Oooh, here we go …
Look, I think Canberra’s reputation for bad driving is undeserved (although there seems to be no shortage of people on my daily commute who are desperate to prove me wrong).
Sadly, the facts don’t back me up either. While we have one of the lowest road tolls in Australia – due in no small part to our smaller population – we have above average numbers of speeding and drink driving offences as well as more admissions to hospital for motor vehicle accidents.
And there’s even anecdotal evidence we pay higher insurance premiums as a result. Yikes.
So while I’d love to wax lyrical about all the ways in which Canberrans are skilled, courteous and safe drivers (and I’m sure many of us are) … isn’t it much more fun to talk about our bad driving habits?
It just wouldn’t be an article about bad driving habits in Canberra without mention of the right-lane squatter. When drivers are asked about annoying behaviour on the road, this one usually tops the list.
I theorise there are three sub-types of right-lane squatters.
The first is the blissfully ignorant drive, happily tootling along in that spacious right lane, oblivious to the fact that what they’re doing is inconsiderate (and, in many places, illegal).
The second is the arrogant, selfish driver who genuinely feels they – and usually, they alone – have both the right and the sheer driving skill to take ownership of the fast lane, above and beyond all others.
And the third is the vigilante, who is well aware they’re holding up other traffic, but sees it as their responsibility – nay, their duty – to hold all other drivers back to a reasonable speed, and thus, save them from themselves.
If you’re not turning, avoiding a hazard or overtaking – head back on over there to the left lane, sunshine.
Well intentioned, this practice is usually based on the (somewhat correct) notion that you use less fuel taking off from a slow speed, than you do starting from a complete stop.
In reality, the savings come from driving smoothly most of the time – keeping the revs low and avoiding major acceleration. So if you’re speeding and braking hard, dodging through traffic and careering around corners before coming to a sudden crawl – you’re doing it wrong.
Never mind that stopping prematurely at an intersection can block other vehicles from entering the turn lanes.
When I see someone creeping slowly towards the red light, I just want to walk up to their window, hand them a $2 coin and say, ‘There! There’s your fuel saving! Now just STOP!’
I don’t want to just target individuals here, so the blame for this bad habit is equally shared between the three parties involved.
First, the person merging onto the highway. Terrified of the fast-moving traffic, they drop down to a crawl – heck, maybe they even come to a complete stop. Great! Now all you have to do is sit there at the end of the lane, traffic banking up behind you while you wait for someone on the 80-100kmph highway to stop and let you in.
Equally at fault, however, is the person on the motorway who refuses to adjust their position or speed to allow for merging traffic. Gripping their steering wheel tightly, they bed down in that left lane, determined that no one – NO ONE – is going to enter that lane ahead of them. Not today. Not on their watch.
And finally, there’s a special place in purgatory for the oblivious person cruising along in the right lane (when they shouldn’t be there in the first place), and therefore, stopping anyone else from giving way to merging traffic. You, sir, are an imbecile.
Squaring off at roundabouts
Honestly, how do so many locals keep getting roundabouts wrong?
For starters, the name is pretty self-explanatory. And we have so many of them around here, it’s not like you don’t get a chance to practise.
Two simple rules. Give way to your right. Give way to traffic already on the roundabout.
And by the way, if you can’t safely negotiate a standard roundabout, you should stay right away from the swirling vortex that is the Barton Highway/Gundaroo Drive intersection.
That thing will eat you alive.
I’m quite a believer in good old fashioned manners. Say please and thank you, hold the door, allow others to be served first. When you’re at dinner, at work, or meeting with friends, these simple social graces help make everyone feel comfortable and valued.
You know where these good manners have no place at all? At a four-way intersection. No matter how generous you’re feeling, if you’re on my right, I’m legally obliged to give way to you. And I will.
But what’s that? I got there marginally earlier, so you think I should go first? Or you‘re busy, or distracted, and think I should just go on ahead through the intersection. Wait, are you waving me through … or not? I’ll go, no, wait, you go, no, I’ll go …
While your commitment to niceness is admirable, it really is much easier and safer if we all just follow the rules.
And here’s the kicker: if you take their wave-through and an accident results, guess who’s still at fault? Try proving a ‘wave’ in court …
Speaking of accidents, this has to be one of the more dangerous habits. We’ve all seen them – those folks pelting down the parkway, swapping at any given time between full acceleration and sudden braking.
Picture Lawrence Fishburne playing Morpheus in The Matrix when I say, ‘What if I told you … there’s more to driving than full speed and complete stop?’
You’re wasting fuel, causing unnecessary wear-and-tear on your car, and probably sending your own blood pressure through the roof.
Ease up – use your gears and moderate
Now, that being said, there is one instance when I think brake tapping is acceptable …
Hating on tail-gating
Yes, even I will admit to a gentle tap on the brake lights, to let the tail-gating driver behind me know that I don’t particularly want to see the pores on their nose in my rear view mirror, thanks all the same.
Could tail-gating be the worst driving offence of all? It certainly ticks many of the boxes: annoying, dangerous, arrogant …
It also shows a great lack of respect for your car, as sitting so close behind the car in front means you’re much more like to be hit with all the road debris they’re kicking up …
Over to you – are you guilty of any of these offences? What bad driving habits annoy you the most? And what do you think are the most common in the ACT?