Houston's Unofficial Driving Rules and Road Etiquette for Newbies

Hey there, all you newbies! We'd like to welcome you to Houston.

It's easy to see why you're all making the move to the Bayou City. Where else will you find such a rad job market or affordable cost of living? And you certainly can't match our city's restaurant or arts scene; those things are in tip-top shape. So we get it. We like this city too.

You may be new to the ins and outs of our fine city, but chances are, it won't be long before you're considering yourselves actual Houstonians, saying things like "y'all" or "what it do" as you try to explain that "City of Sizzurp" moniker to outsiders.

But before we can sign off on you stamping that "True Houstonian" tag across your forehead, there's something we need to work on: your driving.

That's right, your driving. While we're happy to roll out that purple (drank) carpet for you, we need you to work on this commuter business in return. With so many of us on the road, the rules of driving in a city this size need to be followed.

And here they are, the ten unofficial rules of driving in Screwston. Take heed, y'all.

Rule #10: Please do not stop at yield signs. This is not San Antonio. We do not do that here. Should you do that here, say on a freeway entrance ramp from downtown Houston, you are going to cause a pileup of epic proportions, and everyone in this relatively relaxed city will side-eye you. Just cross your fingers and merge, son! It ain't that hard.

Rule #9: Drive Faster. Just do it. Just. Drive. Faster. People are behind you, and if you are able to accelerate, that means traffic is actually moving -- an inexplicable phenomenon that happens rarely in this town -- so pedal to the metal and go. You'll regret that dilly-dallying in about a mile or so, when everything comes to a halt and you are stuck twiddling your thumbs for hours between exits.

On that note, the left lane is for people going fast. You like to go fast, Ricky Bobby? Good. The left lane is for you. If you're slow as molasses, stay in the right lane, but never, ever ever ever, go under the speed limit. Just trust us on that one.

Rule #8: Don't hesitate at green lights. We know you're new here, but that's no excuse for sitting at a green light. It's just not. Green means go in literally every place everywhere. It's a universal sign for go, for Christ's sake, and for some reason, y'all newbies tend to sit there like you've never seen a green light flash before.

Should you continue to sit there on Candy Crush, you are going to feel the wrath of every angry horn-honker sitting behind you, and it's definitely not going to be worth it. And no, it doesn't matter that the traffic is backed up and you can't move forward. Just go somewhere, son.

Rule #7: Pay Attention to other cars, not other drivers. We know it's tempting, but driving in traffic in Midtown does not mean it's time to howl at every hottie you see out on the patio at a bar. Or every hottie you see in another car, for that matter.

Now is not time to flag down the chick who is anxiously trying to get away from you in gridlocked traffic, man. It's not the time to flip off the dude who cut you off, either. That's how accidents, and more traffic, happen.

Rule #6: Yes, the line is long to get on 45 South from I-10, but that doesn't mean you get to cut. Okay. So you may not have ever seen a line like the one born from the devil's loins in the depths of hell and then placed on the 45 S/I-10 interchange, but that's not our problem, and native Houstonians aren't going to just let you in. Pay attention to the road, fool, and you won't have to cut off people at the very, very end of that awful line.

New to Houston or not, that freeway exit has the old playground rules of no cuts, and you're breaking them. You're also causing some dangerous road conditions for the lanes that aren't merging onto the Gulf Freeway, too. There's a reason why officers frequently stake out that little area, and that reason is people like you who are total cutters.

Rule #5: Watch out for bike riders and motorcyclists, for the love of God. Our city is not set up to keep cyclists safe, which is precisely why you see all those "ghost bikes" that are placed around town. They're monuments to people who have lost their lives to cars vs. bikes, and that shit ain't cool.

So watch out for people on bikes, please. And motorcycles, for that matter, because Houston freeways are scary enough from inside four doors. Imagine what it's like for the folks who are dodging your lost ass as you try to decide whether you needed 610 West or 610 North without a steel cage to protect them.

Rule #4: Mentally prepare yourself for undue aggression. Driving in rush hour traffic? Oh good. Join the other billion of us that are already on the road, and prepare yourself to be on both ends of the aggression scale, depending on the minute.

Someone cut you off? Yep, it's going to piss you off, and you'll probably, definitely react. You cut someone off? It's going to piss them off, and you should prepare yourself for it. Trust us; ain't nothing like sitting next to an angry driver as they're mouthing a stream of choice insults your way on 610 hell. And no, using your blinker doesn't help. It just gives them time to come up with better insults.

Rule #3: If you're in the righthand lane on a street, you better be turning right. Seriously. Please don't be the person who holds the entire row of cars up because you're hell-bent on going straight from a righthand turning lane. Turn right and u-turn if you must, but do not make the miles of cars behind you even more late because you're oblivious to our "right on red" rule.

Rule #2: Fender-bender on the freeway? Move. Seriously. And we aren't just saying this because of the stream of fender benders that block lanes in morning traffic; we're saying this because sitting on the damn freeway when your car is moveable is dangerous, and you should move it to avoid being roadkill.

Rule #1: Driving downtown requires reading comprehension and rule-following, for real. So your new job is downtown, eh? Well, be prepared to test out your mental acuities early in the morning, because downtown is a maze of Metro bus stops, train stops, and people stops, and you better stop for all of them or you're going to end up sorry.

Those flashing train lights are happening for a reason. Don't test them; you will end up losing. And for the love of all that is holy, please do not just turn on a dime without checking to see what way the street runs. It's terrifying to see a wayward car coming at you, and such errors could be avoided should you newbies pay attention.

So there you go folks. Houston traffic rules in a nutshell. Follow them, and we'll all be better off.

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Angelica Leicht
Contact: Angelica Leicht