HOWTO drive, the Woz way

Mr Roadshow, a columnist for the San Jose Mercury News, gave over this week's column to an interview with Apple-cofounder and legendary arch-hacker Steve Wozniak about his philosophy of driving and road use, with some reference to his domestic arrangements. As you might expect, Woz has a refreshingly honest and rational approach to the public highway.

Q What is the Golden Road Rule According to Woz?

A Don't offend other drivers. This falls into what I said above. Choose your lane appropriately. The general rule is that slower traffic should stay in the rightmost lanes -- in our country. Although we all hate reckless drivers racing and cutting in and out of lanes, I don't want to interfere with motorists who simply want to go faster, even faster than the speed limit. Road conditions are better at some times and they might have somewhere important to get to, like an airport. Assume that other drivers are good like you. We all want to get somewhere. Let everyone in. It's OK to touch your own brake. We all help each other get to where we are going.

Guest Mr. Roadshow: Steve Wozniak on the rules of the road according to Woz (via MeFi)

(Image: Woz in front of Apple II, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from scobleizer's photostream)


    1. Up to a point. Roads have a finite capacity and when they approach that limit, the rules change. You and everyone else is just a particle along for the ride and the best you can do is avoid causing ripples that forces people to lean on their brakes even more.

      Not that woz’s advice is poor (I have a pretty close to identical behavior on the road, only difference is I’m not famous and no one cares when I talk about it :D ), but there is no one solution that will allow traffic to flow smoothly in all cases.

      1. In Palm Springs, I can get stuck going ten miles under the speed limit when the road is almost empty.  In LA, if there are no idiots on that particular stretch of freeway, you can go 85 in bumper to bumper traffic.

        1. Doing 75+ on 3+ lane highways bumper to bumper is great….just as long as you don’t think about what happens if someone blows a tire.

          1. I blew a tire at that speed on an interstate a few days ago.  Doesn’t mean you lose control of your car, just that you have to put on your flashers, slow down, and get to a shoulder ASAP.  A few cars behind me had to slow down or shift lanes to accomodate, but it wasn’t the end of the world.

          2. Well, at least it would be a faster end than dying of dehydration or old age in traffic on the 405.

  1. I prefer the George Carlin method: 
    “Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac?”

  2. I will continue to assume all other drivers are shit.  Start proving me wrong by putting that fucking phone down.  Because you know what makes you look like you’re driving super drunk?  Texting.


    1. What about all the a-holes that as soon as their rear view mirror is in a position in front of the car they’re overtaking they cut back into the lane?

      And the people driving super slow that as soon as someone tries to overtaking accelerates?
      Simple rules for driving should go as follow:
      Rule #1 – don’t crash
      Rule #2 – assume other people are distracted
      Rule #3 – be nice no matter what, ’cause the other guy might be a gun toting, axe wielding maniac

      1. There’s a veritable cornucopia of shit people do on the roads that pisses me off.  I didn’t feel like writing an entire ranty monologue so I stuck with my number one anger inducer.

  3. On cutting in and out of motorway lanes – I remember driving down some German autobahn where all three lanes were pretty full, and one van was nipping in and out of lanes frequently to take advantage of a marginal speed improvement in one or other lane. He probably thought he was making great progress but his timing wasn’t perfect because we stayed put in our lane and passed him a few times and indeed twenty minutes and more later we could still see him dodging and weaving frantically.

    1. I find that always happens. I used to drive a Honda sports car and it makes you think fast; drive fast, speed fast, reverse fast… and then I realised that while the car is fast, it’s mostly just the noise and not the actual speed that gives the impression. It sounds fast. Going 60kmh in an s2000 feels similar 120km in another car.

      I realised this one day when a bus beat me on my commute to work one day. Afterwards I started timing my commute and then drastically changed my driving style.

      I sometimes still deek in and out of traffic but now if I do this it’s just for fun and not beat the clock.

      Note to new drivers out there; you might want to start with a Civic before you jump right into an s2000.

    2. But the person who’s changing lanes occasionally is probably more alert than you.

    3. New Scientist had an article yeeeears back now about research people did that prettymuch proved that changing lanes doesn’t get you there faster, in almost all cases.

  4. “Assume that other drivers are good like you.”

    He definitely, absolutely, without a doubt should not drive in Chicago. Assuming that other drivers here are good is so utterly counter-factual that the assumption will end in tears.

    Also, how does that jibe with the defensive driving most of us were taught?

    1. Exactly.  I assume that all other drivers are suicidally insane and thoroughly shit-faced but the end result is the same:  I drive carefully, lawfully, and courteously as much as I can.  

      Until RPGs are legalized it’s not as if you’re going to actually teach anyone a lesson by doing something like honking at them.  

    2. Chicago, where the rules of the road seem to be: slower drivers keep LEFT.

      And never use your turn signal, because that just tells the other drivers how to adjust to block you from doing what you were hoping to do.

  5. My interpretation (and admittedly, it’s just that) is that he saying not, “Assume all drivers have good skills and will do what is required to prevent an accident,” but, “Assume all drivers have reasons for their speed and lane choices, like you do, and allow them those.”

  6. I typically do pretty much the same thing. Frankly, the most relaxing way to drive is about 10 mph below the speed limit in the far right lane.

    However, the problem is that everyone doesn’t abide by this rule. Nothing bugs me so much as when I’m trying to pass a block of slower-moving vehicles, especially trucks, and some guy is a foot off my back bumper flashing his lights at me. If people want to exceed the speed limit in the left lane, that’s their business, so long as they don’t endanger my existence with additional recklessness. The fast lane is for passing, first and foremost. Until we can get people to respect that, Woz’s approach is a half measure.

