Opinion: the unwritten rules of driving in the UK

Did you recognize that baby rats learn table manners from big rats? It holds true. In the Nineties, research study with black rats demonstrated that the neatest technique of eating pine cones is given with rat generations not genetically, yet with social imitation. Without the foggiest idea they’re doing so, rat babies obtain etiquette lessons from their rat senior citizens.

This crucial nugget of details resurfaced in my mind as I was being surpassed by a rescue on a Cornish double carriageway. (Stick to me on this one, we’ll get there.) So, yeah, there I am, proceeding in an eastern direction along the A30, when I’m gone by an ambulance on blues and twos. The ambulance vehicle driver is giving it some. It starts to retreat from me up the road.

And after that we reach all-time low of Burger Hillside. (Not its initial name, but there’s been a McDonalds halfway up since the days that McDonalds was a rare sight in Cornwall, so Hamburger Hill it is.) It is a long, high hillside. The rescue starts to work as well as sluggish– 70, 65, 60mph. I preserve a respectful distance behind … 55, 50, 45mph. Perhaps there’s a specifically large patient on board. Bordered by several of his specifically bulky nearby as well as beloved.

Forty, 35, 30mph. The carriageway widens to 3 lanes. There is adequate room to overtake. It’s going to be numerous hrs prior to the rescue reaches the top of capital. But at the same time … you can’t overtake a lights ‘n’ alarms meat-wagon, can you? Suppose, just as you pass, you endure a tragic tire blowout, and bend right into the main appointment? Picture the headlines.

Ends up it’s totally lawful to surpass an ambulance on sirens
I’m not the only one being polite. Nobody’s overtaking. Halfway up Hamburger Hillside, there’s currently a queue of possibly 50 cars and trucks, all doing 15mph behind the rescue. An Audi A5, clearly uninformed of the social circumstance unraveling, comes barrelling up the outside lane. He gets to the front of the procession, clocks the conditions, hammers on the brakes and merges sheepishly into the pack.

It’s a) dreadful news for my unavoidable oral appointment, and b) oddly interesting, a real life Milgram experiment on the side of a Cornish hillside.

I have actually considering that checked the Highway Code. Ends up it’s completely lawful to overtake an ambulance on alarms, provided you do so safely. Yet it’s not about what’s written in the Highway Code, is it? It’s those unwritten yet binding social laws of the roadway: when it’s respectful to use the horn, and also when it’s rude; the specific factor you’re needed to merge when 2 lanes of website traffic blend into one; events you’re morally required to swing somebody out at a junction, as well as events you’re not. Policies we all recognize, yet don’t also understand we know.

No person’s ever told us this things. (At the very least, they never told me: maybe others talk of little else however ambulance-passing decorum.) We have actually soaked it up unthinkingly, unconsciously. We are however flexible little rats, seeing the huge rats nibbling their want cones, discovering without finding out, soaking up without understanding.