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From a simple wave of thanks to using your high beams responsibly and waiting your turn for a parking lot, here are five courtesies that all young Singaporean drivers should practice.

Category: Car Ownership Advice

I grew up in a bit of a gearhead family. My father was quite the Honda fanboy, having owned your typical boy racer cars like Civics and a Prelude, while my uncles had everything from Subarus to Porsches.

My grandfather was perhaps the spark, as he served the Japanese in the World War II as a mechanic and later owned classics from Alfa Romeo, Morris Motors and Volkswagen, just to name a few.

Long story short, because of my family's influence, attaining my driver's license became a key milestone in my life because it meant I could finally join the automotive fraternity.

I was, however, taught the old school way of driving. Almost everyone in my family who could drive shaped the way I did. One important lesson I learnt was that driving is broken down into three things - the technical aspect, the legal aspect, and the social aspect.

A good driver isn't just someone who can drive fast; a good driver is also courteous and polite

The first two are widely covered topics by driving schools and the traffic police's numerous campaigns but the third? That's something I feel the younger generation of drivers isn't practicing, or rather, respecting.

In my opinion, being a good driver doesn't just mean being skilled but also being courteous, whatever the situation. After all, our roads are for sharing.

Here are five courtesies that should never be forgotten:

1. A little thanking goes a long way

One of my biggest pet peeves is a driver not saying thanks after being given way to. Admittedly, if you're expecting something in return, it's not really courtesy, isn't it?

But being able to mind our Ps and Qs certainly makes the roads a more cordial place and is one of the best ways to make everyone's drive a little less stressful and more polite.

Whether you've done something wrong or been given way to, a wave of apology or thanks definitely doesn't hurt

The most common way drivers in Japan communicate is through what's called the 'thank you hazard', which isn't taught in driving schools but is widely practiced. While I'm not expecting Singaporeans to do the same, would a quick 'thank you wave' hurt?

Similarly, if more people apologised for their lunkheadedness and more people accepted their apologies, the roads would be a lot more humane.

2. Better late than never

To err is human; we make mistakes all the time, especially on the road. One example is missing a highway exit, of which I am myself a victim. Singapore is only 50km long and the next U-turn or detour will probably only add just a minute or two to your drive.

Why attempt cutting out at the very last minute just to make your exit and risk causing a chain collision or worse, hitting an innocent motorcyclist? To this, the Cantonese have a saying that translates as - are you rushing to be incarnated? - which basically means, do you have a deathwish?

Practice a little patience; incessant and unnecessary honking could lead to an unpleasant argument

And not all drivers are equally skilled or aware of his or her surroundings. If you encounter one who's unknowingly road hogging, don't horn or high beam aggressively or overtake too closely. You'll just be making the driver panic even more.

Just get past when it's safe to and be along your way. Be safe, be patient and live to drive another day.
3. Maintaining sensible speed

But on that note, while we often preach safe (often misinterpreted as slow) driving, guess what? Safe driving isn't actually doing 50km/h on a 90km/h highway.

Forcing faster traffic to pass on the left and causing unnecessary weaving and lane changing is irresponsible, especially if the reason you're hogging the road is because you're meddling with your phone.

Road hogging is bad but endangering the lives of others by testing the top speed of your car on public roads is worse

Safe driving isn't about being slow or fast, but more about maintaining the right speed at any given time. This ensures that the road's flow is kept at an optimum pace.

Also, if you absolutely have to test your new turbo upgrade or performance tyres, at the very least have the civility to do it on a stretch of empty road in the dead of the night where the chances of you implicating another motorist or pedestrian are near zero.

4. Practicing light discipline

Somehow, even with almost every car coming with automatic headlamps these days, some drivers can still screw this up. If you're forgetful or just plain rubbish at driving, leave the light settings in full automatic.

Whether it's forgetting to turn on your headlamps at night or using them during heavy downpours, you're not only putting yourself in danger but also risking the safety of other motorists.

Especially at night, it pays to check if your high beams are turned on

On the other end of the light spectrum, there are also others that seem to be driving with sunglasses on at night. These are the ones with their high beams perpetually turned on.

If you blind an oncoming driver with your high beams, he might not be able to judge where your car is and might crash into you.

If oncoming drivers are flashing their lights at you and you don't know why, first make sure your headlights are on, and then check that the high beams are off.

5. Is parking rocket science?

Some of the most frustrating driving habits can be found in a car park. My number one parking peeve is a driver who doesn't have the common courtesy to park his car within the allocated lots. Obviously, this eats into the space of the next lot and will ultimately cause a domino effect for the rest of the cars beside the 'parking genius'.

Using your hazards as a sign of intention to park is one of driving's most basic but forgotten courtesies

It's not difficult, really, to park in the middle of the marked parking space. What more, most cars have reverse cameras these days, which also have guiding lines to get you straight into the lot.

What's also annoying is the blatant lack of integrity of some drivers while waiting for a lot. When you see someone pulling out of one, get as close as you can and turn on your turn hazards to let other drivers know you have 'dibs' on the lot.

If another car is first and has its hazards on already, back off! The other car gets the lot. If you and another driver both think you found the lot first, be generous and let it go.

A parking lot is not worth a fight. Another spot will be vacant soon.

What are some other courtesies that you think are lacking on our roads? Let us know in the comments section below!

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