24 May 2023

There are two types of Canberra driver - the bad, and the clueless. Change my mind

| Zoya Patel
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man honking horn

Is the indicator or the horn the most used accessory in your car? Photo: File.

In what must be a sign of ageing, I am rarely on the roads these days without at least one moment of rage.

Luckily for other drivers, my rage stays mostly internal – at most, I might mutter a few choice words under my breath. But I am starting to wonder if our driving standards are slipping or if we all need some reeducation on the road rules. It’s chaos out there.

Every drive, I’m either being tailgated, cut in front of, dealing with drivers who don’t indicate, or watching someone yahoo between lanes speeding, putting the rest of us in danger. It gets exponentially worse when I’ve got the horse float hitched – people see a trailer of any kind and lose their minds, as though being behind one will add hours onto their drive time. Cue the dangerous over-and-undertaking, with no regard for the fact that towing vehicles can’t brake suddenly to accommodate their stupidity.

(Also, for those who may find themselves behind a horse float in the future, I speak for all equestrians when I say that we will 100 per cent put the safety of our animals above your schedule, so tailgate all you like, we not only won’t speed up, we probably can’t even see you in our mirrors).

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I’m not claiming that I’m an excellent driver.

In fact, I know I’m not a ‘good’ driver – I never attempt a reverse parallel park because I know it’ll take me 100 manoeuvres, and I will not be volunteering to teach my future kids how to drive.

But I’m a safe driver. I follow road rules and do my best to get from point A to point B without endangering any lives. Lately, I feel like the roads are filled with people overestimating their driving prowess and underestimating just how dangerous driving is and how slim a margin of error we have between safety and disaster.

In fact, for all the vitriol people like to spout about P-platers and younger drivers, I have to say that I rarely see a P-plater driving dangerously. But hit the Majura Parkway at any hour of the day (I drive that road four times a day, so take my word for it), and you’ll probably get tailgated by a truck, have people merge without shoulder checking, and watch everyone speed their way past the 80 sign onto Horse Park Drive, only to slam on the brakes at the traffic lights. It’s a miracle that I only drive past a wreck every second or third day.

Maybe when we renew our licences, we should have to do another driving test – a refresher on road rules. Or perhaps we should all be forced to listen to a report on just how many fatalities and avoidable costly accidents our roads see every year as a reminder not to take our responsibilities as drivers lightly.

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I expect that the horse would really be quite happy stay in its own paddock.

Summary of whinge:
I have a horse.
I drive through Canberra towing a horse float.
I drive very slowly because I’m not confident towing and can’t reverse when towing.
I hold up traffic.
I cause frustration and annoyance to other drivers.
But I don’t care because I have a horse.
Other drivers have to be reeducated to be more considerate of my holding up traffic and inability to tow.
I’m right. They’re wrong.
As always.

The headline of this article refers to types of drivers in Canberra – the bad and the clueless. Yet in the article you describe yourself as a safe driver.

That’s a third type.

So is it two or three? Or maybe you need to stop making generalisations in your articles to gain some credibility.

Capital Retro5:38 pm 29 Nov 23

Why do you haul a horse float in a car-centric city like Canberra?

“It gets exponentially worse when I’ve got the horse float hitched – people see a trailer of any kind and lose their minds, as though being behind one will add hours onto their drive time. Cue the dangerous over-and-undertaking, with no regard for the fact that towing vehicles can’t brake suddenly to accommodate their stupidity.”

Do you apply the good driving tips for being a slow driver when towing the horse float?

Such as slowing down on overtaking lanes to let as many people as possible past you or pulling over at the first safe spot to let them past when you have two or three vehicles stuck behind you or when you have one stuck behind you for more than a couple of minutes?

If not then the answer to why people overtake dangerously is right there.

I have towed horse floats and car trailers along the Barton highway many times. Quite often only doing 80 or 90 but I have never held anyone up on that road. Because I know how to drive slowly when heavily laden.

Reading it again “(Also, for those who may find themselves behind a horse float in the future, I speak for all equestrians when I say that we will 100 per cent put the safety of our animals above your schedule, so tailgate all you like, we not only won’t speed up, we probably can’t even see you in our mirrors).”

The answer to my first question seems to be a no.

As a former equestrian you do not speak for me because as I have explained above you can drive slowly without holding anyone up for so long that they overtake dangerously once their blood has started to boil. That is a risk to your self, your horses and everyone else in the area.

You just have to apply common sense and not “Im driving at this slow speed (while doing nothing to help you get past me) and I don’t care that you are stuck behind me”

it wasn’t so long ago that you were moaning about cyclists and their dogged determination to ride on the road. Let me remind you. https://the-riotact.com/will-canberra-drivers-and-cyclists-ever-call-a-truce/602433 Understand a cyclist claiming the lane is also about their safety.

