You may not know it, but you might be an annoying driver. What follows is a list of behaviors to avoid, unless you want to really annoy your fellow travelers on the road.
1. Going aggressively slow.
Some people seem to take pride in going slower than slow. Super slow drivers can be really annoying because they hold up traffic lanes and take forever to make a right or left turn. You will also find aggressively slow drivers almost parked in the middle or fast lanes on the Interstate, both hands gripping the wheel in a determined fashion while forcing everyone else on the road to veer, brake or pull around them.
2. Going aggressively fast.
Super fast drivers zoom up behind you and pay no attention to road markings on the right or left. An aggressively fast driver has no qualms about slinging onto the shoulder to pass you on the right if you’re turning left. And when you’re on the highway, an aggressively fast driver treats traffic like a slalom course, tearing through a backup like a coyote through sagebrush.
3. Talking on the cellphone. Even though it’s against the law now in many states or cities, driving while talking on a handheld cellphone is still quite common, and annoying. The bumper sticker that says “Hang Up and Drive” seems to have had no effect on people who continue to press their phones to their ears while behind the wheel.
4. Tailgating or hugging someone else’s bumper. Drivers who hug your bumper or tailgate do not seem to know what a bad and annoying habit they have. For one thing, the odds of a rear-end accident are greatly increased, especially on a high-speed road. So hugging your bumper is not only annoying, it is dangerous and dumb. A good rule of thumb is to maintain a space of at least 4 car lengths behind the vehicle ahead of you under any driving condition, and at least a car length for every 10 miles per hour you are driving.
5. Driving with your high beams on. Nothing is more annoying than leaving on the high beams of your car when you’re passing oncoming traffic in the dark of night. High beams can blind other drivers. Being conscious of your high and low beams can make you a less annoying driver.
6. Leaving your turn signal on for miles. We’ve all done it. You shift lanes in traffic or merge onto an expressway and then finally realize your blinker has been signaling a left turn for the last 10 minutes. People behind you keep waiting for your left turn and eventually give up. Not signaling is just as bad, however. So be mindful of your signals at all times.
7. Driving a vehicle in obvious disrepair. Some people drive around in cars that look like they could dissolve at any moment. You know the look: bumpers or exhaust systems hanging down or tail pipes sending out sparks. Other vehicles pump out noxious smoke or seem held together with duct tape. Drivers who never rotate or change their tires wind up with cars whose wheels look like cartoon objects, wobbling or sidewinding their way down the road. While we all feel compassion for people who can’t afford basic upkeep of their cars, it is still pretty annoying when you wonder if you’re safe to be on the road with a car so badly maintained it can’t be driven properly.
We all know the most annoying habit of all is drunk driving, especially repeat offenders who continue to put the safety of others at risk through their bad habits.
In all, becoming a less annoying driver can make you a safer driver. If you pay attention to bad habits and correct them as you drive, the people around you can better respond in a predictable fashion to your movements. That’s the nicest thing you can do for your fellow citizens on the road.
Doug Climenhaga is president of SVI International, Inc., a leading supplier of parts for industrial lift equipment. With more than 20 years experience in the hydraulic and automotive lift industries, he holds two patents and has designed scores of problem-solving products.