Correct Driving Etiquette: wave, flash your lights or beep? Plus other Most Loved Driving Gestures

Turning onto a narrow road with parked cars, you see a car up head coming in your direction, so you pause and patiently wait for it to come through before proceeding, thereby self-eliciting a good feeling about yourself for being so generous, considerate and courteous.

The other driver trundles past and barely looks in your direction, never mind displaying so much as a 'thank you' of some form or another. Your mood switches faster than the 0-60mph acceleration of a Ferrari. And you loudly and theatrically announce to no one in particular (as you're alone in the car) 'well you're very welcome then!'

You then rev the engine, dump the clutch, do a burnout, scare the birds from the trees, and cause OAPs with walking sticks to fall over; as you roar down the tight stretch and brake hard at the end upon suddenly noticing another approaching car. Much tut-tutting and shaking of heads is aimed in your direction from passers-by. And your rage has negated and nullified the positive karma you were formerly basking in the aura of.

Go on, admit you've been there. Believe me, I certainly have. And I'm always embarrassed about it a few moments later.

However, was the other driver so wrong not to flash their lights in appreciation or show some other form of gratitude for your needy kindness? Surely it’s an easy enough acknowledgement with the high beam stalk just a quick finger-stretch away?

Is it okay to flash your lights?

According to Rule 110 of the Highway Code you can 'only flash your headlights to let other road users know that you are there,' and you are not allowed to 'flash your headlights to convey any other message or intimidate other road users.' Do that and technically you could be fined up to £1000.

In reality I'd hazard a guess the likelihood of getting a fine for flashing your appreciation is pretty low, unless you happen to do it to a police car, in which case hope you come before an understanding magistrate.

Talking of hazards, using them is a close third most common form of indicating gratitude from behind the wheel (after flashing the lights). In both cases one in five drivers admit to doing this.

As much as 30% of drivers prefer to simply wave, making it the most popular form of showing appreciation.

In fourth place just over 1 in 6 give a thumbs up and 10% go the route of switching the indicators from side to side. Which I personally find very confusing - I can't help but ponder if the other car is turning or not, and if so, which way; or if it is a prank, deliberate misdirection, subterfuge or coded message.

Our churlish friend from earlier in this discourse actually fits into a category of 1 in 20 drivers who are conscious non-thankers and with justifiable reasoning: they don't wish to break the law by using signals incorrectly and will not take their hands off the wheels in order to maintain control and focus on the actual act of driving.

Put that way, you can't help but think: 'fair enough.' So perhaps we should be a little more forgiving and understanding of those rude and ungrateful sods... oh sorry, I mean, diligent law-abiding and responsible drivers.

Keep your distance!

In any case the lauding of credit for your courtesy and kindness is only the third most appreciated gesture (at 16.5%) in the unwritten rules of motoring etiquette according to a survey conducted by National Tyres and Autocare recently. 

Number one at 20% is people keeping a safe distance behind you. 'Tailgating' as it’s otherwise known is the act of hanging too close behind the driver in front either in impatience or as act of bullying, and was the most hated behaviour when it came to other road users.

Quite aside from being obviously dangerous due to leaving an insufficient reaction time and braking distance in case of an emergency, it's also illegal. Police can issue on-the-spot fixed penalties of £100 and issue three penalty points for inconsistent lane use. And if you're being particularly aggressive, the fine could rise to £2500 and the charge would be careless driving or driving without due care and attention.

So, keep an appropriate distance behind the car in front, and they'll love you for it - if they've been checking their mirrors of course.

How to win friends on the public roads

In second place (17.6%) indicating well ahead of time is regarded as thoroughly decent driving behaviour. Fourth is waiting your turn when queuing or merging (16.2%). Further down in fifth place is an appreciation of good parking (so don't park over the lines, park BETWEEN them!) and another good one is braking to let someone into a busy road or lane (9.1%).

Surprisingly a lot further down the list are those car park angels that give you their unexpired parking tickets (less common now that most ticketing systems have moved to number plate recognition), they are cited for appreciation by just 6.2% of those surveyed.  And finally, those offering you their parking space were at 4.1%. 

Regardless of all of the above, there is one simple rule really: be kind to each other out there!

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