Cars await their turn in the drive-through lanes at 7 Brew Coffee shop off West Battlefield Road in Springfield. (Photo by Shannon Cay)


Please take out a clean sheet of paper and a pencil. Based on my recent travels in and around Springfield, it’s time for a driving pop quiz. The good news is, there are only four questions….and they are multiple choice.  

So, let’s begin.

What does it mean when someone flashes their bright high beam headlights at you?

  • A. It’s Morse Code for “Head’s Up: your in-laws are coming for the weekend.”
  • B. It means there’s a short in the lighting system of the car flashing its brights.
  • C. It probably means one of two things. It could mean you have your high beams on and they are blinding to the other driver and you should turn them off. More likely, the other driver is politely reminding you that it is too dark/rainy/snowy to be driving without your headlights on. Not your parking lights, your headlights.  Please turn them on.

What’s the preferred etiquette when you are in a busy drive-through at a coffee shop or restaurant?

  • A. Follow at the same distance you would on I-44 going 70 miles per hour behind an 18-wheeler — several car lengths.
  • B. Keep up with the other cars, but only after you are done texting, putting on your eye makeup, talking on the phone, etc. Those behind you can wait. So what if they are backed up into the street?
  • C. Follow at a safe distance, but as close as you can. Keep the line moving. Try to be considerate of those behind you and the potential traffic jam if you don’t.
The red truck headed eastbound in the center turn lane along East Sunshine Street appears to be signaling a left turn — indicating a driver who might pass part of Paul Kincaid’s driving pop quiz. (Photo by Jym Wilson)

What’s the middle turn lane for and how should you use it?

  • A. It’s a resting place for jaywalkers who have successfully dodged traffic going one direction before they dodge traffic going the opposite direction.
  • B. It’s a passing lane for those who think traffic is going too slow.
  • C. The middle turn lane is to allow safe and successful left-hand turns. If you are turning left, you should get into the middle lane to finish deceleration before turning.

What’s your responsibility if you are the first vehicle in a line at a stop light?

  • A. Rev the engine and see if you can lay rubber as soon as the light turns green.
  • B. Take your time, drink some more coffee, and proceed when you are good and ready. Don’t worry about all that honking from the cars behind you.
  • C. Pay attention, be sure no one from the other direction is running the red light, and as soon as it’s safe, proceed promptly with purpose so that as many cars as possible can make it through the light.  

Please put your pencils down. Based on my travels, I am fairly sure no one answered all four correctly. You can check your own paper. It may surprise you, but the correct answer to all four questions is choice “C.”

To help you, here are some questions you might expect on future pop quizzes (along with the answers):

  • When is it OK to change lanes near or in an intersection?  (Never)
  • When is it permissible to make a turn, change lanes or otherwise change directions without using your blinker?  (Never)
  • When is it safe to speed through a school zone or pass a school bus that’s stopped with its stop sign deployed?  (Never)
  • When should you drive safely, but with purpose — like I am being paid on commission not by the hour?  (Always)

I hope this simple review has been informative and helpful. Here’s to safer streets for all of us. Be careful out there. Class dismissed.

Paul Kincaid

Paul Kincaid, an Independent, lives in Springfield. He spent 39 years in higher education public relations and governmental relations, and served as Chief of Staff to three University Presidents. The final 28 years were at Missouri State University. After retiring from Missouri State in 2014, he served eight years as Executive Director of Jobs for America’s Graduates-Missouri. He owns and operates his consulting company, Kincaid Communications, LLC. Email: More by Paul Kincaid