Rick Wamre: Navigating the mean streets of Dallas is more confusing and treacherous than ever

Traffic at the beginning of rush hour on Highway 75 in Dallas, TX.

It has been awhile since Mrs. Hanson administered my in-car driver’s test, and I remember all too well the various vehicle pirouettes I performed to enjoy all of the benefits associated with having a driver’s license.

What I recall was pretty straightforward stuff. The left lane is for passing. Come to a complete stop at stop signs and stop lights. Yield to pedestrians and cyclists.

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And by sticking to the rules, I’ve stayed out of vehicular trouble, for the most part. There was the time I was rear-ended on Central, but that wasn’t my fault. And the time I was T-boned by a semi-truck, but that wasn’t my fault. And that period of three months when I was tapped from behind hard enough at stop lights to warrant thousand-dollar bumper repair bills each time (again, not my fault).

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But I’m starting to feel queasy about what the rules are any more, particularly on Dallas streets.

For example, on a two-lane thoroughfare in the city, the rules say slower traffic should remain in the right lane. But the rules don’t account for the tremendously poor condition of many lanes on the right side of Dallas streets; those lanes typically slope a bit to the right to facilitate drainage, and they’ve been so poorly maintained over the years that if you drive the speed limit in the lane, you’re likely to feel like a downhill skier on a mogul course, jumping up and down and right and left.

So here’s my question: If I avoid the horribly pock-marked lane to the right by driving the speed limit in the left lane, what am I legally required to do when a big vehicle is breathing down my neck wanting to pass? (They don’t want to be in the right lane, either.) Driving the speed limit in the right lane will virtually destroy the bottom of my car, so what am I to do — yield to the jerk behind me or continue obeying the speed limit while protecting my vehicle investment, all the time hoping the guy’s road rage doesn’t include a weapon?

And what about all of those manhole covers that, for some reason, are an inch or so below the pavement right in the path of my tires? Is it legally OK to bob and weave in heavy traffic along the street avoiding these landmines, or do I need to slow to a crawl to protect my car even though I know that will incur the wrath of other drivers who have places to go?

Same with signaling my intent to turn right or left — do I still need to do that, or has being transparent about my intent gone the way of typewriters and disco music?

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I know texting and driving is bad (although still not illegal), but what about texting, driving and putting on makeup? Is that something I can call 911 about?

And if I see a lapdog with its paws on the steering wheel, is that something I should be concerned about, or should I just assume the dog is acting as an extra set of eyes for potholes, manhole covers and uneven pavement?

You see what I mean? Driving in Dallas is a lot more complicated these days, and I’m just not sure whether I should spend as much time yielding to others as I used to, or whether I should be using Grand Theft Auto video game strategy to send a message to fellow drivers that I’m no patsy on the street?

I don’t think Mrs. Hanson would know the answers, either.

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