40 Car Etiquette Rules We Wish Everyone Would Follow
Some of these are actually laws, but they still belong on our list of polite driving behaviors.
Jul 5, 2019
Everyone who's out there sharing American roadways has their own list of things that other drivers do that annoy them, but there are a lot that we think everyone can agree on. After stumbling upon Town & Country's list of social etiquette rules , it occurred to us: "Hey, why isn't there a list of etiquette rules for driving?" So we made our own. We polled our colleagues here at the Car and Driver editorial offices, reached out to our followers on Instagram, and came up with our top 40 rules for driving etiquette. Take our poll at the end to let us know which of our rules you're guilty of breaking.
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No Feet on the Dashboard
Aside from being dangerous , it's just gross. This isn't your living-room sofa, it's our precious car! Keep your stinky feet off the dash.
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Passengers Shouldn't Touch the Climate Controls
This etiquette rule has our office divided: Half of us agree that the passenger should let the driver set the temperature, while the other half think passengers should get a say. Maybe play it safe and ask the driver first in case they're part of the second group. If you're riding in a car with dual-zone climate control, all of our editors agree that your zone is fair game.
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Use the Zipper Merge Method
This one isn't just courteous; research has proved that it's more efficient and safer. Instead of queuing up in one lane because the adjacent lane is closed miles down the road, continue to use the open lane and merge at the last minute, combining the two lanes in a zipperlike left-right-left-right fashion.
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Don't Eat or Smoke in the Car without the Driver's Permission
Please wait until you get to your destination before tearing into your Crunchwrap or popping the lid and getting into your beef lo mein. Crumbs and debris can fall into hard-to-reach places between the seat and the console, and food smells can be hard to eradicate. Don't even get us started on lighting up a cigarette.
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Only Use Fog Lamps When There's Fog
The extra light from having your fog lamps on can be distracting to drivers of oncoming cars. Not to mention, if you're in a tall truck or SUV, those lights might shine directly into the back window of lower cars. Fog lamps are intended only for use in foggy conditions where lights particularly low to the ground will help improve visibility for the driver.
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Don't Hold Up Traffic by Very Slowly Passing Other Vehicles
We all get furious when we see it happening. A driver in a semi truck is ever so slowly passing another semi truck that is going only 0.001 mph slower. It takes forever and goes on for miles. Please stop this madness! Pass only when you have enough speed to do so quickly. And it's not only big trucks who are guilty; a lot of passenger-car drivers do this, too.
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Car and Driver
Use Your Turn Signal
Really. For the love of God. Please signal. Letting other drivers know your intention to merge or turn is not only the courteous thing to do, it's also safer.
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Stay in the Right Lane Except When Passing
No one loves being held up on the highway because another driver is camped out in the left lane doing exactly the speed limit. Move over to the right or middle lane and let faster traffic get by.
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Pay Attention When Sitting at a Stoplight
We're all tempted to stare at our phones for a few brief moments while waiting at a stoplight, but please resist. If you're distracted and don't see that the light has turned green or that traffic ahead of you has moved on, you'll be holding up other motorists who have places to be. Some cars, such as Subarus with EyeSight driver-assistance features, have an audible reminder if you're guilty of this.
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Don't Text and Drive
Speaking of phones, how about no texting while driving? It's incredibly dangerous and everyone knows it. Yet Americans do this regularly, putting themselves, their passengers, and fellow motorists at risk of injury or death. Put the phone down and drive.
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Don't Drink and Drive
. . . or smoke or otherwise ingest marijuana and drive. This one is rather obvious, but like texting and driving, despite understanding the danger involved, Americans still often take this risk. Stay sober behind the wheel, please.
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Pull Over for Emergency Vehicles
Ambulances, fire trucks, and police cars have ear-piercingly loud sirens and bright flashing lights, yet some drivers pretend not to notice and fail to pull over to clear a path for these emergency vehicles. Why? Don't be a jerk, get out of the way.
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Let the Driver Choose the Tunes
If we're putting in the wheel work, we'd like the final say on what's playing through the speakers. Feel free to suggest songs, podcasts, or radio stations, but don't take it personally if the driver vetoes your suggestion.
