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What are Canberra’s most annoying driving habits?

By Jane Speechley - 18 March 2017 46

Photo of driver honking in traffic

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?

Right-lane squatting

Canberra Traffic

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.

Light creepers

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!’

Merge: FAIL

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.

Dangerously polite

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 …

Brake tappers

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?

What’s Your opinion?


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46 Responses to
What are Canberra’s most annoying driving habits?
1
Roksteddy 12:13 pm
18 Mar 17
#

I’ve lived in a number of cities around Australia and if there is a constant, it’s that the residents of any particular city will claim those residents to be the worst in Australia (barring themselves of course).

One thing you got wrong. It’s give way to vehicles already on the roundabout, not give way to the right (although in many cases it will equate to this).

You left out:
Phone users. As a motorcycle rider, it is a rare commute when a driver with a phone in their hand doesn’t move across on me. What gets me is when I hit the horn, they just keep coming.

Battery savers. Breaking news: using your headlights won’t kill your battery. The number of drivers that won’t turn on their headlights until it is pitch dark is astounding. When it is twilight or in gloomy conditions turning on your headlights won’t help you see the road any better. But in those low-contrast situations, it does help you be seen. And if you’re looking through a wet motorcycle helmet visor a grey/silver/black car is almost invisible. TURN ON YOUR LIGHTS!
Tip: many modern cars have automatic lights-off. Just leave your lights on all the time! That’s what I do.

2
bryansworld 1:54 pm
18 Mar 17
#

There is no rule about giving my way to the right on roundabouts. The only rule is to give way to traffic already on the roundabout. People entering roundabouts at high speed expecting others to give way are a serious problem. They should be giving way to traffic that reached the roundabout first.

3
bd84 4:32 pm
18 Mar 17
#

People who wrongly think they need to give way to the right at roundbouts need to give their licence back. Traffic banks up behind them while they sit waiting for the car approaching 50-100m away to pass, or to turn left. You only give way to cars in the roundabout. Yes this does sometimes mean you will give way to the cars coming from the right as they can enter first.

People who do not understand you must give way to all lanes of traffic not just the one you’re turning into. Heaps of pictures in the licence handbook goes out the window when people drive.

The people who don’t use merging lanes to get up to speed of the road they’re entering to safely and cleanly merge.

The people who merge onto a road and don’t understand that you give way to the car on the road you’re entering. The car on the road you’re entering should not need to brake or change lanes to avoid you. Enter behind the car you are approaching on the ramp not ahead.

The people turning up ahead so feel the need to travel at 20kph lower than the speed limit for the next 2km. The slip lane is there for you to brake just prior or as you enter the turning lane and put your car entirely into the lane, not partly.

Form one lane. The car in front has right of way, does not mean of the traffic is slow you speed up to zoom past 3 carsand get in front with 0.001 to spare, making the other 3 cars jump on the brakes.

The 2 second gap you see between the cars in the next lane is not the space for you to just indicate and immediately change lanes into. Get in the lane you need to be in early. You’re just a dick if you try to bypass the line of traffic waiting to turn by cutting in.

I could keep going for hours..

4
bd84 4:37 pm
18 Mar 17
#

One more, stop signs mean STOP. Every car must come to a complete stop at the line before proceeding. You don’t roll through the sign of you think nothing is coming. Also, if the car in front stops, you still need to stop at the line too. You don’t get credit for stopping behind them.

5
Madam Cholet 5:50 pm
18 Mar 17
#

Agree with the roundabout comments – it’s not ‘give way to the right’, but ‘give way to traffic already on the roundabout’, which yes, adds up to same in effect, but is the correct road rule as written. And let’s face it, everyone familiar with their local roundabouts knows which ones they need to stop at because dick heads from the other directions just keep going – the one I’m thinking of is at the bottom of Outtrim and Johnson drive, where those coming down Johnson Drive always just keep going at 80.

The other thing I take a bit of an issue with is the merge lane comment. I agree that it’s very tedious and dangerous being behind someone doing 60 when trying to merge into traffic already at 80 or more, but I believe the actual rule is also that if you reach the end of the merge and you haven’t gotten in due to the traffic being heavy or your own dull wittedness, then you do actually have to stop. The other traffic already in the lane you are trying to merge with has no formal obligation to let you in – although we all do understand it’s courteous and the right thing to do to maybe slow a little or pull over to let merging traffic in.

And right lane squatters are only breaking the law if the speed limit is 80 or over. I once had a lady on a 60kph road tell me to ‘get out of the fast lane’. This was driving past Canberra hospital, where apparently she wanted to motor off at her own chosen speed. I was doing the speed limit and watching the traffic. She was trying to speed and not watching the traffic and as a consequence actually fell behind while I, at the speed limit continued on quite nicely.

