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Posted on Thu, Feb 16, 2012 : 5 a.m.

Motorists in the wrong find ways to make things right

By Dear Abby


"Mild-Mannered Motorist in Virginia" (Dec. 26) asked you for a hand signal to indicate "I'm sorry" to fellow drivers when he makes mistakes behind the wheel. Not long ago, I made a not-so-serious mistake that angered another driver. When I flashed a peace sign, then moved my mouth in an "I'm sorry," the person's frown changed to a smile. We then drove on with pleasant attitudes, and I tried to watch my driving more closely.

The peace sign, of course, is hand closed, forefinger and middle finger up as in a "V." I think the whole world recognizes a peace sign. It worked for me. -- FAITHFUL READER IN ARKANSAS


I assured "Mild-Mannered" that my helpful readers would step forward to offer suggestions for an "I'm sorry" signal. And many, like you, mentioned giving the peace sign. Offering more options, my newspaper readers comment:


We New Yorkers have honed silent signals to a fine art. When I'm at fault in traffic or other situations where I can't apologize verbally, I make eye contact, put my hand to my chest to accuse myself, and put my hands in a prayerful gesture to ask forgiveness. This almost always defuses the situation on the spot. Add a smile and you've made a friend as well. -- LORNA, IN THE CITY


I, too, have made boo-boos while driving and wish I could have said "I'm sorry," but the person is usually too busy shaking a fist and screaming what are obviously obscenities to notice. I like the idea of a standard "sorry" gesture.

How about holding one hand up with your palm toward your face for just a second? (As in "I'm ashamed of what I just did.") It's simple and lets you keep your other hand on the wheel. -- CAROL IN HOUSTON


Why not use the American Sign Language symbol for "sorry"? Make a fist with your right hand, palm toward the body and place it over the area of your heart and move it in small circles. Of course, the expression on your face pulls it all together. Sign language is used by many people, and the chance that the person you offended may already be familiar with this sign makes it a great way to convey the sentiment. -- SIGN USER IN OLD LYME, CONN.


If I think the other driver will be able to see me, the gesture I make after a mistake is an exaggerated, slow smack to my forehead -- basically, my own Homer Simpson "Doh!" -- IN THE WRONG IN MAINE


"Mild-Mannered Motorist's" letter reminded me of an incident a few years ago. Driving home from work, I was forced to swerve into an oncoming lane by a car driven by a young woman who was pulling onto the road from a parking lot. She didn't see me because of traffic in the lane to my right. Fortunately, there were no oncoming vehicles, and I was able to return to my lane and proceed.

At the traffic signal, I noticed the "offending" car was directly behind me. It continued following me and I started becoming concerned that I had a stalker. Turning into my neighborhood, I quickly drove up my driveway and into my garage. When I got out of the car, the young woman was walking up the driveway. She then began profusely apologizing for having caused a problem for me.

She had driven miles out of her way to offer her apology, which I gratefully accepted. Then we both thanked God for protecting us. I have never seen her again, but I hope she knows I respect her tremendously. -- PLEASANTLY SURPRISED IN NORTH CAROLINA

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

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