A new approach to lane changing

December 20th, 2012

ThinkTech Hawaii

A friend of mine is moving to Oregon. He has many good reasons. When he got there, he wrote a note saying how great things were, trying to make us eat our hearts out. And he said this:

“People (here) are unbelievably nice and polite. Can you believe, they actually stop and let you change lanes when you put on your signal?“

I guess I knew that, I guess we all did. Over time, driving aloha has given way to something else. People do cut in front of you on a regular basis without signaling and, worse, when you signal they don't let you change lanes, making it unnecessarily hard for you.

In the old days everyone let you in as soon as they saw your signal. We’ve lost that. Aloha no longer prevails, and the loss may be unrecapturable. The police won’t fix this - they leave it to us to be courteous to each other. That's not unreasonable.

How does lane changing change the culture? Well if everyone cuts in and out, and they do, just watch the road, any road, and you will see compulsive lane changing all over town.

It has a lot to do with more cars and congestion. People are frustrated that they’re moving so slowly, so they repeatedly change lanes to see if they can go faster. Lots of those lane changes are unproductive. But that’s their call.

These drivers are impatient to get somewhere, even to the other side of the road, often without signaling. The rest of us get annoyed, and that’s one of the reasons why other drivers get fed up and won’t let the lane changers change. And that unforgiving lack of courtesy is the real rub. It's downright mean.

So you signal you want to change lanes, and they ignore you. You look at them to give stink eye or to see the kind of person who does this. They know you signaled, and they know you’re looking at them, but they look straight ahead, fixed on some distant horizon, ignoring your glare and adding insult to injury.

What makes people ignore your signal and then ignore you? It’s takes a smoldering anger they may not even realize. They hide behind expensive tinted windows, making believe they can't see you, isolating themselves from decency for snarled hours every day.

Lane changing culture is the measure of a community, or city. If people are proud and happy about their community, they are happy to let you change lanes. If they are frustrated with their community, they ignore your signal and then your glare.

How to change this culture? For me, I let them in even if they are compulsive lane changers. I turn the other cheek, I never get angry and I never say no. And, above all, I never ignore them. I do this because I want to have a nice day and no accident.

On the other hand, when I signal and another driver lets me in, I wave at him with a big shaka, because I know his courtesy is slowly going extinct and because I want to encourage its revival.

If we all did this, life on Hawaii’s congested roads would be easier on everyone.

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