We could all use a little refresher on the rules of the road. Most drivers will eventually have an experience where they feel slighted because someone cut them off or did something else against the traffic laws. Make sure you don’t ruin anyone else’s day or end up in an accident by taking a few moments now to head back to driver’s education with this short refresher. We all could certainly use it!
Different Situations Come with Different Traffic Laws
Different locations on the road come with different traffic laws, and you’ll need to keep that in mind when you’re driving around. When you come to a four-way intersection and stop at the same time as another vehicle, the car to your right always has the right of way. Always drive defensively. If another car tries to take your turn to cross the intersection, then be patient and let them take it. You don’t want to end up in a costly accident or even worse because the other driver was wrong.
Roundabouts can be confusing, but there are more of them in the Portland suburbs now than ever before. When you enter a multi-lane roundabout, pick your lane the same way you would in a regular multi-lane intersection. Get in the right line if you want to go straight or make a right turn. You can also go straight in the left lane, but making a left turn requires you to cut across into the right lane directly before your turn. This is the area where the utmost caution is recommended because another driver may be entering the roundabout in the right lane opposite of where you entered the roundabout.
Bicycles & Pedestrians
Many of us say that pedestrians have the right of way when we’re the pedestrians, but we don’t always practice what we preach once we get behind the wheel. Oregon state law reads that motorists must always yield the right of way to any pedestrian who is on a sidewalk while pedestrians must yield the right of way to vehicles whenever they’re crossing at an irregular crossing. This means pedestrians should yield when they’re crossing anywhere besides a marked crosswalk or an intersection. The specific traffic laws for pedestrian right of way may vary from state to state, but just remember pedestrians are no match for an automobile, so even if it’s inconvenient to yield to them at times when it may not be lawful for them, it’s better than hurting someone.
Drivers may pass bicycles if they can do so without endangering the cyclist in question. You must yield to cyclists who are riding in marked bicycle lanes. The same is true if you’re on a road with so-called sharrows (areas with a shared lane marking).
As a motorist, though, keep in mind that many cyclists and pedestrians are also in need of a little refresher when it comes to the rules of the road, so stay sharp and expect the unexpected when sharing the road.
You’ll need to really keep your guard up in school zones. Always slow down when you near one and keep in mind that children are every bit as sneaky and fast as they are unaware of traffic laws. Also, be particularly aware of stopped school buses with their stop sign extended. Stop with a good distance behind or in front of the bus as to allow children safe space to cross if necessary. Ignoring a school bus stop sign, on either side of the road, can have tragic results.
I Saw the Sign
We’re bombarded with signs on the road these days, and you’ll see even more when you get closer to downtown areas. These areas are especially full of distractions, so missing street signs can become more commonplace. Just like you shouldn’t drive distracted or text while driving, you shouldn’t let the things around you distract you either.
Pay special attention to signs on one-way streets, which are quite prevalent in the downtown area. Make sure you always turn the proper direction when going on a one-way street since it’s surprisingly easy to end up in the wrong direction. Heed this advice that I have always shared: knowledge is knowing a street is one way, but wisdom is looking both ways before entering anyway.
Don’t ever ignore construction zone signs. Make sure to reduce your speed as soon as it’s safe to do so. It’s easy to ignore construction signs since construction zones seem so common, but these signs are to warn you that there may be people working very close to the roadway.
Rolling through a stop sign is very tempting, especially when you can’t see any other vehicles coming in a small neighborhood intersection, for example. Unfortunately, there might still be pedestrians, cyclists or other cars moving fast who missed the stop sign completely. Not coming to a complete stop and looking all ways could end tragically, so make sure to obey these signs. If you ever come across a flashing or disabled traffic light, then you should treat it like a stop sign as well.
Yield signs are sometimes misunderstood. You may roll through a yield sign if you slowed down enough to observe that there are no other vehicles, pedestrians or bicyclists to yield to but failing to yield can result is tragedy.
Speed limit signs are also easy to ignore, but it’s important to heed them especially in areas where large curves can make you lose control if you’re speeding. You may observe a standard 45 MPH speed limit on a typical road, but at a point, that road may curve so drastically that 45 MPH is no longer a safe speed. Speed limit signs in those situations are typically yellow, so pay close attention to those. Speeding in bad weather is a particularly bad idea, as it is much easier to lose control of the vehicle. Most residential areas have a 25 MPH speed limit, which is designed to protect children, cyclists, pets and any other variables in a neighborhood.
Emergencies and Lanes
Always make sure to pull over and stop when you hear and/or see an emergency vehicle behind you, and don’t forget to signal which way you’re going by using your blinkers. If you hear and/or see an emergency vehicle in front of you, pull over and stop if the road is not divided. When a road is divided by a physical barrier, in most cases, it is safe to continue driving when an emergency vehicle approaches.
In some states like Oregon and Washington, there are “Move Over” laws which require a driver to move to the left lane if possible when approaching an emergency vehicle with flashing lights which is stopped on the right shoulder. If the driver is unable to move over due to traffic, then slowing down is required. Many shoulders are barely wide enough for pulled over vehicles, so it is dangerous to continue without attempting to pull over and slow down 200 feet before passing.
When driving on a multi-lane roadway, you will want to stay in the right lanes if possible so faster vehicles can pass on the left. Some states like Oregon now actually ban driving in the far left unless you’re passing.
A Few Courtesies to Other Drivers
Not all rules of the road are strictly enforced laws, but you should still keep them in mind as a courtesy to other drivers and pedestrians. Cutting through parking lots to avoid lights is unlawful in some areas, but in other areas it is just frowned upon. Keep in mind that people in a parking lot have a safe expectation that people will be driving at a reasonable speed and if a driver is so impatient that they can’t wait through a light, they’re probably driving too fast in that parking lot, therefore endangering lives.
While parking in multiple spaces on private property isn’t expressly illegal, it’s still extremely rude. Unless you are parking way in the back and there’s plenty of spaces to spare, don’t take up multiple spaces. If you make this a habit, then it is probably more likely someone will retaliate and damage your vehicle on purpose anyway.
Something we see in Portland all the time – people will stop or slow to let someone else turn onto the roadway while traffic is moving. Sure, it’s courteous to let someone into the roadway from a parking lot, for example, if everyone is stopped at a red light or if the light just turned green and everyone was stopped anyway, but in Portland I have seen so many times where people will slow or stop in moving traffic to let someone in. Sure, they are being courteous to that one person, but what about the 5 people behind them who had to stop to let one person in? It just doesn’t add up.
Another situation that requires extreme caution is when someone is allowed to turn left in front of two lanes of oncoming traffic. The motorist in the right lane may not have realized someone in the left lane was letting them turn. If you are the motorist turning, be sure to proceed slowly through the right lane to make sure someone isn’t coming. If you are the one who is letting another motorist turn, think twice about letting them, especially you can foresee another motorist coming along next to you quickly. If you are a motorist in the right lane and traffic is stopped next to you, pay close attention as to why that may be. Always drive defensively and pay attention to your surroundings.
Keeping Things in Good Repair
Driving a vehicle in need of repairs can be hazardous. Even small things like broken lights and cracked windshield wipers can cause some serious problems in certain roadway situations. If you drive a Volkswagen or Audi and live in the Portland, OR area, then Hillside Imports is proud to offer a full range of service from factory trained, ASE Certified technicians.