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Florida driving laws and recommendations

December 11, 2013
By Larry DeHays , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

"Do you drive like that where you come from?!," screamed my friend out of his drivers' window, which was thankfully closed at the time. We had just been cut off by an out-of-state car, which immediately slowed down so the driver could contemplate his next impulsive maneuver. Road rage is real, and it is here.

It is understandable that visitors, being unfamiliar with local roads, may find themselves in the wrong lanes at the wrong times, and may compensate by driving slower than we locals would prefer. Also, I used to complain about the older drivers being too slow. One day my father, who was riding with me, said something that straightened me out. I was fuming because of a slow, older driver in front of me, and he said, "I think she's driving about as fast as she has any business driving." Enough said. I also remember that he used to always let me drive, because he knew that I didn't like his driving. I now notice that my sons don't like my driving. But they drive too fast. That's entirely different.

Aside from the vagaries of age and tourism, there are other flies in the ointment of driving in Florida. We have laws about it. Really. For instance:

- You can turn right on red, after a full stop, unless there is a sign posted saying you can't. If you don't do it, you may be goosed in the rear by the horn of the car behind you.

- You must turn on your headlights when you turn on your wipers. This is to make you more visible to others. Your daytime running lights don't count, because they don't include your tail lights.

- You are required to keep to the right on multiple lane highways except to overtake. This is a new one, but it is the law, and it is a good one. I have driven in Europe, and if you don't move over there, they won't pass you in the outside lane, they will tailgate you with lights and horns on until you move your butt over. More power to them. The old countries got it right, and we developed a left-lane-stupor.

In addition to laws, we have some traditions, such as:

- Keep your headlights on during the day, especially when travelling on roads like the Tamiami Trail in south Florida. The reason is that the roads are so straight and flat that they develop a mirage that looks like water ahead. It's hard to see oncoming cars unless they have lights on, and many accidents have happened because people pull out to pass, and oncoming cars emerge from that imagined pond.

- A last one is more in the category of driver 101, but I see it a lot. When stopped and waiting to make a left turn across traffic, do not turn your wheels left while you wait. If you do, and you are rear-ended, you will be shoved into oncoming traffic, resulting in a head-on collision to compliment your previous rear-end collision. One doesn't cancel out the other, they both shorten your car, and maybe your life.

So to sum up, if you stay to the right, turn right on red with your lights on and don't turn left until you start moving, your only problem will be locals yelling at you to speed up. It's the price you pay for living in paradise, so suck it up, but don't speed up.



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