter conditions on the roadways is CAUTION.  Keep in mind that these are not the normal driving conditions in the South.  It doesn’t hurt to use more caution than normal when driving in snow and/or ice.  In watching the reports on local news, law enforcement repeatedly say that the main reason for accidents during snow/ice is speed.  Drivers are driving too fast for the conditions.  There is no shame for driving slow.  If people are impatient they can go around you.

I hate to say this but drivers around here tend to have that NASCAR mentality on the roads but it isn’t a race and no one is going to win a points competition.  Have you seen NASCAR race on ice?  No, I can’t say that you have.  The highways are roads that lead to our jobs, our homes and our families.  It’s not illegal to be cautious.  Besides, it’s only 2-3 days of the year.  Can’t we just make allowances for this and make it safe for everyone?  Let’s be cautious and not knuckleheads on ice.

Driving 101: Going Round-and-Round 

Roundabouts.  My stomach already gets shaky just to mention the word.  I dread roundabouts about as much as I do four-way stops.  Even if you know what you are supposed to do, it’s not always safe to assume others know what to do. 

A roundabout is supposed to help traffic flow and nicer cousin to the four-way stop.  

The single-lane roundabout is pretty easy to understand and navigate.  It’s the two-lane that causes a lot of confusion.  Specifically, what’s the deal with the inside lane?   You could get in it and never get out!

Keep calm and drive on.  

The inside lane of a roundabout is for when you want to go straight, make a left turn or u-turn.  The key thing to remember is that you stay in the same lane when you get out of the roundabout. (See the diagram below)

To go straight or right, get in the right lane. 

To go straight, left or make a u-turn, get in the left lane.  

Entering the roundabout can be tricky.  Choose the appropriate lane before you enter the roundabout.  Look to your left and yield to drivers already in the roundabout in both lanes. Once a gap appears, merge into the roundabout and proceed to your exit.  

Yeah, it sounds easy on paper right?

If you get stuck on the inside lane, stay in it until you can safely exit.  Some drivers will just stay in the right lane regardless of the rules.  Drivers not knowing the rules of roundabouts are the biggest problems. 

They key things to remember:

  • Yield to drivers in the roundabout
  • Stay in your lane
  • Do not stop in the roundabout
  • Avoid driving next to oversized vehicles

Believe or not, studies have shown that roundabouts are safer than traditional stop sign or signal-controlled intersections.  Honestly, that’s a little hard for me to believe but the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) says it reduced injury crashes by 75 percent.  

This can only work if everyone knows the rules.  

Driving 101: Adjusting to Road Conditions

winter-drivingTwo weeks ago we had snow and ice on Nashville area roads.  This past week we have had rain.  The one thing that you will notice about driving – nothing changes.  People will drive the same without regard to the road conditions.  You will also look at the map and see traffic accidents lighting up the roads.  Why?  Most drivers are arrogant and think they can drive in any condition.  I have yet to see any vehicles with skis on the roads.  You can’t rely on rubber tires to make you invincible.

Does anyone really know the rules about driving in these weather conditions?

Here are some tips:

  • Slow down (yeah, you see this one showing up in any of my Driving 101 entries)
  • Turn on lights and wipers
  • Increase following distance to four seconds
  • Avoid puddles
  • Beware of misty rain even when it stop raining
  • Be prepared to handle a skid safely
  • Beware of icy patches or black ice

Skidding or hydroplaning is always possible when the roads are slick.  Here is what you are to do:

  1. Don’t slam on your brakes.  Braking triggers slides and makes it worse.
  2. Turn into the slide.  Turn your wheels in the direction the back of the vehicle is sliding.
  3. Don’t panic or overcorrect.

Above all, the main point to remember is:  SLOW DOWN.   Adjust your speed to safely match the weather conditions, road conditions, visibility and traffic flow.  Excessive driving speed in bad road conditions increase the chances for fatal crashes to 25 percent more than in normal road conditions.

When the conditions are not ideal, adjust to those conditions.  Give yourself time to stop and more time to respond to what you see ahead of you.  Assume nothing.  Arrive safely.




Driving 101:  New Year’s Resolutions For Drivers

As we enter 2017, it won’t be long until the holidays are behind us and we get back into the usual daily driving routines in the Music City.  The light traffic over the past two weeks were nice but soon we will be reminded why traffic is a pain here. 

While most people have a New Year’s Resolution to lose weight, I have come up with some for Nashville drivers:

  1. Be more patient on the roads.  Instead of being quick to get angry at other drivers, practice a little patience. 
  2. Slow down.  Don’t drive so fast.  We are all trying to get somewhere too. 
  3. Do what you are supposed to do.  You know the rules – follow them. 
  4. Wait before you honk.  Don’t be so quick to lay on the horn unless it’s absolutely necessary. 
  5. Don’t drive so aggressively.  This isn’t a NASCAR race.  It’s okay to let people in front of you.  
  7. Let it go. When someone cuts you off let the rage go.  It isn’t worth it to escalate the situation.  

