Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Ten Most Annoying (And Dangerous) Driving Practices

Photo credit: Bud Adams, stock.xchng

Everyone who drives around a city for any period of time knows there are other drivers who do things that are damn annoying. I'm sure we can all list off our driving pet peeves, especially after a long rush hour commute. The problem is that some of these annoying habits are actually pretty dangerous, for the person doing them as well as any occupants in their car and in other cars around them. These are the ten most annoying driving habits (according to yours truly) that everyone should work hard to avoid.

10. Not using your turn signal. I know sometimes people forget to hit their signal, but all in all I've noticed some drivers habitually signal while others rarely or never do. Around where I live signaling is actually consciously avoided by many, even though it is a ticket-worthy traffic offense. I've asked people why they don't signal and  they have explained to me that signaling means others will close up a gap in an adjacent lane so they can't get over. I've had that happen to me, but not signaling can mean other cars think they're going to go for that gap, rushing into the gap at the same time as you. Also, I really can't stand when someone suddenly slams on their brakes and then makes a turn into a driveway or intersecting road. Signaling lets me know that person is going to be applying the brakes, allowing me to do the same before they make their turn.

9. Not allowing others to transition lanes or merge. This is a major habit around here and one that drives me absolutely nuts! When I drive in the South I'm always amazed how courteous everyone is when it comes to lane transitions and merging, sometimes even literally waving me in once I put my turn signal on. I've seen traffic study after traffic study that shows cutting others off, refusing to let  in cars from a lane that's ending, etc. actually makes traffic stack up. Stop being a jerk and let people in your lane so the traffic flows smoother for everyone! On the same note don't be that jerk who hops out of one lane that is clogged up, goes into the adjacent lane that's ending shortly up the road, and purposely drive all the way to the end so you can muscle your way further ahead in the line. It's called courtesy and respect, people; if you want to be treated with it you need to give it out.

8. Driving slow in passing lanes. I've noticed this seems to be more popular in rural areas or suburbs. The left lanes on a freeway or highway are generally for passing. This means if you aren't going faster than the traffic in the other lanes, move over and make way for those who are! I've heard some people explain that they travel slower in the left lane because they want to keep others from breaking the speed limit. That practice is incredibly self-righteous and misguided. The police are there to enforce the speed limits, not you. I've also heard from people that they were taught the left lanes are made for anyone who's going to be on the freeway for a long time, which is just plain ridiculous. Turtle drivers, move it to the right!

2012 Jaguar XKR-S. Photo courtesy Jaguar USA
7. Speeding around in the snow. I've already talked about this one before in another blog post, but it's worth bringing up again. I've noticed there are three types of vehicles I see speeding around during or after a huge snowstorm: 4x4s, all-wheel-drive vehicles and economy cars. I get that there are quite a few morons who think their four-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive will help them not spin or slide out of control on a snowy road, but let me tell you that your tires are much bigger determining factors on whether you'll lose control on slick roads than how many wheels receive power from the transmission. I can also tell you from experience that all-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive vehicles behave much better in snow if you go at a moderate speed. Why so many people in economy cars speed around in the snow baffles me. The only thing I can think of is economy cars are popular with younger drivers who haven't realized they're mortal and that driving with the accelerator constantly mashed to the floor is not the way to drive.

6. Not clearing snow, ice or frost from your car. After every snow storm I see morons driving around with a vehicle that looks like it is made entirely of snow, like they made a snowmanmobile or something ridiculous like that. In reality these people were too damn lazy to brush the snow off their car. I also regularly see people driving around with ice or frost covering their windows, except for a small clear patch at the bottom of the windshield. You can't really see where you're going like that, so scrape the stuff off your car before you drive off or wait for the defroster to clear up the windows. With snow, you need to brush off all you can from your vehicle before you start driving. Snow on your hood will fly up against the windshield, making it hard for you to see where you're going. Snow on your roof will fly onto the windshield of the car behind you. Stop being lazy, buy a little five dollar brush and scraper and clear off your car before you kill someone!

5. Driving in other cars' blind spots. This is the worst when you are driving a larger vehicle, like a van, SUV or truck. Every vehicle has blind spots -- anyone who doesn't think so needs to learn a thing or two about driving. As a general rule of thumb if you can see the the other driver's face in their side mirror then they can see you. Even better, just avoid driving near the back corners of vehicles in parallel lanes. Some newer cars from companies like Volvo and Mercedes-Benz come with a blind spot indicator system that lets drivers know if something is in the vehicle's blind spot, but it's best to just avoid blind spots and stay where you can easily be seen.

4. Cutting off large trucks. I've driven a wide variety of vehicles, and the hardest ones to drive are the big trucks. I haven't driven a semi truck, but I have driven the largest delivery-style trucks I can without getting a commercial drivers license. These trucks have massive blind spots, don't handle well at all and must be driven with extreme caution. One thing that I've noticed about quite a few other drivers on the road (especially ones in compact cars) is that they don't get these huge trucks can't stop on a dime. People seriously don't understand Newton's Laws because when a truck that's hauling around a few tons of equipment, merchandise, furniture or whatever tries to stop it takes that truck a long time to completely halt its forward progress. The worst is when you are approaching a red light and you start breaking extra early (as you should) and little cars take your slowing down as an invitation to pull in front of you. The problem is that you aren't planning on stopping a good ten or so feet sooner, and slamming on the brakes can cause you to lose control of the truck, meaning you might not be able to stop in time. It's a dangerous thing to cut off another vehicle, especially when that vehicle weighs at least a good ten times more than yours and has a solid steel front bumper. Treat large trucks with respect and give them plenty of space on the road.

3. Honking at a car after it honks at you. Everyone makes mistakes on the road -- we're all human. Sometimes you need to beep your horn if a car doesn't see yours and you are trying to avoid a crash. What I just hate is when I hit my horn not out of anger but to avoid an accident, and then the other driver lays on theirs because they're angry at me. What the hell do they have to be angry about? If you're just helping avoid a car accident they should be grateful, maybe embarrassed that they screwed up, but still grateful. Instead these people choose to honk back like that'll teach you to let them know you were there. I've seen these situations turn into a honking war and then a shouting match that can spiral out of control from there. If someone honks at you, analyze why they may be honking, make any needed corrections to your driving and move on. Swallow that pride and just don't honk back like a class-A jerk, even if you think the other driver is overreacting.

2. Tailgating cars in front of you. This is one of the most annoying driving habits. When I have a car driving behind me and I cannot see its headlights in my mirrors I know that person is driving way too close. I guess some people think hunkering up to the rear bumper on your car will make you drive as fast as they want, but I actually slow down to make a point. It's even more annoying when you have multiple lanes of traffic going in your direction and there are no other cars around, yet someone still comes up from behind and tailgates you. Perhaps these people think they have lightning fast reflexes and their car has monster brake calipers and rotors, but I would love for them to explain that theory to the cops and their insurance company after they eat another car's tailpipe.

Some brainless person invented a steering wheel mount for iPads!
1.Texting, talking and webbing. this ranks as my biggest pet peeve: other drivers who use their phone or tablet device while they are driving a vehicle! Studies have shown that texting while driving is just as dangerous as driving drunk, yet people who would never get behind the wheel after having a few drinks regularly type away while speeding down the road! I can't tell you how many times I've almost been hit by someone who suddenly swerves on the road or does some other erratic maneuver, only to see that person holding a phone or tablet. Enough is enough, people! If you can't be inconvenienced by actually driving your car, leave it at home and hop the train or bus, where you can text your social butterfly heart out until your fingers become bloody little stumps!