Top 10 driving peeves for 2010

At the risk of coming across like David Letterman, we present to you the Top 10 driving peeves submitted by readers.

• Tailgaters: These individuals, by far, take the No. 1 spot. It is extremely frustrating and intimidating to have another driver riding your back bumper. You may have to change lanes to avoid this situation. If you are on a single- lane, two-way road, it is a good idea to slow slightly when a safe passing opportunity for the offending tailgater presents itself.

If there is no safe place to pull over, it is acceptable to use your four-way flashers to remind the driver behind that more space is needed. No driver likes to look at flashing lights for very long and a pass soon follows. Moving to the shoulder may be a good idea, since most tailgaters are impatient and poor judges of time and distance needed for a safe highway pass.

• Merging: The No. 2 pet peeve is reserved for drivers who stop or slow unnecessarily when merging with highway traffic. This is the cause of many rear end collisions, as the following driver smashes into the stopped vehicle while glancing back over the left shoulder to merge.

The only solution seems to be better and more frequent enforcement. Maybe the police should put the radar guns down for a few days and give the above indiscretion their attention.

• Thinking inside the box: No. 3 comes from the same source as No. 2, namely the three police personnel at a local coffee shop. It concerns those — many — who will not pull into the middle of the intersection to wait for oncoming traffic to clear while setting up for a left turn.

It is very important for at least one or two vehicles to get through such intersections each cycle. As many cars as will fit in the middle of the intersection should occupy it and clear on the red light of the signal change once oncoming traffic has stopped. .

It is also important to keep the wheels pointed straight forward when preparing for such a left turn, since a rear end collision with wheels turned will send you into oncoming cars.

• Signalling: The fourth frustration involves signals, which are improperly used, or not used at all. The lost art of signalling is the pet peeve of several readers, especially my friend the now-retired police staff-sergeant. Using the signals properly is not only the law, but also a matter of simple courtesy.

Early, late and non-cancelled signals seem to cause annoyance for all drivers. Many highway deaths can be attributed to a signalling error, whether not used or not cancelled.

There is utter chagrin amongst drivers who are behind the first car at a red light, only to have the light turn green and the driver in first position then signal an intention to turn left. On the highway, at high speed, it is best to check traffic behind and in the blind spots of a multi-lane road before signalling your intention to move left or right, so as not to surprise high-speed traffic. The opposite is true of heavy urban traffic. Signal first in this situation and most drivers will likely make space for you.

• Parking: The fifth pet peeve is directed at drivers who park improperly. Taking two spaces to park is impolite. Not yielding to a driver who is in the act of parallel parking is illegal. Parking in a handicapped, or otherwise designated spot, even for a short time is an offence.

• Riddle of the roundabout: Drivers who have no idea what to do at a traffic circle or roundabout are a source of great frustration. This type of traffic configuration is meant to prevent unnecessary stops and keep the traffic moving. It seems that the only people who have any idea of how to behave at a traffic circle are from Alberta, Great Britain, Europe, Australia or Japan. Vehicles that stop prior to entering the roundabout defeat the purpose of this very valuable engineering solution to gridlock. The vehicle in the circle always has priority and all other traffic should merge into the gaps between vehicles in the roundabout. All too often, the overly polite Canadian driver will yield or even stop in the roundabout to accommodate entering traffic.

• Amber gamblers: Drivers who run amber and red lights are potentially the greatest threat to life and limb on our roads. The types of crashes that result from this high-risk activity are often referred to as T-bone fatalities.

Always look both ways before proceeding on a green light. The longer the amber light at the intersection, the greater the temptation for irresponsible drivers to increase speed in order to get through the intersection. The simple fact that 55 per cent of vehicular fatalities happen at intersections should be enough reason for increased enforcement.

• Quick, quick, slow: Speeders who pass on the highway only to slow down for the next exit frustrate even the most even-tempered driver. Drivers who cannot keep a constant speed on the freeway and refuse to use cruise control cause unnecessary stress for us all. Driving slowly in a lane reserved for faster traffic is impolite and illegal where signs direct slower traffic to keep right.

• Who’s on first? Many drivers with no idea who has right of way cause confusion and congestion at intersections. This includes the simple first-come-first-go rule at a four-way stop. Other drivers will not move to the left lane of a freeway to accommodate vehicles entering the freeway. The merge sign makes it mandatory for drivers on the freeway to assist entering traffic by slowing, speeding up or changing lanes.

• Excuse me while I … Driving when distracted takes many forms. Talking on a hand-held cellphone while trying to negotiate a maze of streets, pedestrians, cyclists and other distracted drivers is ridiculous and recent legislation should go a long way to discourage these hazardous drivers. Texting is even more dangerous.

Eating and drinking while operating a motor vehicle is not against the law but it is a major irritant mentioned in the correspondence which I receive from readers of this column.

Boom box bullies cannot possibly hear hazards and react to audible warnings in traffic. Not only are they unsafe, they’re very rude.

Having a small pet on a driver’s shoulder is a nutty way to drive. Small dogs do nothing to enhance the driving experience. They also block out the space needed for a proper shoulder check. Pets should always be transported in a safe, approved container. A frightened cat hiding under the brake pedal is a worrisome situation, particularly at high speed.

Reading a map or a book while driving borders on insanity, but is all too common on our roads.

Loud vehicles of any type are an unnecessary distraction.

Cyclists without helmets also made our list of pet peeves. In fact, there were so many complaints about the relationship between cyclists and motorists, that a whole column will be dedicated to the topic soon.

Steve Wallace is a longtime teacher and owner of the Wallace Driving School in Victoria.

Photograph by: Mike Carroccetto, Times Colonist