But now we hear you put your horse above everyone else’s schedule. Let’s hope you also drive considerably and respect other people’s rights – including vulnerable cyclists before you simply run over them on the road. Talk about a double standard….

you sound like a self centred driverr to be honest.

Whatever happened to the Defensive Driving campaign of yesteryear? Or does metal and airbags mean people won’t get hurt or be at fault. Checkout the defensive Driving NFSA site on You Tube.

Drivers across Australia need to lift their game; however, this will only occur if they are held to account by:
– not just seeing driving as a means to get from A to B rather actively engaging in the drive and being conscious of what they are doing – helping people merge, and moving over when a faster car is approaching
– more active and visible policing on the roads – a fine in the mail a few weeks later does nothing
– by not relying on their car’s safety and driver aid systems so much – car manufacturers need to be held to account that all the beeps and buzzes associated with these have made the drivers very lazy and ignorant
– every single driver doing an advanced driving course to understand the dynamics of their vehicles better. the number of people who have no clue that gears can also slow a car (even in an auto) and they hold onto the brake too long, is staggering
– penalties for driving offences being more draconian – anyone who is caught running a red light should immediately have their licence suspended and cancelled for 12 months. same for drink/drug driving. there should be no tolerance for such selfish behaviour

Yeah, just a few hundred million for you plan. Government approval – zero

Nothing in your post is outrageous though most of it is not necessarily feasible.

Points 1 (“not just seeing driving as a means to get from A to B rather actively engaging in the drive”) and 3 (“by not relying on their car’s safety and driver aid systems”) are common sense … though as has oft been stated by posters on here, unfortunately it doesn’t appear to be common.

Point 2 (“more active and visible policing on the roads”) seems to be reasonable, except for cost. Not withstanding the fact that a proportion of citizens don’t like how the ACT is spending public money, to put more police on the road will be costly. Are we citizens prepared to wear that extea cost?

Point 4 (“every single driver doing an advanced driving course”) is a sure fire solution to improve the general standard of driving, however who pays? If it’s the govt, then see previous comment about wearing the cost. If it’s the drivers – definitely not going to happen, especially given current cost of living pressures.

Point 5 (“penalties for driving offences being more draconian”) is just more of the same in a way. Fines often don’t get paid and when licence cancellations are applied, we constantly see reports of unlicenced drivers being pulled over and fined and/or licence suspended for longer only to see the same recidivist occurrences.

Nevertheless, I applaud your analysis of the issues and proposal of potential solutions.

HiddenDragon8:36 pm 25 May 23

Sadly apt – a piece about the Mad Maxification of Canberra’s roads on the day that we remember the electrifying talent who brought Aunty Entity to life – but the more apt pop culture reference might be this timelessly insightful tale of human nature, which is so relevant to a town drowning in PC conformity and repression –


Capital Retro7:53 am 30 Nov 23

That says it all and that was 70 years ago. I remember first seeing this at a Saturday afternoon matinee at the Burlington Theatre in Bathurst. There were very few cars in Australia then.

These days, the newspaper reading pedestrian has been replaced by people looking at their devices and the victim-seeking billycart driver has been replaced by the e-scooter rider.

That couldn’t have been set in Canberra though because Goofy actually stopped at a stop sign which never happens in Canberra.

There is a lot of agressive driving going on. But there is also a huge lack of common courtesy among drivers, and especially unaware, unattentive drivers.
This includes drivers that drive way below the speed limit, dont go on green, go full stop for round abouts for no reason, don’t know how to merge and fully stop in the middle of the road. And then those that stop a car length away from the lone at intersections not triggeribg the sensors.
Rant over, but better driving education is needed. Both for young drivers, refreshers every decade or 2 and for newcomers to the country.
I understand that when towing you might want or need to go slower, but help traffic out and don’t camp in the right lane, don’t speed up in overtaking lanes and let people doing the speed limit pass.

Roger Shelton7:18 pm 25 May 23

The ACT Government is not blameless either. Traffic detectors at many traffic lights are placed at the stop line, thus approaching traffic is not recognised. This only encourages bad habits. Likewise there are road markings in side streets at both Phillip and Belconnen which, if obeyed, would result in drivers caught in endless loops. Reduces respect for road markings. No doubt there are other examples.