The problem I have with tailgaters is that they don’t realise how dangerous they are, especially those ones who look to overtake on the left as soon as a spot opens up – which is exactly what the ‘tailgaitee’ wants to do rather than be intimidated by some eejit. I’d rather they went further up the road to cut their life short than stayed anywhere near me.

6
bigred 7:25 pm
18 Mar 17
#

Very clever to write an article on annoying driving habits. I would like to contribute a few that the author missed such as driving with stereo headphones covering any chance of hearing any external noise such as emergency vehicle sirens, extremely loud doof doof music being played and chronic nose picking. I would also add driving a Toyota Kluger – I have never seen one driven well.
Now if the author’s intention was to write about dangerous driving my list would also include red light running, corner cutting, speeding in school and residential zones, late braking, mobile phone use, poor road positioning and very poor steering wheel control (does anyone remember quarter to three position?).
What we forget is that 3 people receive medical treatment each day as a result of car crashes (not accidents) and 10 people die each year. There has been no real change in this trend for quite a while.

7
JC 7:40 pm
18 Mar 17
#

Madam Cholet said :

Agree with the roundabout comments – it’s not ‘give way to the right’, but ‘give way to traffic already on the roundabout’, which yes, adds up to same in effect, but is the correct road rule as written. And let’s face it, everyone familiar with their local roundabouts knows which ones they need to stop at because dick heads from the other directions just keep going – the one I’m thinking of is at the bottom of Outtrim and Johnson drive, where those coming down Johnson Drive always just keep going at 80.

The other thing I take a bit of an issue with is the merge lane comment. I agree that it’s very tedious and dangerous being behind someone doing 60 when trying to merge into traffic already at 80 or more, but I believe the actual rule is also that if you reach the end of the merge and you haven’t gotten in due to the traffic being heavy or your own dull wittedness, then you do actually have to stop. The other traffic already in the lane you are trying to merge with has no formal obligation to let you in – although we all do understand it’s courteous and the right thing to do to maybe slow a little or pull over to let merging traffic in.

And right lane squatters are only breaking the law if the speed limit is 80 or over. I once had a lady on a 60kph road tell me to ‘get out of the fast lane’. This was driving past Canberra hospital, where apparently she wanted to motor off at her own chosen speed. I was doing the speed limit and watching the traffic. She was trying to speed and not watching the traffic and as a consequence actually fell behind while I, at the speed limit continued on quite nicely.

The problem I have with tailgaters is that they don’t realise how dangerous they are, especially those ones who look to overtake on the left as soon as a spot opens up – which is exactly what the ‘tailgaitee’ wants to do rather than be intimidated by some eejit. I’d rather they went further up the road to cut their life short than stayed anywhere near me.

Actually the keep left law is over 80km/h not 80 and over. Though in QLD it is 90 and over which interestingly gives the same effect as the other states just maybe written a little more logically.

And give way to right at roundabouts does not give the same effect as give way to all already on it. Not by a long shot.

As for my personal pet hate it is use of fog lights when it isn’t foggy or reduced visibility. Fog lights especially on higher veichles can have the same blinding effect on other drivers as using high beam. Yet night in and out every 2nd car these days seems to have them on. And no not confusing them with running lights that most new cars have these days.

8
Southerly_views 7:43 am
19 Mar 17
#

An extension of right lane squatting, especially on dual lane major roads or highways.

Your car is travelling at 100kph (with/without cruise control) and you are overtaken by a driver using cruise control set at 101 kph. After closing to within a few meters they take 5 minutes to move out into the right lane , spend 5 minutes alongside while often wandering within their lane, and then another 5 minutes moving back into the left lane when only only 10 meters in front. They then slowly move away over another 5 minutes.

This type of close proximity driving over extended periods is incredibly dangerous when the passing driver could just use a little accelerator to move past, draw well clear and when far enough in front, change lanes to settle back to cruise mode. In addition, I often see drivers pass me or other cars like this and then for some unknown reason slow down once in front.

I usually end up braking to let them pass safely and to increase the front or side buffer zones to something more than a couple of meters.

9
Southerly_views 8:03 am
19 Mar 17
#

While I am thinking about the quirks of ACT drivers – the ones who enter a left turn slip lane at an intersection and drive to end of the merge line only then to stop and look. They should stop or slow just after the turn, use their mirrors to gauge traffic coming up from behind and then use the remainder of the slip lane to accelerate up to merge speed.

How many times have you and other drivers behind you had to stop and wait for a stationary car at the end of the slip lane to make their move from a standing start?