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No Kids or Pets Left Inside Hot Cars
Unless you're driving one of those new Teslas with Dog Mode , you shouldn't be leaving your pet (or your kid!) inside the car, especially on hot days. It is literally deadly , so please don't do it.
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Park between the Lines
We've all been there: The Trader Joe's parking lot is packed (it always is), and some creep in a dented Chevy is taking up two spaces because he couldn't manage to navigate his heap between the lines. Be courteous to your fellow errand runners and take the time to make sure you're not taking up two (or more) spaces.
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Yield to the Right at Four-Way Intersections
Maybe you forgot, or maybe you were never learned it in the first place, but at four-way intersections you're supposed to yield to the vehicle on your right if you both pulled up at the same time. This also applies to four-way intersections that are normally controlled by stoplights if those lights are no longer working, such as in a power outage.
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Remove the Tow Ball When Not in Use
We're the #SaveTheManuals people, but we're also the #SaveTheShins people. Please, help us save the shins by removing the ball from your receiver when you don't have a trailer hooked up. We're tired of bashing our legs when walking through parking lots. Plus, these things can do a lot of damage in rear-end accidents or if the driver unknowingly backs a little too close to another car in a parking lot.
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Thank Helpful Drivers in Traffic with a Wave
If someone makes room for you to merge in during heavy traffic, give them a nod or a wave. That sort of recognition shows goodwill and might encourage them to be more courteous in the future. At the very least, it will brighten their day.
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Use the Proper Lanes at Roundabouts
Look, we get it: Roundabouts are annoying and a little intimidating. But they work only when drivers adhere strictly to the rules. Use the proper lane and yield only if you need to when entering the circle.
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Use Headlamps in Rainy or Low-Visibility Situations
Sometimes it rains or snows during the day when automatic headlamps won't turn themselves on. So turn them on manually. It increases the likelihood that other drivers will see you and will help prevent accidents.
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Passenger Should Clean the Windshield at Fuel Stops
Polite passengers should offer to scrub and squeegee the windshield if it's spattered with bugs while the driver fuels up. It's not a horribly laborious task and it's usually quick work, but your driver will appreciate the effort.
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Don't Leave Your Car Parked at the Gas Pump
Running in for a soda and some Slim Jims after topping up the tank? Do everyone a favor and move your car to a parking spot instead of leaving it at the pump. Even if the gas station is deserted when you go in, there's no way to know if it will stay that way while you shop.
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I mean, c'mon. Did we learn nothing from the Keep America Beautiful ad campaign ? Keep your trash contained inside your car until you can properly dispose of it. American highways have enough issues with potholes; don't add a bunch of garbage to the equation.
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Give Other Drivers the Courtesy Headlamp Flash
See a Smokey hiding out with his radar gun at the ready? Maybe there's a family of deer waiting to cross the road? Alert oncoming cars to potential hazards up ahead with a quick flash of your bright lights. That's brotherhood, my friend.
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Yield to Pedestrians
This should go without saying, but be watchful and let pedestrians cross. Not only can you be ticketed for failure to yield, you could potentially maim or kill someone on foot. Be safe.
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Make Room for Cyclists
Same goes for bicycles. Give them space on the road, even if that means waiting to drive around them until oncoming traffic subsides. You have an entire car made of metal, plastic, and glass to protect you in a collision. Bikers might only have a helmet.
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Don't Drive below the Posted Speed Limit
If it says 55, you'd better be doing 55. Not 45, not 52. We're talking 55 mph or higher. We'll give you a break if the conditions warrant it.
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Don't Block an Open Lane
This goes for intentional and unintentional blocking. If you think you're the hero for blocking the adjacent lane to force those behind you to merge while queuing up for a lane closure, you need to read up on the zipper merge method because you're screwing it up for everyone.
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Drive a Steady Speed on the Highway
No one likes an indecisive driver. Don't tailgate us so we hurry up and get over to let you around only to slow down again. Can we please just go a steady speed? It makes the flow of traffic far less annoying.
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Speaking of tailgating, how about not doing it. Ever. It's dangerous and anxiety-inducing. This isn't the Daytona 500 and your hatchback doesn't need to be drafting that minivan for better fuel economy. Back off and drive at a safe distance.
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