10 Things that Make You Look Like a Massive Idiot while Driving
Do you ever wonder why everyone looks at you with astonished faces when you're driving? Well, here is a start. If you do any of these things when you drive, you are raising the blood pressure of everyone around you with your embarrassing driving. Whether you are just clueless or a bit self righteous, make sure you pay close attention. You may even learn something here.
I'm looking at you, National Capital Region.
1. Driving with your hazards on in "inclement weather"
Whether it's lightly snowing or raining, you don't need to put your hazards on, especially if you are going the speed everyone else is going. That's not what they are for, so don't use them unless you have an actual problem. Everyone can see you, and if you're smart, you've turned your lights on (it's the law in VA, at least). That's enough for people to know you're there.
The other day I was driving on a two lane neighborhood road behind a newish Honda minivan that was doing between 15-20 mph in a 25 mph zone at 11:00 PM. That's aggravating already, but what left me dumbfounded was when she approached a set a speed humps and put her hazards on until she cleared them. It was baffling.
This is also, y'know, illegal in most states and you can actually be pulled over for "improper use of hazards"
Also, note. Please see that I wrote "Inclement weather" not inclement weather. I'm talking about things like light rain and light snow. Weather that isn't close to being hazardous but people freak out over.
2. Leaving more than a car length of space in between cars at a traffic light
Don't do this. You are keeping cars behind you from accessing turn lanes (which often go green before the primary lanes, making them sit through two sets of lights), and causing traffic to spill into intersections behind you because they expected another car's worth of room that you are denying them. This is most often caused by people texting or old people who aren't able to see over the wheel. Every time I see this, I want to just pull in right in front of them and fill the space.
3. Lazily pulling into turn lanes
When you are turning, you get into your turn lane as soon as it's available, and then you start slowing down. That is what it is for. You do not start slowing down in the main lane of traffic and then get over after you've gone a hundred yards after the dotted line starts. Once you decide to get over, get over. A lane change shouldn't take 5 seconds and if it does, you are being lazy and selfish.
As a corollary, if it looks like you're going to miss your turn, just go around the block and try again. Do not slam on your brakes, cross 3 lanes of traffic, and then block another lane when you can't immediately get into the turn lane. You are inconveniencing everyone else because you don't want to drive another block. Still don't understand it? I'll let Louis CK explain it better:
4. Stopping in the middle of the highway
So you get into a fender bender on the interstate. What do you do? Well, it's simple. Move over to the side of the road. Don't just stop in the middle of 4 lanes of traffic. There's a shoulder for a reason. Use it. If you blow a tire, ride it over to the shoulder. If you stop, you are causing problems for everyone else, and potentially causing more accidents. Of course, if something catastrophic happens, like breaking an axle, you can be forgiven for not moving your car.
5. Riding your Brakes
Just because a car 300 yards ahead of you tapped their brakes doesn't mean you need to as well. Lift off the gas and start coasting. Be prepared to stop, but don't immediately brake. When you do that, everyone will do the same and the effect is multiplied, even to the point of people stopping. Also, keep in mind that every time you hit the brakes, you are converting your money into heat.
People rubberneck EVERYTHING here in the National Capital Region, including the monuments they see every day. Is there a police officer on the side of the road giving someone a ticket? Better slow down to see if you know them, it could be Jimmy from down the block, and you'd feel bad if you didn't say hi! Is there an accident? Then make sure you indulge your morbid curiosity!
7. Hanging out in the left lane
If you are going less than the flow of traffic, you do not belong in the left lane. Period. Get over. It's the law. Even if you are driving a Hybrid. Even if you're going the speed limit.
Speed limits are arbitrary, subject not to safety or engineering, but rather politics. The speed of traffic is rarely the speed limit.
Furthermore, if someone flashes their brights at you, and you're in the left lane, just let them by. Don't get mad. Don't get offended. Who cares if you think your speed is respectable? If they want to risk a ticket, let them risk the ticket. That's on them, not you. Plus, the whole flashing of brights to signal an intention to pass is a real thing. Even race cars do it.
If you are driving a large truck and you are in a place that isn't totally flat, please don't use the left lane. Sure, the truck in front of you may be doing 64, and you know you could do 65, but the cars around you are all going 70. Plus, you're not going to complete that pass before the next uphill, and then you'll be stuck doing 51 next to another truck going 50.5 on a two lane highway for the next 10 miles. I've seen the highway come to a complete stop due to trucks trying to do this.
8. Not utilizing on-ramps to accelerate to highway speeds
By the time you get to the highway, you better be going as fast as the people on the highway, so you can merge into traffic immediately and safely. This means, you should be doing at least 55 on any interstate by the time you get to the end of the ramp. And for the love of all that is good, don't stop at the end of the ramp. That's so dangerous its crazy.
9. Waiting for a lane to completely end before merging
Roads go from three lanes to two lanes or two lanes to one lane all the time. The wrong way to handle this is to drive until the very end of the lane that's ending, and then try to merge at the last possible moment. This causes traffic jams. EDIT: This causes traffic jams because no one knows how to zipper merge, because people are jerks and hate letting people in. Here's a graphic provided by Nobody showing how to do it:
Instead, merge as soon as you are able. Sure, there that lane there that looks pretty open, but just merge when you can and you'll help everyone. You also won't look like a total tool!
10. Blocking the Box
You know who you are. You know what you're doing. Just don't do it. When in doubt, wait it out.
Unfortunately, most of you guys know this already. But I bet you know some people that do this. Share this. Disseminate freely. If these people knew what they were doing, maybe they would stop. But seriously. They probably have Facebook. Share it there.
What else makes people look like total idiots? What do you see people do that really grinds your gears when you are on the road?