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Monday, July 25, 2011

10 Dangerous and Annoying Bad Habits of Some Drivers

On my way home today I got tailgated again. It comes as no surprise as I get tailgated almost daily, even multiple times on some days. I try to keep myself calm. It doesn't always work.

I have a somewhat competitive nature when I am driving - for some reason - as I think most people do if they are willing to admit it.

But, whether it calmed me down or just made me even more furious, I started thinking about some of the most frustrating bad habits many driver's possess.

I'd also recently read an article, Top 10 Most Annoying Things Other Drivers Do, on Yahoo!. I agree with some, but here's what I think...

1. Tailgating

Yahoo!'s article ranks "Talking on a cell phone" the number one most annoying thing. I think tailgating is the number one most annoying thing.

Tailgating can be caused from someone talking on a cell phone and not paying enough attention. It's dangerous to the car being tailgated, the car doing the tailgating, and probably also the car behind the car behind you, who's tailgating the one who is tailgating you.

I will admit I've gotten scolded back in earlier driving years for "following too close". But I've been tailgated on the freeway doing 70+MPH!

If I can't see your headlights, or you can't see where my tires touch the road, you're WAY too close. 

That applies even when we're stopped in traffic. Remember safe driving practices and the Three Second Rule: find a fixed object, when the car in front of you passes it count three seconds (one-one-thousand, two-one-thousand, three-one-thousand).

If you pass the object before 3 seconds is up, you're too close.

This varies, but a good explanation can be found on SafeMotorist.com. Another method is judging by car distance, one car length for every 10 MPH.

The problem with the first method is that it varies depending on the speed you're traveling. The problem with the second is it's difficult to eyeball one car length, let alone 6 or 7. Both vary in less-than-optimal driving conditions.

No matter what rule you are trying to follow, keeping any amount of safe distance is a million times better than tailgating. Would you believe tailgating isn't even in Yahoo!'s list?! Absurd.

2. Changing Lanes Without Signaling

This one isn't quite as dangerous to both parties as tailgating since presumably the person changing lanes is being cautious of surrounding traffic, but it can still pose a huge hazard.

I am one of those people that tries to signal before changing lanes even if I'm the only car on the road. It's just a habit.

It's especially annoying when someone will gladly put on their turn signal while sitting in a designated turning lane, but won't use it when changing lanes on the freeway. It's pretty obvious when you're in a turn lane that you intend to make a turn.

It's not obvious when I'm cruising along the freeway and plan to get in the other lane when suddenly you come sliding on over without warning. It is good to note however, it doesn't help to leave a signal on when you aren't turning. That causes accidents.

Done with your lane change but still hear that little ding-ding-ding? Turn it off!

3. Driving Without Your Headlights on During Bad Driving Conditions

News flash - even if your car is painted bright lemon yellow, you may be almost invisible in the hazy morning light or the evening sunset. If you are in the rain, snow, fog, evening, night, or early day, turn on your lights!

Even if it is just cloudy out, that can be enough to darken the overall sky and thus darken the image of any vehicles out on the road. Parking lights are better than nothing, but it is safest to get in the habit of turning on your headlights when you drive (and back off when you park!).

Can't tell you the number of times I spotted a car that was almost invisible until it was unsafely close just because they didn't have their headlights on when it was dark or pouring rain.

It's also more dangerous for the driver not using headlights. Not only is it harder to see them, they will have a harder time seeing the road.

4. Passing in an No-Passing or Unsafe Area

This includes passing on turns, curves, hills, double-yellow-lines, intersections, or using a two-way turn lane or exit-only lane to pass. Any of these options aren't safe and put the offender and others right in harm's way.

If someone is making an illegitimate pass, you have no choice but to slow down, pull off as much as possible, and pray they make it by you and the other car OK.

Always wait for a safe and legal opportunity to pass. Even if trying to pass in a legitimate and legal passing area, if it appears that there may not be enough time to complete it safely, slow down and wait for the next opportunity.

If this sounds like stupidly obvious advice - it is. However, people pull still stunts like this all the time.

5. Not Allowing Cars to Merge onto the Freeway 

One time, I was heading home and trying to merge onto the freeway from what starts out an entrance to the freeway and immediately becomes an exit-only lane.

There was roughly one other car on the road and two other lanes available. They were in the lane I needed to get in. They were riding right along side me. I tried speeding up, the other car sped up. I tried slowing down, whether or not it was intentional they slowed down as well.

I wound up having to get back off the freeway. That isn't a safety hazard as it was, but if it weren't for that option it could've been. Slow down, speed up, or move over if you can.

Leaving someone to get on the freeway from a stopped position is rude and dangerous.

6. Running Red Lights

I try hard to avoid this at all costs, though I'm not really referring to sitting out in the middle of an intersection waiting to turn on a solid green light and it turns yellow/red while you're out there.

Yellow means, "prepare to stop if it is safe to do so". It does not mean, "gun it so there will be no way to stop safely before it turns red".

Some lights are trickier than others, but most people seem pretty capable of estimating whether or not they'll have enough time to make it through before they find themselves running a red. If you're at least in the intersection when it's red, it's not good but it's safer since people are likely to see you before they start going.