10
Paul2913 10:09 am
19 Mar 17
#

Fortunately the majority of Canberrans are ignoring the road rules and using their common sense to give way to traffic entering a roundabout from the right.

Imagine if I was sitting stationary at a road entering a roundabout and I decided to move onto the roundabout even though I knew a car, travelling at ~50km/h, was about to enter the roundabout to my right a second after me. There is no way I could accelerate quickly enough to move out of the other vehicle’s way, I’d end up pulling out in front of that vehicle cutting it off and creating a hazardous situation.

The road rules aren’t perfect and unfortunately the “give way to traffic entering from the right of a roundabout” rule has been removed from the road rules – this is a serious safety concern. For those people who think they don’t need to give way to traffic entering from the right, please apply some common sense to the situation.

11
bryansworld 12:19 pm
19 Mar 17
#

Paul2913 said :

Fortunately the majority of Canberrans are ignoring the road rules and using their common sense to give way to traffic entering a roundabout from the right.

Imagine if I was sitting stationary at a road entering a roundabout and I decided to move onto the roundabout even though I knew a car, travelling at ~50km/h, was about to enter the roundabout to my right a second after me. There is no way I could accelerate quickly enough to move out of the other vehicle’s way, I’d end up pulling out in front of that vehicle cutting it off and creating a hazardous situation.

The road rules aren’t perfect and unfortunately the “give way to traffic entering from the right of a roundabout” rule has been removed from the road rules – this is a serious safety concern. For those people who think they don’t need to give way to traffic entering from the right, please apply some common sense to the situation.

Wouldn’t a better solution be for cars to slow down as they approach roundabouts? Then we wouldn’t have these clowns speeding in from the right.

12
bryansworld 12:22 pm
19 Mar 17
#

Paul2913 said :

Fortunately the majority of Canberrans are ignoring the road rules and using their common sense to give way to traffic entering a roundabout from the right.

Imagine if I was sitting stationary at a road entering a roundabout and I decided to move onto the roundabout even though I knew a car, travelling at ~50km/h, was about to enter the roundabout to my right a second after me. There is no way I could accelerate quickly enough to move out of the other vehicle’s way, I’d end up pulling out in front of that vehicle cutting it off and creating a hazardous situation.

The road rules aren’t perfect and unfortunately the “give way to traffic entering from the right of a roundabout” rule has been removed from the road rules – this is a serious safety concern. For those people who think they don’t need to give way to traffic entering from the right, please apply some common sense to the situation.

And isn’t the person entering the roundabout at 50km/h and expecting people to give way the one who is short of common sense? There’s your person creating the hazard, not the ones who have stopped at the roundabout and are waiting to enter.

13
Narcobear 2:51 pm
19 Mar 17
#

You might find the ‘creepers at the lights’ includes manual car drivers who can’t be bothered stopping, and shifting up through first. cos its convenient to roll on in, and perfectly legal.

consideration for other road users (of all sorts) is kinda lacking around here.

14
JC 9:33 pm
19 Mar 17
#

Paul2913 said :

Fortunately the majority of Canberrans are ignoring the road rules and using their common sense to give way to traffic entering a roundabout from the right.

Imagine if I was sitting stationary at a road entering a roundabout and I decided to move onto the roundabout even though I knew a car, travelling at ~50km/h, was about to enter the roundabout to my right a second after me. There is no way I could accelerate quickly enough to move out of the other vehicle’s way, I’d end up pulling out in front of that vehicle cutting it off and creating a hazardous situation.

The road rules aren’t perfect and unfortunately the “give way to traffic entering from the right of a roundabout” rule has been removed from the road rules – this is a serious safety concern. For those people who think they don’t need to give way to traffic entering from the right, please apply some common sense to the situation.

Must admit I do give way to my right at roundabouts only because I know hardly anyone knows the real rules and I put self my own self preservation first. I do also abide by the rules to give way to those inside the roundabout too which may include vehicles on my left who may have entered before me.

And I think you will find give way to the right never existed in roundabout rules, just like it doesn’t and hasn’t existed in standard intersection giveway rules either. It is just one of those things many just wrongly assume, so has become the norm rather than the actual rule.

15
Paul2913 9:53 pm
19 Mar 17
#

bryansworld said :

Wouldn’t a better solution be for cars to slow down as they approach roundabouts? Then we wouldn’t have these clowns speeding in from the right.

Cars approaching a roundabout at 50Km/h is perfectly normal especially on 80Km/h roads. The cars will normally slow down as they travel around the roundabout, the degree to which they need to slow down is dependent upon the size of the roundabout.

Drivers need to be able to judge the speed of the oncoming traffic to determine whether they have enough time to safely cross in front of it. Assuming a car will slow to a certain speed as they go around the roundabout is foolhardy.

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