If Nashville is truly the most friendliest city in the United States, why don’t we start driving like it?

Happy New Driving Year everyone!

Driving 101: Right of Way


What is the right-of-way in driving?

I’m sure many Nashville drivers don’t have a clue what that is or think their way is the right way in traffic.

Seriously, there is a rule about the right-of-way.

Right-of-way are rules that help people drive safely when there is no traffic sign or direction for stopping or yielding to another vehicle.

At an intersection without a stop or yield sign, slow down and prepare to stop.  Yield to vehicles already in the intersection or entering it in front of you.  Always yield to the car that arrived first.  If you and another driver reach the intersection at the same time, yield if the car is on your right.

Don’t always assume people know this.  Use caution whenever you are confronted with these situations.  Don’t always insist on others going ahead of you.  If another vehicle expects you to take your legal turn, you might delay traffic by stopping or slowing unnecessarily.  Do what you are supposed to do.

At four-way stops, if you get there the same time as another vehicle, the vehicle on the left must yield the right-of-way.  The right vehicle has the right-of-way.

If a vehicle is turning in obeying a traffic signal, you must wait until they are cleared until you can make your move.  A vehicle must remain stopped until all cross traffic is gone.

In Nashville, it seems that the rule is do whatever you want to do or do it before the other person.  That’s not right-of-way.  If everyone would just do what they are supposed to do then traffic would flow better and our roads would be safer.


Driving 101: We All Need Our Space

tailgating1Okay, it happened to me again this morning on the drive to work.  Someone behind me was so close that I could see the whites of their eyes.  A bit too close don’t you think?

Some drivers just don’t understand the rules for space between vehicles.  I know I’m going slow but you can’t push me when I don’t have anywhere to go.  Riding my bumper isn’t going to get you there any faster.    This is commonly referred to as “tailgating” which can really trigger some anger management issues.  Most rear end collisions are caused by the vehicle in the back following too closely.

So what are the rules for spacing?

Title 55, Chapter 8, Section 55-8-124 of the Tennessee Code states:

The driver of a motor vehicle shall not follow another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent, having due regard for the speed of the vehicles and the traffic upon and the condition of the highway.

Okay, what does that mean in the real world?

Use the three-second rule to avoid tailgating.  Essentially, you should pick a focal point that is parallel to the car in front of you, such as a building or road sign.  You then count the seconds it takes you to arrive at that same point.   Another rule is to ensure that you can see the bottom of the other driver’s wheels.  If you cannot, then you are driving too closely and need to slow down.

If you can visually translate into feet:

  • 25 mph – 111 ft
  • 35 mph – 166 ft
  • 45 mph – 198 ft
  • 55 mph – 243 ft
  • 65 mph – 288 ft
  • 75 mph – 333 ft

If you are being tailgated remain calm.  Do not slam on the brakes.  Don’t add more rage into a dangerous situation.  Let the tailgater go around or change lanes.  This isn’t a competition nor is it a NASCAR event.  The goal isn’t to be the fastest, it is to get to the destination safely.


Driving 101:  How to Merge Onto the Interstate

Since moving to Nashville I have been taken by surprise the number of people who think that traffic on the Interstate is supposed to stop to let them on.  These people are not just irritated but totally appalled that traffic will not stop for them to get on.  Merging requires responsibility of BOTH drivers on and entering the roadway but never does it state that drivers on the interstate are supposed to stop.  Here are the correct rules about merging onto the interstate:

  1. If you are merging onto the highway, make sure you are going the same speed as the traffic on the highway.  That’s why it’s called the “acceleration lane” so you can gain speed where you’re entering the highway.  
  2. Put on your turn signal.  I know it sounds pretty obvious but the signal will get the attention of other driver’s of what you intend to do.  However, keep in mind that as the person merging, you do NOT have the right of way.  Other drivers are not expected to move out of the way.  It’s up to you to adjust your speed.
  3. Look for a gap in traffic.  Merge when you find a gap to safely do so.  Some think you are supposed to use all of the accerlation lane before you get over.  The rule is to get over when it is safe to do so.
  4. If you are on the highway, be alert to merging traffic.  Don’t be a jerk.  Create gaps in front and behind you.   This isn’t a competition or NASCAR event.  Ease off the gas a bit is someone is trying to merge onto traffic or speed up if that is the safer option.

Merging traffic does not have the right of way when entering the highway.  Many drivers are unaware that drivers currently on the highway have the right of way over cars entering it.  It is not the job of cars already on the highway to make room for cars entering.  If you happen to be entering one those lanes where the same lane is used for both entering and exiting the highway, the cars exiting the highway have the right of way over cars entering the highway.