I have been riding motorcycles for 52 years and I have to agree, driving standards have plummeted. Every time I am out on my bike (not sometimes, EVERY time) at least one impatient/mindless/inattentive driver tries to kill me … or at the very least seriously injure me. Four way intersections are a dangerous place to navigate. Drivers don’t want to get caught by a red light and have to sit through four traffic light rotations before they can move off. If I get t-boned by a red light runner the best I can hope for is either a left or right leg amputation. The number of red light runners just beggars belief. Whenever I get cut off by someone I get a limp wave and a “sorry mate I didn’t see you”. I never used to belief in having a sixth sense but that’s what I have developed as a defensive rider trying to stay alive. All my senses are in hyper-drive and I can now detect tell-tale signs that a driver is going to do something detrimental to my safety. It’s a madhouse out there!

ibeeneverywhere1:39 am 26 May 23

“Plummeted” implies that driving standards were once better. I don’t think so. 52 years ago you got a driver’s licence by asking nicely at the police station and that was enough to qualify you for life! 52 years ago cars were slower and the roads less populated. 52 years ago there wasn’t online media powering a constant sook-fest about being slighted whilst driving.

No, I think driving standards were just as low but you could get away with it, and what we’re experiencing now is the legacy (or generational trauma, even) of low standards.

You make a good point about the volume of traffic contributing to the problem. It certainly has but believe it or not, and as much as we may complain about Canberra’s roads, infrastructure to support that increased traffic has also improved over the past 52 years. What has emerged as a phenomenon is the constant state of anger and impatience of drivers and their willingness to go into rage mode in a nano-second. I have no basis upon which to make a judgement about the technical ability of drivers from the days of yore but there was certainly a courteousness that has disappearewd from contemporary driving skill sets.

Michael Collins3:54 pm 25 May 23

As we have the safest roads in Australia, surely we have the best drivers, right? I doubt it’s that simple. However, if you ask anyone which city has the worst drivers, they’ll say whatever city they live in. None of the bad driving in this article is more common in Canberra than anywhere else.

Art-is -lazy2:09 pm 25 May 23

These two incidents capture a portion of the key issue for me. A driving instructor pulled up on top of a busy pedestrian crossing in ANU, screaming at his studen, both were Asian and the screaming was in an Asian language. Obstructing the view of pedestrians for following traffic, the car infront of me, speeding to the wush wish sound of modified hatchback almost collecting a group of pedestrians using the crossing. On the way home that night, a bmw wearing diplomatic plates, speeding and lane swapping through peak hr traffic without indicating 7 times. Cutting off traffic as they raced towards a red light, then frustrated by having to stop in traffic, exciting an illegal turn into a left turning lane, without indicating, and cutting off traffic there. OMG

Driving is a privilege, not a right, and that privilege should be taken away from a lot of drivers.

Friends, New South Welshies, Victorians, send me your drivers. We care not if they are capable, in fact we prefer not. We will take your overconfident, distracted, road-rule enfeebled blinkerless and entitled people’s, so they can make dangerous haste upon our roadways to the meetings of their overinflated self-importance with others who are likewise afflicted. And Yeay, verily, upon their arrival at their appointed place, they can proclaim loudly to those who may listen, about their threatened survival upon said roadway, as they were laid seige to by morons, idiots and laggards who sought only their delay. ” Out of my way”, they cry “for I am an important person and my thoroughfare should not be challenged!”. So readeth the letter of the Territory to it’s nearby States.

John Schwazer11:25 am 25 May 23

One thing I’d say about Canberra drivers is that I think they’d rather die than sit on (even just a little bit) less than 80kmph in the average speed camera zones.

And while I’m here, please allow me this: Whether you’re from or in Canberra or not, when you’re walking in public, practice road rules, starting with keeping to the left.

I agree people should walk on the left. Maybe there should be a public education campaign?

I say half the road design. For example, many years ago, I worked at Harman. Trying to get in there from Canberra Avenue (coming from Quangers) was near impossible when the slip lane from Beard was full of cars. You had to accelerate, or back off to try and merge to immediately stand on the brakes to turn left, both presenting problems to me and other drivers. In the end, I just took the back road to end up on that slip lane to turn left.
Don’t get me started on the Lanyon Drive turn onto the Monaro Highway were you have to keep on eye on the traffic coming up on your left and the tentative P Plater in front of you slamming on the brakes because they don’t have the stones to merge

“they don’t have the stones to merge” – I’d make that “they don’t have the common sense to merge”, Fp
Merging is pretty simple. You approach a road from a ‘slip lane’ and get up to the main road speed and because other vehicles on the main road are doing the speed limit ……. hmmm – it sounded logical when I started typing it

Yes, you are right

daveinhackett8:27 am 25 May 23

A lot of impatient drivers . . . will tailgate anyone sitting on the speed limit and can’t wait to overtake and rush on to the next traffic lights – where you catch up anyway, tortoise and hare style.

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