    1.  I’m totally against and never use dick behavior like tailgaiting, light-flashing, etc, but from my perspective as a person who is under the age of 80, it is pretty annoying for someone to be doing 10 under in the left hand lane.

    2. I can drive 10mph over the speed limit, in the right-hand lane, in a rural area, and still have people acting like I’m the asshole. 

  7. I for one am disappointed to learn that Woz drives a car like the rest of us lower life forms. I would have expected that he achieves medium-distance travel using some sort of solar-powered hovercart with ion thrusters that he controls with his brain waves.

  8. I agree with him. When I was learning to drive I was taught that bad driving is causing another driver to perform a manoeuvre (whether it be something drastic like swerving or doing an emergency stop, or little things like having to put their brakes on) that they wouldn’t’ve had to do if you weren’t there.
    And remember that indicator lights aren’t just for letting other drivers know what you are going to do, but pedestrians too.

  9. I could swear I saw him on The Screensavers (Techtv) almost 10 years ago laughing about how he likes to whip out a laser pointer on the highway and bug other drivers with it, particularly in their rear view mirrors. I can not find any references to this on Google, however. It infuriated me…hopefully it’s just a weird false memory. Anyone else remember this?

  10. courtesy, politeness & respect go a long way in many areas of life as well as on the road. +1 Like Tweet Pin for The Woz.

    There was an interesting article (possibly I read it here) on a Dutch town that did away with road signs and found improvements with traffic concerns I seem to recall. 

    1. The dutch technique of removing traffic signs is a feature of a ” woonerf”

  11. This is really good advice!

    It seems to break into two overarching priorities:

    1. Be predictable.
    2. Be courteous.

    I think that perfectly distills the social requirements of driving in traffic.

  12. IMHO, efficient driving is a communal effort.  Everybody has to do their part to keep traffic flowing smoothly, and it only takes a small number of people (a decreasing number as the total number of people on the road increases!) to cause problems. 

    In other words, if you drive like an asshole when nobody is around, then it doesn’t really matter.  But in heavy traffic your performance is mandatory, but not sufficient, to keep the traffic moving. 

    Like Woz mentions, this includes choosing the correct lane, knowing when to get over, and keeping an eye on all of the other cars around you.  The last part is why cellphones in cars are such a bad idea, because it’s basically impossible to maintain proper situational awareness while trying to carry on a conversation with someone who is not in the same situation, especially over crappy cell phone connections where your brain has to work extra hard to fill in the stuff the cell phone’s tight compression dropped. 

    You might be surprised at just how bad cell phone quality is, especially in a noisy environment.  If you want to test this yourself, call up someone on your cellphone and have them read off something like a Windows Product Key over the phone.  Chances are you’ll copy it down wrong.  Without context for our brains to work with, it has to guess, and some of those guesses will be wrong. 

  13. Can we just get self-driving cars already?  Society at large appears to be incapable of this whole “courtesy” thing.  Computers can get it done without the fuss.

  14. In Swedish traffic schools, the first rule I was taught was to show courtesy to others*.

    And it is certainly something that is quickly apparent when you are driving abroad. In Sweden people will generally let you in if you are on an on-ramp, they wont accelerate and block you when you need to squeeze into a lane and will generally not be dicks to you.

    Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, but having driven all over Europe and quite a lot in the USA, I found that Swedish drivers are by far the most courteous of the bunch.

    They are however also the least “alert”, in the sense that they won’t be as quick to let you pass, by moving out of the fast lane, which is something Italian drivers are really good at.

    Also, unfortunately, traffic schools teach new drivers to be assholes to cyclists, so drivers are generally assholes to cyclists.

    Go figure.

    But in truth, education does seem to have a large impact, but it needs to come early, and there might also be a cultural component mixed in.

  15. I had someone brake check me while doing 70mph on the interstate…

    In my defense I had cruise set and been slowly coming up on this person for a good 5+ miles, in the far left lane.  There weren’t really other cars around.  Once I got close enough I turned the cruise off and waited for a minute…I guess they thought I was too close.  Needless to say my econobox stopped quicker than whatever 80’s American land barge they were piloting (I forgot the exact model).  I backed off for a bit…but after another 5 miles I crept back up on them, in the far left lane.  And guess what?  They did that shit again.  Except this time I knew no one was in the lanes beside me.  So I just swerved right, floored it with all 120hp available and put some distance between myself and their “I’m driving 65 in the left lane no matter what.”

    People ride with me and think they are going to die…candy asses need to stop being melodramatic.

  16. I know it would never end well, and is most likely illegal, but I REALLY want two buttons on my steering wheel to light up either of two messages in the back window:

    Because people don’t always see (or correctly interpret) the gestures I make to thank them for considerate driving; not can they hear my apologies for my own regular screwups.

    1. It’s not illegal the way I’ve read the vehicle code in the seven states in which I’ve lived, as long as all of your required vehicular status controls are operational (brake lights, turn signals, etc.)

      I can, however, see room for misinterpretation if you happened to display the wrong message for the situation (e.g. you accidentally cut someone off, and your sign then flashed “Thanks!”)

  17. Ha ha, last night I had a dream that I deliberately rear ended someone who was going very slowly to f_k with me.

    I wish we had a gesture understood to mean “I saw that guy cut you off. What a dick!” In other words a third party bird.

    And a gesture understood to mean “Please put the g_dam phone down and pay attention to traffic.”

    I try to reciprocate the consideration of nice drivers, but it’s very satisfying to block people who f_k other drivers over.

  18. As I’ve been told, there are exactly two fundamental rules of the road:

    1. Don’t let your vehicle the same space as any other vehicle or object.
    2. Don’t scare anyone.

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