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driving concerns

I always wave when somebody lets me in. But it seems like fewer and fewer people do it. I'm wondering why. My husband and teenaged son think it's dumb and they tease me when I do it. But, my husband also thinks that letting in other drivers disrupts the flow of traffic. So, is there any reason not to wave? — Shannon, Ottawa

It's a simple thing, but that friendly wave could ultimately help us all get home safely.

"They let you in and you wave and you both get a warm feeling. It's good for everyone and next time you'll let somebody in when they need it," says Angelo DiCicco, Greater Toronto Area general manager for Young Drivers of Canada. "In this day and age, not a lot of people are getting big pay raises, but what they do expect is some acknowledgement of good deeds."

That wave is part of being courteous on the road, and that's better for all of us, DiCicco says. Courteous drivers should be watching out for themselves but also for other drivers too, he says.

"Some people like to take take take and they never give," DiCicco says. "These are the people who are trying to cut in and out - that person will never wave and say thank you and that person will never let you in."

Letting other drivers in - and giving that friendly wave to drivers who've let you in - keeps tempers, and traffic, calmer on the road, DiCicco says.

"It keeps traffic flowing," DiCicco says. "When one car gets stuck forever behind a bus that's stopped to let 40 people on, then everybody behind him is stopped too and it creates a chain of events that goes a kilometre behind him."

There are times to let another driver in. Maybe he's stuck because of a parked car that shouldn't be in his lane. Maybe you see that there's a cyclist up ahead in his lane. Or maybe because he didn't realize his exit was coming up and now he's trying to get into that right lane.

"Treat people as you want to be treated," DiCicco says. "You should check your rear-view mirror, slow down if you can to help them out - and they should wave at you and you should wave back."

"If your kid asks, 'Why'd you do that, dad?' you say, 'This isn't a competition, it's cooperation.'"

The wave is a good way to signal thanks. There are other ways to communicate with other drivers, like tapping on the brakes or turning on the four-way flashers to show you're slowing down.

Or, a quick double tap of the horn can signal that you're about to pass them - or that they're doing something unsafe.

"What we don't do is try to communicate aggression." DiCicco says. "Giving a long blast of the horn is the same as giving someone the finger - you're usually trying to tell somebody, 'You dummy, you screwed up and I'll make you pay.'"

And, there are times when a good deed - letting someone in - is a bad idea.

"When you get to an all-way stop, it is in your best interest to take the right of way when it's yours - otherwise you confuse people," he says. "That's not the time to be extra nice."

The same rule applies at green lights. If you're going straight and another car is waiting to turn left, you shouldn't wave them to go ahead, DiCicco says.

"You never want to take the right of way from someone who has it," he says. "But when the right of way is yours, we count on you to go."

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