What is it about driving that turns people into self-centered jerks? How can a seemingly thoughtful individual who holds open a door for someone in a wheelchair be the same insensitive moron who tailgates the motorist who’s already driving the speed limit? Maybe it’s the anonymity—the unlikeliness of confrontation. After all, when we’re driving we get to feel like we’re in our own, self-contained world. But the truth is that we’re not. We are, in fact, just a small part of a much larger society, and we’re expected to behave ourselves with the same consideration that we show others when we’re encountering them on foot. Here are five of the most annoying and inconsiderate things that drivers do on a regular basis.
1. Riding too closeThe thought process behind this action almost makes sense. You’re in a hurry and the person in front of you isn’t going fast enough for your liking, so you decide to plant yourself three inches off of their bumper to encourage them to either pull over or speed up. The problem is that the same thought goes through the mind of every person who’s ever looked in their rearview mirror only to see their entire field of vision dominated by a the grill of the car behind them: I could just tap the breaks and this loser would have to buy me a new car. Now, most people are content to just think about it, but there are inevitably some who will actually go through with it. The less aggressive drivers will just gradually reduce their speed until the car behind them gets the message. Either way, tailgating isn’t going to help you get where you’re going any faster.
2. Not cleaning off snowHey, we get it. You didn’t know it snowed last night and you’re already late for work. So you grab the ice scraper, clean off your windows, and hop in the car. But what you may not realize is that as you get up to speed on the freeway, the white crown of snow that adorns the top of your automobile isn’t going to just sit there. Inertial forces will begin to fling that snow off your roof and onto either the road, or the windshields of the other drivers around you. This is annoying at least, and potentially dangerous at most. So take an extra moment and brush off your whole car.
3. Overusing high beamsDriving at night in unlit areas can be tricky. Luckily, your auto manufacturer thought ahead and installed brighter secondary headlights so that you can see where you’re going. However, while these lights may help you see the road better, they tend to blind everyone else around you. This isn’t just an issue with oncoming traffic; driving behind someone while using your high beams can kill the other driver’s visibility both through their mirrors, and by over illuminating the area around their car while making the road directly in front of them appear darker. So even though it can be annoying, learn to disengage the brights when you see other cars approaching.
4. Misusing hornsEvery car really should have two different types of horn: the regular “Watch out!” horn, and the friendly “Excuse me” horn. This is because horns have a variety of uses. If someone is backing out towards your car without looking, give them a quick honk. If someone else decides to blow through a red light and you have to swerve off the road, give them a longer, angrier honk. One thing you shouldn’t do is use that horn all the time. Seriously. If you’ve honked the horn and made your point, let it go. Especially never use the horn in congested traffic. Being in a traffic jam is stressful enough; don’t add to it. If you were waiting at in line at the bank and you started to just scream wordlessly, you’d probably get punch-tackled by a security guard. So have some class and just be patient. You’re going to be late no matter what. Additionally, chances are nobody else cares if your team won the state championships; just keep it down.
5. Parking badlyWe’ve all been there. The movie theater parking lot is so full that you’re afraid that nuclear fusion could begin at any second. You’re circling the building like a vulture, desperately looking for someplace to park your car so that you don’t miss the previews. Then, from afar, you think you spot an open spot. You quickly make your way over, only to see that, no, you can’t park there. The car in the next space over decided to back into the spot (heaven only knows why) and they managed to get their entire back driver side wheel in the space that would otherwise be open. Of course, there are other, less considerate variations on this same theme. How about the sideways parker who takes up three spaces at once? Or the double parker who stops behind your car or in a red zone? People who use handicapped spots despite not having anything (physically) wrong with them are well known scumbags, but consider also the people who leave shopping carts blocking handicapped spaces. As with every other aspect of driving, parking takes patience, consideration, and a heaping helping of the Golden Rule. So if you don’t want to be on the receiving end of these automobile annoyances, don’t be the person who initiates them, either.
John Carver is passionate about keeping the roads a safe place for everyone. He writes for defensivedriving.com, your online traffic school alternative.