Possibly, one of the most significant milestones in a young person life is the day that they finally go for their driver’s license.
For most, they spend countless hours practicing, they read up on the laws of the road, and even shed some tears of frustration, while they deal with the learning curve of full-filling one of their many teenage dreams.
In Ontario, Canada one of the rites of passage for the soon-to-be driver is when they get their own copy of The MTO Driver’s Handbook. This legendary tome is filled with an abundance of information that both young novice and old veteran drivers should have imprinted into their brains. It includes the do’s and the don’t s of the road that include such topics as how to take corners correctly when to use your lights, speed limits, and an abundance of other valuable and essential information.
I remember the day I was ready to write my test. It was my16th birthday. I really knew my stuff when it came to the rules of the road, and I was sure I was going to pass my written driving exam. Walking into the examination room, I felt like a slightly nervous baby kitten, walking out I was an overconfident road warrior because I beat that test with flying colours.
That was then, this is now, and boy-oh-boy how times have changed. I now have thousands of hours driving, and use to consider myself a safe, considerate, generous, and knowledgeable motorist. But recently, I have been second guessing those claims and asking myself, do I still know the rules of the road? How I drive versus the way other roadies operate their cars are definitely in contrast.
I for one, am confused about when the rules of the road updated? I can not answer that question at all, because I don’t’ have the slightest idea, but I do have a couple of facts about where I stand in regards to the situation.
Fact 1. The version of the handbook I knew and studied has to be extremely outdated, and the rules have completely changed.
Fact 2. The bulk of the people out there on the roads today have either read, studied, or wrote the newer test. Making them the ones who know the rules of the lanes the best.
One thing I have figured out, and lucky for you, I am absorbing each day how to maneuver out there and apply the new rules of the road as I learn them. That, in turn, my friends, saves you $9.99 and you don’t have to go out and buy the MTO Handbook. Instead, let me teach you what I have learned out there for free! (Damn, I’m a nice guy!)
So let’s begin, shall we?
Stopping and Going
The first rule of the road for any young driver to learn is when to stop and go.
Stop signs in Ontario have not changed one bit since I learned how to drive. They are still red, have eight sides, the word STOP on them, and they are on top of a pole at intersections.
Although, the appearance of the signs has not changed the rules have improved tremendously.
Old Rule: Located at intersections, stop signs were used to make sure you came to a complete stop. When the way was clear, you advanced through the intersection.
New Rule: When you come to an intersection with a stop sign. Advance with caution, and if you do not see any other vehicles, keep on going. It’s called a rolling stop. It’s a useful skill to have, not to mention trendy.
Old Rule: The four-way stop. This was when you came up to an intersection with four stop signs, one on each corner. A bit more tricky than a two-way stop.
The way it worked was when you got to the four-way stop and were first, you had the right of way. It’s used to be basically a first-come first-go system. If two cars arrived at the same time, the person on the left went first. If the two motorists got there at the same time across from each other, with one was turning left, the person going straight went first.
New Rule: Nowadays, you treat the four-way stop much like a two-way stop where rolling-stops are permitted. When you are approaching the intersection, stay confident, and when the other person hesitates, advance before them. The technique is tricky at first, but like everything, with a little practice and time, you will be a natural at it! It’s their own fault, the other driver should have gone.
Old Rule: Located above some more prominent intersections there are three lights. One light would come on at a time. The system was pretty simple. Green was to go. Yellow was to advance with caution. Red was to stop.
New rule: This rule is the same with slight differences. When you see the green light, you keep on driving. The small change becomes evident when you see the amber light. Where you use to slow down, you now speed up and try to beat the red light. The red light means slam your breaks on, you were too slow, and you missed the chance to speed through the amber light.
Signal Lights and Headlights.
The second set of rules involved using the lights of your vehicle you were driving. Believe it or not, each one of the lights on the outside of your car had a function and reason to be there. Within the first 30 minutes of being out there on the road, you will realize that this is not the case anymore. Some lights are used all of the time, and some not at all, and I believe that on specific models of cars they may even be just for show.
Old Rule: When you are going to turn there is an arm on the left-hand side of the steering wheel. This arm actually works your signal lights letting people around you know you are turning or merging into a lane.
When I was learning to drive, you would move the arm up until you heard a click. This would cause two lights to flash, one at the front and another at the back of your car. This would indicate to other drivers that you were going to turn right. Once the vehicle was out of the turn, the light would turn off automatically.
On the other hand, if you moved the arm down, it would cause the same two lights on the left side of your car to flick on and off. Once you came out of the corner, just like when you moved the arm up, the lights would shut off.
New Rule: Since my time, the name for the arm has changed. Now instead of it being for the function of the mandatory signal lights, they are now called consideration lights. They do not have to be used, but if you wish to use them to give people the warning you are turning or going to go in front of them, you can use them. To use these lights is merely a gesture of consideration and kindness.
Rule Note: Luxury cars apparently have the option to disable the turning lights altogether. This includes vehicles like Audi’s, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz, etc. If you see one of them turn without the lights, it could be because it has been disabled or the feature wasn’t purchased. This, of course, could be a completely incorrect assumption to make, but I am not in the tax bracket to own one of these cars or to share my opinion any further.
Old Rule: The rules about low-beam lights use to be that they needed to be turned on 30 minutes before sunset and used until 30 minutes after sunrise while using the vehicle. They were also used when the weather was terrible so that other motorists could see you in the poor driving conditions.