If the light has been solid red for even a second, there is a high risk of collision. There is even a National Campaign against running red lights.

When I see someone go flying through a red light, I often can't help but think, "What if I'd started out already?" On the other hand, it is a good rule of thumb not to gun it when it turns green either (even though I'm guilty of that), for that very reason.

7. Cutting People Off (Especially if Slowing Down Afterward)
This is not necessarily a safety hazard, but it is definitely annoying. It doesn't even have to be that you are cut off but if someone pulls out from a side street in front of you, going a snail's pace, while you are trying to go a bit faster... Argh!

Likewise, if someone passes you on the freeway only to get in front of you and slow down by 20MPH, what is even the point? I don't mean when you are doing 60, someone passes you doing 80, and then gets in front of you and slows down to 60.

If they were going a lot faster in order to pass and then slow down to a normal speed, fine. If they were going a normal speed to pass and slow down to slower than you were originally going... Argh!

8. Leaving Your High-Beams On

Leaving your high beams on ranks #5 on Yahoo!'s list. It's lower for me.

Yeah, it is difficult to see around someone that has high beams on, shining straight at you, when your pupils have adjusted for pitch-black skies. It's not impossible though, and you can focus down on the right-side line down the road to stay focused on where you are within the lane.

I consider someone leaving their high-beams on as more of a nuisance, but I'm sure it's something everyone has been guilty of by accident at some point.

I've done it many times to people while forgetting they were on and wondered what kind of a jerk the person thought I was after we'd passed each other.

9. Going Under the Speed Limit and Holding Up (Impeding) Traffic

Everyone knows that speeding is illegal, but did you know that you can get in trouble for going under the speed limit as well?

As with speeding, you typically have a buffer of roughly +/-5MPH that most cops won't pull you over for and generally won't get you in any trouble. However, some states (possibly all) have laws regarding minimum speed limits as well, to avoid "impeding traffic".

Florida drivers were caught last year impeding traffic. One man wrote of doing 50MPH and coming up on someone doing only 30MPH!

Some states may have general laws, some states have specific laws such as a maximum MPH you may go under the speed limit, or that if you are holding up a line of so many cars, you must let them pass.

I've even been pulled over for doing the speed limit in the fast lane! I was driving along with my friend in the passenger seat, and I was in the left lane when I noticed in my mirror that a cop was behind me. Not wanting to get pulled over for speeding, I slowed down to around the speed limit. The cop then put his lights on anyway. I figured he was pulling me over for what I'd already done, or that maybe it was only coincidence.

Nope, he was warning me about going too slow for the fast lane. I still love telling this story because you never hear about people being pulled over for doing the speed limit. I only got a warning, but it's still fun to mention since most people don't really believe it at first.
10. Slowing Down to See a Car Accident (or Worse, a Simple Traffic Stop)

Ever find yourself cruising along the freeway when suddenly the traffic in front of you comes to a screeching halt? You figure, "Must be some big accident up ahead!" or, "I didn't know they were doing construction on this street."

You slowly inch along, panicking over whether or not you'll make it to work on time, or be at the school in time to pick up your kid. You continue creeping along for miles in this huge traffic jam, with no orange signs along the road to indicate any construction.

"Must be a really big accident, hope everyone's OK," you think to yourself until finally, you pass a car on the side of the road with a flat tire, or someone receiving a routine traffic ticket. The heavy traffic quickly breaks up and you're soon back up to normal speed. 

"That was IT?!" Yes, that was it, because someone up in the front decided to stop and see if they can tell if that cop is going to arrest that guy or not, because it kind of looked like it, but after slowing down, that wasn't the case. They've even shown how traffic jams happen in a controlled experiment.

That person's held up traffic for MILES for no reason whatsoever.

Honorable Mention: Stopping to Let People Out in Front of You When There is No Other Traffic

While I appreciate people who will stop the line of traffic to let me pull out from a side street during a busy traffic time, I really hate when people stop to let me in front of them when there are no cars on the road.

If I'd have to wait 15 minutes to get on the road had you not stopped, you are being very courteous and I appreciate it.  

If I could've just pulled out right behind you, don't bother stopping.

This can also pose a hazard - say car A is driving alone Main Street. Car B is trying to pull out of Smith Street and onto Main Street. Main Street has just one lone car driving in the same direction. In the opposite direction, however, there are a few cars.

Car A stops to let Car B in on Main Street even though it isn't necessary. Car B is watching the traffic going the opposite direction, waiting for a safe opportunity. Car A thinks that Car B isn't going to pull out just as Car B finds a safe opportunity to pull out and...they collide. Courtesy is nice, being overly "courteous" could be dangerous.

Those are the top ten driving habits I hate most. But I'm sure I'm not alone out there. In fact, I know I'm not alone. Still, oddly, writing about some of the driving habits that annoy me most actually made me feel better. Not sure how, but I'll take it.

What bad driving habits annoy you the most? Do you have a different bad habit you'd like to nominate as the absolute worst? Share your thoughts (and frustrations!) below.


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