Life abroad,  Sandy,  Travelling

How to jump a queue

The Brits are known as a people who are good at queuing.  Waiting your turn is a definite courtesy and there is some specific etiquette associated with forming and maintaining an orderly queue.  A quick google search revealed this great blog article from Study Links, for international students particularly focused on queues of people. But there are a few points I want to share when considering queues of cars.

If you intentionally or unintentionally find yourself cutting in line, or “jumping the queue” in a line of cars here in the UK, here are a few hints and tips to avoid causing offense in those around you:

1) Don’t do it.

Seriously, are you really in such a rush that you have to race down the wrong lane and then cut in at the head of the line?  Unless your partner is dying or having a baby in the back seat, there is probably no “good” excuse to jump the queue.  It’s dangerous, it causes even longer tail-backs, and it adds both to your stress and to the stress of the people behind you.

Assuming you’ve done it unintentionally, on an unfamiliar road, or because you’ve not paid as much attention as you should have:

2) Don’t just barge back into the queue at the front.

Instead, as soon as you realise you’re in the wrong lane, slow down, put on your indicator (turn signal) and ease back into the queue, watching carefully to see that a person is going to let you in.

A well-timed indicator (turn signal) makes lane changes and queue jumping much more acceptable.
A well-timed indicator (turn signal) makes lane changes and queue jumping much more acceptable.

In a queue or cars, there’s a very clear signal used to indicate permission; the driver granting permission will flash their brights (“hi-beams”) at you to let you know you can go or will indicate with a wave or hand gesture that it’s okay and will obviously give you space to get in.

You will find, with the courtesy of a turn signal, Brits tend to be accommodating and forgiving of an individual who has jumped a queue.  In a queue of cars, using a turn signal to change lanes is the equivalent of apologising in a queue of people.  A turn signal can go an extremely long way to avoiding road rage.

On the other hand, the easiest way to cause road rage is to simply creep in (ahem, barge in) and force the person behind to let you in.  While you may not actually get a horn sounding at you, the person behind you will be seething with rage which they may show in dangerous ways down the road.  And if they are so bold as to sound their horn, you probably deserved it.  It would be polite to, at that point, raise your hand in a wave to thank the person behind you.  But be careful, don’t let the wave appear to be a rude hand gesture – you’re trying to de-escalate, not enrage further.

3) Once a person lets you in, don’t dally to make them regret the decision.

Make the manoeuvre in front of them as painless for them as possible by getting fully into the lane and keeping up with the car in front.  Don’t decide you’re in the line and then check your phone or sort the radio.

4) Say thank you.

Again, in the UK, there is a clear signal used for saying thank you when you’re driving; a quick flash of your hazard lights indicates your thanks for the favour of being let into a queue.  If you’re not comfortable using your hazards, then at the very least, put your arm up in a wave of thanks to acknowledge their courtesy.

Hopefully, when you’re driving in the UK, you won’t have to experience too many long traffic queues, but if you do, remember these tips, keep your patience and don’t be tempted to intentionally jump the queue, despite the many people who do.

Let me leave you with this last thought:

This article went through three very different drafts. It originally came about following an incident a couple weeks ago when I slammed on my horn at a car that had blatantly jumped a 10-minute queue and then proceeded to race into a further lane across to get through a changing traffic light, forcing me to miss the light. I’d waited my turn, and I was angry. The person who queue-jumped was not stereotypically British and was driving a black BMW; whose drivers are stereotypically notorious for not using their indicators.

I’d planned to create a pithy article bemoaning the fact that the UK is extremely multi-cultural and therefore, while queuing is a common British cultural idiosyncracy, those Brits who have been transplanted in the UK from other cultures (like me), do not all queue as well as they should.

I reconsidered my article, though, when I was looking for a Bible verse about being foreigners and came across 1 Peter 2:11-12.

Dear friends, you are outsiders and strangers in this world. So I’m asking you not to give into your sinful longings. They fight against your soul. People who don’t believe might say you are doing wrong. But lead good lives among them. Then they will see your good works and they will give glory to God on the day he comes to judge.

1 Peter 2:11-12, (New International Reader’s Version)

And here, in just two verses, I was convicted of my sin of righteous indignation at having waited in the queue and having to give way to the queue jumper. I’m sorry. Thank you, Lord, for forgiving all the times when I’ve failed to let them see my good works in this respect. And so, the final version of this article attempts to help you be a courteous driver in the UK, and to understand the flashing of brights and hazards as part of the driving experience.

What about you?

Do you have any UK driving insights that we should mention? What do you think about that 1 Peter 2:11-12 Bible verse; what does it mean to you? Please message us and share your thoughts.