Driving etiquette: which gestures do you use for "thank you" and "sorry"?

When driving (a car) there are occasions when I need to convey “thank you” to other drivers (for letting me merge, for stopping at the side between two parked cars to let me pass in the opposite direction on a narrow street, etc.)

On other occasions I need to signal “sorry” (when I misjudged and someone with right of way has to slow down).

Now for “thank you” there is (at least in my region of Germany) a reasonably standard driver’s gesture of holding one hand up, open. It is practical in that you can also use it to a driver behind you, but it also can be confused with a greeting wave.

For “sorry” I have not found any fitting gesture. I try to radiate an air of extreme contrition, but somehow I doubt that it gets across.

What do you use?

Not quite a gesture, but if the car that I want to say thank you to is behind me (for excample, has just let me into a line of traffic) I will usually turn on my emergency flashers for about 2 blinks. If they are oncoming, a palm facing them wave from the steering wheel is my usual sign.


Thank you = A polite hand wave
Sorry = A shrug and a pitiful look on my face.

Thank you is an open hand wave, sometimes used preemptively to gain the opposing driver’s acquiescence to my intended maneuver.

I don’t recall being sorry recently.

This only sort of fits here but truck drivers, if being passed by another truck, usually will flash their headlights when the passing rig is clear of the truck he’s trying to pass. That signals the passing truck that he can get in front of the passed truck at which time the truck now in front flashes his hazzards for about two seconds as a thank you.

Either that or the try to run eachother off the road.

The “wave” is universal language for , thank you, please, sorry and as sarcasm (like thanks a fucking lot!)

And, do people do the headlight flash to warn oncoming drivers that they’re about to come up on a copper? We do here but you don’t see it as much these days.

I still get the speed trap warning headlights from time to time.

We really do need a universal signal for “sorry.” The shrug and pitiful look suggested by pezpunk is good, but tough to convey at a distance. Might I suggest: :smack:

That’s what I use. I mime smacking the forehead or side of my head, depending on which one the other driver can see.

For “thank you,” I wave.

For “go ahead, I’ll wait,” it’s a beckon. Palm up, pull the fingers toward you.

Boston drivers are never sorry.

For “sorry”, I tend to raise my hand, palm out (which, because I’m being sorry, is not a wave, but rather a warding-off gesture – “Don’t holler, I know I was wrong”) and incline my head in contrition.

For a “thank-you”, or “you’re-welcome” gesture, I establish eye-contact and raise my index finger from the steering wheel; a sort of mini-salute, accompanied by a brief nod of the head.

For “you stupid moron, don’t you realize I have the right of way, did you get your license from a box of Fruit Loops”, I — well, a different single-finger salute is standard, isn’t it? :wink:

Then there are those who go through life oblivious that there are actual humans in other cars and consequentially don’t feel the need to communicate whatsoever.

Unfortunately they are exactly the same when operating a shopping cart at the supermarket.

I think I meant “consequently”

Thank you is a thumbs up or a piece sign
Sorry is an “Eeek sorry” sort of shoulder shrug and one hand up palm flat.

Actually, most of the time sorry is the “finger.”

i nod and smile for a thankyou

i just pull a “sorry” face for sorry and probably kinda tilt my head a little

I think cars need to come with one of those news-message-board things with the dots, to spell out simple one word messages like “Sorry”, “Thanks”, and “Who the hell taught you how to drive, you stupid ass moron.”

I don’t think “thanks” and “sorry” require different gestures. A quick hand wave works for both. Usually the context will help the other driver determine what you mean. And really, both messages are expressions of goodwill, so confusing one for the other doesn’t really affect the situation. When you screw up you could be saying “Thank you for your understanding”, and if somebody lets you pull in front of them, you could be saying “Sorry for making you wait.”

While still gripping the wheel extend the index finger for aproximately three seconds as a gesture of thanks. I picked it up in Eire.
However I hope everybody is aware that any gestures to other drivers constitutes driving without due care and attention and (depending on the vindictiveness of the examiner) may fail you your driving test…in GB at least.

CK has it right, I swear I’ll install a marquee on the back of my car someday… it would make things so much easier!