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It’s just one of those rules of the road


The rules of the road. I began thinking about them the other day when I pulled into the left-turn lane at a stoplight a couple of miles from my house.

I ground to a halt a good 30 seconds before the light sequence changed from red to green, but, as usual, the turn-lane arrow remained red, even though the lights on both through lanes turned green and allowed traffic to flow.

I have complained to VDOT about this for two years, reminding them that drivers are wasting gas and time by being forced to sit through two light cycles. The VDOT guys just say that the reflection of the sun may be making my car invisible, but they have no explanation why this phenomenon also occurs at night. It must just be one of those rules of the road.

Now, I’m not talking about all the laws printed in that little DMV handbook that you study before taking your driver’s test, I’m talking about the unwritten rules, the little things that occur on the highways that drive drivers mad.

Take stopping at a traffic light, for example. You can see a red light half a mile away and try to adjust your speed so that it will be green when you get there and you won’t have to stop.

Fat chance, buddy! That light will never turn green until the instant you come to a complete stop. Then it changes. It is as if that light is saying: “Don’t fool with me! I’m smarter than you. I refuse to change until you are stopped dead.” That’s a rule of the road.

Ever leave home a few minutes late and find yourself in that hurry-up mode? We all do from time to time. Whenever you get in a hurry you never fail to get behind some 102-year-old man driving down the two-lane highway at 25 mph, or a farmer pulling a wagon loaded with hay.

If you were not in a hurry, the farmer would turn into the next lane and grandpa would just be going over the rise to his mother’s house. But when you’ve got to be somewhere and you’re late, both grandpa and the farmer are just starting out on cross-country vacations and each has taken the same GPS path as you. That’s just a rule of the road.

Here’s another: You can follow grandpa for five miles along a double line and never meet a car going in the opposite direction. Once there is a broken line on your side, however, the oncoming traffic stretches as far as the eye can see and it is impossible to pass.

How long is this line of traffic? It lasts until you reach another double line. Then, you and grandpa are alone on the highway again.

Ever look in your mirror and there is a car 3 inches away from your back bumper? Usually you see the car, but you don’t see a driver. Is this some remote-controlled test model?

Ah! Then it appears, that blond head that is barely visible behind the steering wheel. Some girl of about 18 is hell bent for leather to get somewhere, and she wants you to speed up. Hey! There are 40 cars ahead of me! Where am I gonna go?

No matter! She has places to go and things to do, so she moves up to within 2 inches of your bumper and stays there. Just another rule of the road.

Have you noticed that no one will pass a police car on any kind of highway? That’s a rule of the road.

The officer could be driving 45 mph (that’s a joke) on a stretch of four-lane highway where the speed limit is 60, and no one will pass him. Drivers know they won’t be breaking the law if they pass doing 55, but they always worry that the policeman is somehow trying to trick them. Even an 18-year-old isn’t brave enough to pass a cop in a moving vehicle.

Finally, it is an unwritten rule of the road that any time you are in a tremendous hurry you will get behind a school bus that has a 10-mile route with 8,000 stops. After stop No. 4,000, you realize you don’t have a chance of making it to your destination on time.

These are the real rules of the road. They may not be in the DMV handbook, but they’re there. And every driver knows it.

Donnie Johnston: