8 Bad Drivers Nobody Complains About (Part 2)
I recently spent a column's worth of space complaining about bad drivers that all the Internet ranters and stand-up comedians seem to miss. You know how everybody complains about old people and tailgaters while our national dialogue on driving behavior is noticeably lacking a discussion on people who are terrified of bicycles.
In between then and now, the holidays happened, so I've got plenty more for you.
People Who Can't Think More Than 2 Seconds Ahead
These dumbasses are so committed to living in the moment that thinking a couple of seconds ahead to when their 80 mph speeding car is inevitably going to collide into the 50 mph semi ahead of them is against their principles.
For most of us, there is nothing complex about predicting that collision course, as the semi has probably been chugging along at 50 for the past three hours or so, and we have a sophisticated set of range-finding devices called eyes that can tell us that from a good quarter mile away.
If you were sitting with Mr. Live For The Now, however, and you told him that he was going to have to hit the brakes real hard in about 10 seconds, he would probably scoff at you and then, after the inevitable happened, fear you as a wizard.
People Who Would Rather Die Than Make a U-Turn
It really sucks when you miss your exit (or turn). You have to take the next exit and find your way back, and you could end up going miles out of your way. But when most of us weigh a long annoying detour versus cutting across multiple lanes of traffic and/or a divider, we usually come up on the side of eating the mistake and dealing with the miles rather than, you know, possibly getting ourselves or someone else killed.
If you've already missed your exit, you don't have time to check your mirrors, let alone do the over-the-shoulder blind spot check, so you're basically just swerving through a couple of lanes with your eyes closed. The only time this is OK is if you are in an X-Wing and you are a Jedi.
The most annoying thing about this is the selfish attitude it betrays. The driver made a mistake (missed his exit). Who should have to pay for it? Him, by taking a long detour and having to loop back? Or everybody else, because he deserves to get to that exit on time? Not to mention the poor Department of Transportation landscaper that has to replace the turf his tires tear up. Hopefully he is a convict.
People Who Won't Turn Around At a Gas Station
It might just be that some people are completely unfamiliar with the idea of turning a car around 180 degrees because this would also explain the people waiting unnecessarily at the gas station.
Every car has the gas cap on one particular side, so you usually have to pull up to the gas pump on a specific side. I'm sure we've all been to gas stations where all the pumps were full of on-the-left fuelers or something, but do you know what? If you turn your car around 180 degrees, all the wrong-side pumps suddenly become right-side pumps!
Apparently some people still don't know that and will sit there waiting patiently for a correct-sided pump to open up. I realize some big gas stations only allow you to go through one way, and some really small gas stations make it hard to turn around in the lot, but I've seen people in roomy, two-way gas stations just sit on their asses while I slowly drive past them, turn around and fuel up. They are still there when I leave, looking at me as if I performed a miracle.
People Who Don't Let You Look Around Them
Now when I make a right turn -- and this might be just a weird personal quirk of mine -- I like to see if there are any cars coming from the left. I know some people find it exciting and dangerous to just turn and let fate take them where it may, whether it be to the insurance claims office or a lifetime in a wheelchair, but I just have a personal preference towards looking first.
Sometimes there's crap in the way, like parked cars or trees, which are pretty easy to fix by setting them on fire. I would only do this if it's an intersection you drive through every day, of course. Waiting for a tree or car to burn to ashes takes a really long time if you are only making that turn once.
But sometimes, if the road has more than one lane, there is a car on your left, planning to go straight or turn left, and sometimes that asshole blocks your view of oncoming cars. But whatever, usually if you scoot forward a little more, you can see what you need to see.
Which is that you will not be able to turn for about two hours.
The real assholery comes when the guy follows this by scooting forward himself and completely obstructing your view again. Now I realize you both need to see oncoming cars, and you can block his view of cars coming from the right, but the cars coming from the right are in the far lane, and you don't need to be ahead of another car to see around it to the far lanes. You can even be slightly forward of him and he can see what he needs to see just fine.
On top of that, more often than not, the blocker ends up being an SUV or pickup, which means he can see over my little Civic however the hell we are positioned, while he is a wall to me. The only explanation for him scooting forward is because he has an inching habit (more on that later) or he has some retarded sense of competition, even stopped at an intersection.
Congratulations, buddy, you are the champion of 4th and Elm! What a winner!
People Who Leave Farcically Generous Gaps In Front
Now I realize it is a safety thing to leave big gaps in front of your car when you are moving and we have all read the scary DMV brochures about how it takes almost 300 feet to stop at max speed or whatever, but when you are stopped, do you know how long it takes to stop and avoid running into the car in front of you? Zero seconds. Because you are stopped. You can go ahead and get close.
Despite what some people think, it is safe to get within 30 feet of a stopped car, maybe even 10 if you are feeling like a daredevil and put some banana slices in your oatmeal this morning for a change of pace. Sure, someone could go into reverse randomly and back into you I guess, but those are crazy person odds, same as your chances of getting stabbed by a co-worker who suddenly started hearing Joan Rivers' voice telling him to purify the earth.
And who wouldn't do it? Just to make the voice stop.
This kind of behavior is annoying everywhere, but especially if the gap-leaving car is blocking you from getting somewhere you could easily go if he moved up to a reasonable distance behind the next car. Like into a left-turn lane.
And there are two types here -- there's the person who genuinely thinks they should be 40 feet behind the car in front of them because that's safest, and then there's the person who stopped at a reasonable distance and then stopped paying attention while the cars in front of them moved up quite a bit. The second person's not a problem if they look up and move, but what's baffling is people who don't seem to be doing anything but just sitting there.
Maybe they're gas misers who don't want a single stop-and-start more than necessary, or maybe they're daydreaming about sex. They always say men think about sex every 7 seconds, so I guess it's plausible some guy is sitting there imagining boning someone while traffic moves up around him.
People Who Take Stop Signs Too Literally
On the one hand, this person is at least halfway there and understands that you ought to stop at a stop sign, putting them far ahead of many cars and bicyclists who just see the signs as colorful street decorations.
On the other hand, stopping at a stop sign is just step 1. After that, you have to assess who has the right of way, and go only when it's your turn. Many people seem to miss that second step, and after coming to a stop, just go, regardless of whether there are any other cars present and what they might be doing.
At a four-way stop this usually just leads to anger and confusion (which I believe leads to the Dark Side) since the other cars are starting from a stop and are usually going slow enough to avoid accidents. At a two-way stop, the literalist driver can end up plunging ahead into rapidly-flowing traffic and will be lucky if they don't cause an accident.
A friend of mine actually ran into one of these people who pulled out unexpectedly in front of her, the other driver being completely bewildered afterward as to what she did wrong. "But I stopped!" she said, having apparently had complete faith that anything that happened after the stop would be somehow handled by the omnipresent Traffic God.
I don't know if there is a way of getting through to someone like that, but if you know any of those people, explain that stopping at a stop sign is not a religious ritual designed to appease the gods, so that they might have their blessing to enter the intersection, but is a practical step to let you see if any other cars are coming and figure out the proper time to go in.
Or just tell them the gods desire them to look and let the non-stopping traffic go first, whatever.
I'm betting these are the same people who fidget incessantly in person. They can't stay still when sitting in a chair, so why would they when sitting in a car? When stopped at a red light or stop sign or other delay, they scoot forward inch-by-inch impatiently even though it's completely outside their control when they'll be allowed to move forward next (when the light turns, when traffic moves forward).
Maybe they're control freaks who hate not being able to affect their fate. Maybe they're just fidgeters who do it out of habit. Either way they suck and they should stop doing it. Not only does it not help them go any faster, in some cases it might make the wait take longer, as in the diagram above.
That dipshit is waiting for a car to pass so he can turn right. He can't keep his damn foot still, so he scoots forward even as the car is coming, even though he knows damn well he can't do anything until the car is past. This startles the oncoming car because he doesn't know if this is one of those stop sign idiots that just drives right out into traffic, so he hits the brakes. End result? Our impatient dipshit has to wait even longer for the car to pass.
If he'd just sat quietly, the car would have continued past at full speed. And that's just one car. Startling and slowing down a car in busy traffic could mean he could actually lose the rare gap he was planning on turning into.
Most of these drivers think of themselves as fast, smart drivers ready to jump into any opportunity, and will probably think it's other drivers' fault for startling and thinking that they would be dumb enough to pull in front of traffic. That kind of tells you how wrapped up in themselves they are because drivers can't read minds and nobody puts their fucking ID on their hood. Your smart, narcissistic opportunist and your slow, unaware bad driver both look exactly the same on the road -- like a car surging forward toward fast cross-traffic.
People who think their smartness and great driving skills should be obvious to someone in that circumstance must have their heads pretty far up their own asses. Chances are a lot of them are also ...
People Who Think It's Their Job To Teach People "Lessons"
I'll put this here as a caveat for anyone who read any of the other bad driver types I mentioned and are motivated to "teach them a lesson" on the road -- and that's not an uncommon attitude. These lesson masters wouldn't dare think of themselves as one of those "road rage" people, and separate themselves from road ragers in their mind because they seem themselves as an above-it-all authority who is using some clever method to "help" other people learn and "make them think," as opposed to being out for petty revenge, like a road rager.
Here's a mild example of that thinking in action:
You know why that person did not seem to notice? Because they were trying to call 911 on their cell phone. "I'M OUT IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE ALONE WITH THIS DRIVER AND HE'S TRYING TO DO SOMETHING TO ME!" By the time they start moving in front of you and behind you and in front of you, you stop guessing harmless little causes like the blinker and start looking to see if they have a hook for a hand.
Or if you can see a lot of rope and duct tape in their car.
At least this only involved passing, though. Some people try more elaborate lessons that could very well lead to an accident, taking them beyond the realm of being a stupid snob and into real jackassery. One example: Some drivers wait until the last minute to merge, bypassing a long and slow line. This annoys me as much as the next person, but some people feel the urge to show that driver how much he has inconvenienced people by tailgating him after, or even during, the merge, and continuing to ride his tail a good long time after, to make sure he notices.
Others like to "teach" a tailgater how dangerous tailgating can be, by suddenly hitting the brakes. If they learn the lesson too well, they could both end up discussing it further on the side of the road while waiting for the tow truck.
Again, a lot of these people like to separate what they're doing from road rage by pretending they're teaching people something, but first of all, they're clearly pissed and lying to themselves, and secondly, both ways indicate a person who is way too high on himself, whether you think you deserve personal revenge, or whether you think you're such an authority that you should judge and teach other people like you are Freeway Jesus.
Either way, you are angling to get shot. If you meet any of these annoying drivers on the road, don't be a goddamned road vigilante, just come here and complain about them on the Internet.
For more from Christina, check out 6 Ways Cities Are Getting Into the Attention-Whore Game and 6 Groups Who Don't Work as Movie Bad Guys Anymore.