In an effort to keep basic courtesy alive as a human virtue--and to air out some of my deep-seated pet peeves on the road--I humbly offer these few simple guidelines for operating a motor vehicle as if you don't have your head wedged completely up your ass. Enjoy.
1. SLOWER TRAFFIC KEEP RIGHT
Remember when they used to have signs on the freeways that said this? Left lanes are for passing, right lanes are for slower traffic—period. It's a simple concept, but one that fewer and fewer people seem to grasp. It applies regardless of the speed limit. In fact, if you're doing 65 in the far left lane, you are probably creating a bottleneck. I know there are assholes out there thinking, “If I'm doing the speed limit, why should I move out of the way just so you can break the law?” Because it's none of your business. Let the CHP enforce the law; blocking the fast lane like some kind of freeway hall monitor doesn't make you a good citizen, it makes you an obnoxious douchebag.
2. DON'T PUNISH PEOPLE FOR SIGNALING
When someone is actually polite enough to signal a lane change (it's so rare these days), let them over. If they go too slow in front of you, you can always go around. Don't use their signal as a warning so you can speed up and cock-block them from making the switch.
3. LET THOSE WHO WOULD PASS, PASS.
I run into this scenario everyday on the freeway. I'm starting to close in on someone going slower, so I move out from behind them to go around. Only as soon as I make my move, the person I was about to pass speeds up to try to prevent me from passing. A guy who was perfectly comfortable cruising along at 60mph two seconds ago is now willing to push his Prius to 110 to stop me from going around. WHY?!? If you want to putter along at 60, good for you. Knock yourself out. Provided that you're in the right hand lane, I have no problem with that. But if you don't want to go any faster, why try to prevent me from going around you? I'm not challenging your manhood, I'm just trying to get to work. Not everyone who tries to pass you is intent on initiating a street race, moron.
4. THE RIGHT LANE IS WIDER FOR A REASON
On the surface (non-freeway) streets in most of California, the rightmost lane is wider than those to the left. This is to facilitate making right turns without obstructing the flow of traffic in that lane. This means that when making a right turn, get over as far as you can to the right to make a turn.
This wider lane also allows cars to continue turning right at an intersection where all other traffic is stopped at a red light. That is, unless some moron is sitting square in the middle of the lane blocking everybody. Don't be that moron. If you're in the right lane when stopping for a red light, and you don't intend to turn right, then pull over to the left half of the lane, away from the curb, so that those who wish to turn right at that intersection can still do so. You would want them to do it for you.
That said, even if the person going straight has done the courteous thing and pulled as far left as he/she can, sometimes there still just isn't enough room to get by. If the car ahead would have to pull through the crosswalk and halfway into the intersection, give it up. Chill out, stop beeping your horn, and wait for the light to change.
5. TO GET ONTO THE FREEWAY, MOVE AT FREEWAY SPEED
The long, straight stretch of on ramp that merges with freeway traffic lanes is called the “acceleration lane.” As the name suggests, you use this stretch to accelerate to freeway speed so you can merge with traffic. So MOVE YOUR ASS! You can NOT merge with traffic doing 65-75 when you're doing 45, not without causing a huge cluster fuck.
6. MAKE LANE CHANGES AT THE SPEED OF TRAFFIC
There should be little to no braking involved in changing lanes. Know where you have to be and plan accordingly. If you have to bring your entire lane to a halt to squeeze into the next lane, or because you weren't paying attention and nearly passed up your exit, you are practically inviting a freeway shooting.
Basically, it all boils down to paying attention to what's going on around you, and having the courtesy to try not to obstruct others. Apparently, that's too much to ask.