Aaron Turpen: How To Be a Safe Driver (I’m An Expert, Listen To Me)

Automotive writer Aaron Turpen says if you are not merging onto the Interstate at the speed limit (75 or 80mph) you are putting everyone in danger and are a menace to society.

Aaron Turpen

December 07, 20225 min read

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(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

By Aaron Turpen, automotive writer

A long time ago, in a trucking school in a galaxy much like our own, I learned the most important driver’s safety lesson there is. “Never be in a hurry,” was what my instructor at the time, a no-nonsense import from Liverpool, said. “Nobody taking their time gets in a wreck.”

That is probably the most useful driver safety information you can have. Like a congressman with a three-line bill that would change the country for the better, however, that one-liner isn’t  big enough to be important, so I’ll add more.

There are three things that Wyomingites, especially those here in Cheyenne, could stand to have a refresher on.

#1 Freeway Merge Speeds – weather permitting, the freeway speed on Interstate 80 is either 75 or 80 mph. One should be going near or at that speed when merging onto that roadway. Not 55, not 65, not 40.. it’s 75 or 80.

At the risk of calling someone out, I know from experience that an old codger in an Outback can actually make 75 before merging from Central Ave. I’ve done it. So can you. Even in that blue Subaru, buddy.

I know that this might seem counter to “never be in a hurry.” But the problem with not being up to freeway speed when actually merging onto said freeway is that those behind you and everyone oncoming on the freeway itself are now in danger. Because they have to accommodate your snail’s pace. Often by shuffling around and likely getting someone angry as a result.

Your inability to press down on the right pedal could cause an accident. Plus it makes us all look bad as out-of-staters driving through see your stupidity associated with a Wyoming plate. Save the stupidity references for Colorado plates, please.

#2 Turn Signals Are Good – I know it’s hard to understand, but the signal turns (I prefer that term, since that’s the order they’re used in) are a good thing. They let people know what’s going on, help avoid accidents due to miscommunication, and are very easy to operate.

Located to the left of your steering wheel is a lever. Pushing it up activates a light that signals a right-hand turn or lane change. Pulling it down activates a light that signals a left-hand turn or lane change. It’s pretty ingenious and it’s positioned in such a way that you can reach the lever without taking a hand off the steering wheel.

Unlike Colorado drivers, we here in Wyoming see a turn signal indicator as a reason to allow the other person in, give them some room to make their turn, etc. We’re polite like that. The turn signal is NOT, I repeat NOT, a signal that you should cut someone off or hang out in their blind spot. That’s a Fort Collins to Denver commuter thing. Not associated with Wyoming.

#3 Rush Hour Sucks, Avoid It – This one seems to be lost on most Cheyenne area people. Especially the “work from home” and “retired” crowd. Rush hour happens between 07:30 and 08:30 in the morning and 16:30 to about 17:30 in the afternoon. Note that if you cannot read 24-hour time, you probably don’t have a job, so this definitely applies to you.

During rush hour, if you have no actual, pressing, serious reason to be on the road, especially Del Range Blvd.. Well, don’t be. Stay home. Wait an hour before venturing out. Don’t be in a hurry. Everyone with actual places to go and things to do will (subconsciously) thank you for it. And by all means, if you must go out in rush hour traffic, please try to read the speed limit signs. Going 10 mph under that limit or attempting 20 mph over it aren’t helping anyone.

Well, there you go. A long version of “Never be in a hurry” that can hopefully help some of you out there navigate road safety. And yes, I get to write this because I am the expert and have secure knowledge in my being a near-perfect driver. It’s in my job description. Or at least it will be by the time this publishes as I’ll make a request of Mr. Orr that it be updated to reflect said expertise.

Aaron Turpen is an automotive journalist living in Cheyenne, Wyoming. His background includes commercial transportation, computer science, and a lot of adventures that begin with the phrase “the law is a pretty good suggestion, I guess.” His automotive focus is on consumer interest and both electronic and engineering technology. Turpen is a longtime writer for Car Talk and New Atlas.

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Aaron Turpen