New Rule: Cars now have running lights. There is no need to worry about turning on the lights. What you do need to work about is the high-beams. These do not come on automatically. While driving at night, use them. The new rule of the road is, turn on once, and forget. Don’t bother flicking off, after all, the other drivers will appreciate the concern for safer driving.
Speed Limits and Super Passing
A wise man once said, “if you ain’t first, your last!” That man was Ricky Bobby.
The speed was a pretty big factor in the process of learning the rules of the road. It wasn’t hard to know how fast you should be going because the signs were posted along the roadways. These signs, I believe are now a waste of money with the new rules of the road. They are simply ignored, and most drivers out there today are experienced enough to handle their cars at higher speeds.
Although the signs can now be ignored, there are still some rules to take note of.
Old Rule: Once upon a time, the speed limits in Ontario are as follows, 100 km/h on Freeways, 90 km/h on Trans-Canada highways, and other highways 80 km/h. 50 km/h everyplace else unless marked.
These speed limits were ingrained into our memory.
New Rule: I suggest now that you forget about those limits. The rules have changed to were drivers are required to go either 10km/h under the speed limit or 20 km/h above the speed limit. Never drive the speed limit. That is not only distracting but pretty hard to do when you have a lead foot.
Rule Note: Slow driving actually causes one-third of road vehicle accidents. Slower drivers are to stay in the furthest right lane. They often don’t. This causes impatience and irritation to other drivers on the road and forces them to pass the slower driver on the right. This creates confusion and it extremely dangerous.
Old Rule: While in rush hour traffic, we would pick a lane, and stay in that lane. Especially if everyone was going in the same direction. We would merge into the right lane to exit.
New Rule: Yes, another rule that does not apply anymore and is now obsolete. If you have the chance to pass on the left, right, or use an off-ramp to pass, do it. The road is your canvas, fill it with zigzags as you weave in and out of traffic like the artist you are! One thing to remember, try is to take advantage of lanes that run out and merge into the other lanes of the road. Use these ending lanes to accelerate and cut off your fellow drivers. You can gain, one, two, or even more car lengths in rush hour traffic.
Settling the Score With Father Time
Distracted driving wasn’t as big a deal when I first started driving. There were no mobile phones, you had an AM/FM radio that more than likely didn’t have any stations, and everyone didn’t try to make their lives into a living fashion show. Life was simple.
Now, every day I see people putting on make-up, texting, using their phone to take pictures, blaring loud music, just to name a few things. This forced the rule called hands-free driving to come out. This is just another category of distracted driving.
I am the last person you will hear complaining from when it comes to how precious your time is, and I can totally understand why people do some of the things they do while driving. It’s pretty straightforward, Father Time is a royal prick. For instance, if you fail to wake up too early to take care of your daily life at home, by all means, make sure you do it in your car. There are some essential tasks you can do in your vehicle like doing your hair and make-up, texting friends, downloading your podcasts.
The concept is, it’s not so important when you get it done, it is that you merely get it done!
Old Rule: I would like to start with loud music. Music used to fall under the category of distracted driving. Not only is it distracting to the driver and other drivers around you, but you can not hear oncoming emergency vehicles.
New Rule: The new rule is Turn it up and play that funky music! You are probably one of the few people in the city that have an impeccable taste when it comes to music. Share it with the people out there on the road. It is up to you to share with other your tastes in music and immerse others in your cultural tastes. Also, who cares, use your mirrors. It is recommended that you keep checking your mirrors for advancing emergency vehicles.
Shout and Be Heard
Communication is essential, especially when you are on the busy streets. Therefore, don’t be afraid to communicate with each other. It’s doing others and yourself a favour in the long run.
Old Rule: When I was learning to drive, people would wave, nod, and give a thumbs up to other friendly drivers. It was a much more relaxed and understanding time.
New Rule: Nowadays, the more effective way of driving is being a lot more aggressive and a lot less civil. If you see somebody do something you do not appreciate, like breathing, for instance, you make sure you let them know about it. Be heard at all costs and make sure you get your point across. Driving is at an age where you can save the fuzzy feelings for your mom.
Old Rule: We use to use our horns to warn people of advancing and potentially dangerous situations. For example, if the other driver is going to merge in front of you and didn’t see you, it was perfectly acceptable to hit that horn.
New Rule: Cars come with horns for a reason. They tell slow drivers to get out of the way. If they do get out of the road follow it up with either yelling obscenities or creative sign language. Remember, it’s the survival of the fittest and don’t be afraid to release your inner animals!
Rule Note: Letting out your steam in your car is an excellent way to reduce your stress. Studies have shown if you honk your horn on an average of 3 times more than people who do not, you significantly lower your chances of developing heart disease.
Ok! Before you get all bent out of shape and tell me that these rules are wrong and I’m risking peoples lives and safety, I would like to point out the following.
My post is a mockery of the situation.
The lack of consideration and the ignorance of other human existence is mind-boggling on the road. It is unclear to me where this behaviour has come from if it’s the different generations, cultural influences, or the amount of mediation that doctors feed our brains. If there is one thing I can tell you for sure is, this is not the way things used to be.
Now, with a fantastic post like this, I feel I have to add this final note.
Note: if you are unsure of the rules of the road, please pick yourself up an MTO Drivers handbook, or study up on the laws of the road by reading The highway traffic act, The motorized vehicles act and The off-road Act of Ontario.
What have you seen on while driving that made you think, “Boy, that guy is a lousy driver!”?