It’s not me, it’s you: bad habits on the road

It’s not me, it’s you: bad habits on the road


IF YOU had to make a list of the most annoying driving habits of other people, I wonder what would be on it. For me, it would include failing to signal lane-changes or exits from roundabouts; tailgating; falling asleep at red lights; pulling up in a left-turn-only lane then going straight across the intersection and trying to push in; and drinking coffee or applying make-up in traffic. 

'If you have to apply the mascara and lippy (or drink your coffee) in the car, you’re probably psychotically disorganised in all aspects of your life.'

I suppose that’s quite a long list, which probably says something about me, if I’m honest. I guess I have little tolerance for others’ shortcomings on the road. I may have a few of my own, but the aim of this exercise is to list others’ failings, not mine. 

Oh, and speeding. For some reason, other people speeding shits me to tears. I have never been sure why but I think what annoys me most about it is the superiority it implies. 

If you tailgate someone you’re merely not very smart – it’s been proven that tailgating actually causes more traffic problems than it fixes. If you fail to properly indicate your intentions then you’re just deeply annoying and probably totally self-absorbed. If you’re slow off the mark when the lights change you’re simply inattentive and most likely a bit vapid. And if you have to apply the mascara and lippy (or clean your teeth, or drink your coffee) in the car on the way to work or school, you’re probably psychotically disorganised in all aspects of your life.

But more than simply saying “I am in a hurry (or late, or whatever)”, for me the unspoken message in speeding is: I am better than you. Why else would you think you can get away with such an overt abuse of the road rules, and why else would you think everyone else should get out of your way?

I have a refined procedure for dealing with speeding drivers. If I can, I try to slow them down. It requires a bit of awareness to spot them approaching, but done correctly one can swing into the same lane (indicting is optional) at just the right moment, maintain momentum, and arrest the oncoming speeder’s progress. 

Inevitably they become aggravated – every speeding driver is also a tailgater at heart – so it’s a good idea to move out of the way after a while, but it’s satisfying while you’re playing the obstacle.

Any idiot can speed on a public road, and in my experience it’s mostly idiots who do. A close friend is an inveterate speeder. She does it unthinkingly; she needs to get from A to B, and she has X amount of time. Speed is distance divided by time, so if she knows the distance from A to B, and she knows X, she knows how fast she has to go to get there on time. The fact that it’s cleverly calculated doesn’t make it any better.

The thing is, my friend joined me on the track day at Wakefield Park that I wrote about recently. While she’s fast on the road (or, at least, faster than those who follow the rules), put her on to the racetrack and she’s all at sea, if I may mix a metaphor for a moment.

She’s not at all smooth, she over-drives and the harder she tries, the slower she goes. She boiled her brake fluid and cooked her clutch. That’s fairly typical – people who speed are not better drivers, despite what they might think. And enjoyment of a car does not have to mean driving it as fast as possible, everywhere, all the time.

While I’m venting, I should also declare my support for speed cameras, and my utter disdain for those who complain when they get caught. They’re just blatant revenue-raisers, Jemima, and you’re an idiot, I hear you say. 

Well, speeding is an optional activity, and you don’t get caught and fined if you don’t speed, so speed-camera revenue is kind of a tax on stupidity. And I’m not the idiot paying THAT tax.