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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?
16
Roksteddy 9:17 am
20 Mar 17
#

JC said :

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.

Wow. You REALLY need to read the ACT Road Rules Handbook!
“Give way to the right
When signals are flashing or are ‘out’ the give way to the right rule applies at
intersections, ie give way to all vehicles on your right.
For a T junction, traffic on the terminating street gives way to all traffic on the continuing street when signals are malfunctioning.
Give way to the right also applies at any uncontrolled intersection, or when exiting a slip lane while turning left.
Stop and Give Way signs also require drivers to give way to the right, and also give way to all other approaching traffic.”

“The law says you must give way to:
• a vehicle on your right at an uncontrolled intersection (diagram 9);”

“Giving way at an intersection (except a T-intersection or roundabout)
If the driver is going straight ahead, the driver must give way to any vehicle approaching from the right, unless a stop sign, stop line, give way sign or
give way line applies to the driver of the approaching vehicle.”

17
Rollersk8r 10:06 am
20 Mar 17
#

I reckon there’s no such thing as drivers in one place being any better or worse than drivers in another place. However, driver behaviour is a function of the roads and conditions you are used to. We generally have outstanding roads here, which means everyone speeds all the time – and everyone is impatient because we’re not used to waiting in traffic.

Having said that – my pet hates are people who use roundabouts as overtaking lanes and the Last Minute Dashers. The Last Minute Dasher will accelerate while all other merging cars are braking, in the hope they gain a place or two. The Last Minute Dasher has a “me first” approach to driving and will always strive to overtake as many cars as possible while pushing into queues at the last second.

18
G-Fresh 12:23 pm
20 Mar 17
#

Distaste for cyclists.

19
Maya123 12:28 pm
20 Mar 17
#

Paul2913 said :

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.

My dislike is cars that approach roundabouts at speed; not showing any indication that they are planning to stop, or even noticed you approaching. They slow the approaching traffic on the roundabout, as traffic on the roundabout slows, not knowing if the fast approaching car is going to stop and give way, or cause an accident, and they slow themselves because of their behaviour. Likely they are trying to zip quickly onto the roundabout, but their driving behaviour gets the opposite result than what they appear to want.

20
Spiral 1:31 pm
20 Mar 17
#

One annoying thing I see frequently is the Tuggeranong Parkway Centipede.

For some reason there will be a car in the left lane doing about 80 in the 100 zone.

A car that catches it, instead of overtaking, slows down and sits behind it. A second car does the same thing, then a third and so one.

Eventually the chain gets so long that people wanting to exit left aren’t game to overtake as they may not make it around in time, so they just join on to the end.

Soon there is a great chain of 30 or more cars all doing around 8o, and trundling up hill and down dale like a centipede on holidays.

And then to add even more fun, the lead car will see a fixed speed camera and instead of realising they are already 20kph below the speed limit, will panic and slow down even more.

21
Madam Cholet 1:35 pm
20 Mar 17
#

I once heard a top cop who used to participate in a local afternoon radio show say that the speed limit on roundabouts was the same as the approaching road – so if it’s 80 leading up to the roundabout, it can be 80 on the roundabout. Commonsense dictates you’d slow down, even if it’s just to have a proper look before carrying on.

22
JC 4:21 pm
20 Mar 17
#

Roksteddy said :

JC said :

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.

Wow. You REALLY need to read the ACT Road Rules Handbook!
“Give way to the right
When signals are flashing or are ‘out’ the give way to the right rule applies at
intersections, ie give way to all vehicles on your right.
For a T junction, traffic on the terminating street gives way to all traffic on the continuing street when signals are malfunctioning.
Give way to the right also applies at any uncontrolled intersection, or when exiting a slip lane while turning left.
Stop and Give Way signs also require drivers to give way to the right, and also give way to all other approaching traffic.”

“The law says you must give way to:
• a vehicle on your right at an uncontrolled intersection (diagram 9);”

“Giving way at an intersection (except a T-intersection or roundabout)
If the driver is going straight ahead, the driver must give way to any vehicle approaching from the right, unless a stop sign, stop line, give way sign or
give way line applies to the driver of the approaching vehicle.”

Wow you really need to read the actual road rules, not the handbook!

There is no give way to the right rule.

There are situations where one gives way to the right, that doesn’t however mean there is a give way to the right rule which was my point.

23
Roksteddy 7:17 pm
20 Mar 17
#

JC said :

Wow you really need to read the actual road rules, not the handbook!

There is no give way to the right rule.

This time from the actual rules:

“If the driver is going straight ahead, the driver must give way to any vehicle approaching from the right, unless a stop sign, stop line, give way sign or give way line applies to the driver of the approaching vehicle.”

There is more but it is similar to the handbook.

24
JC 8:21 pm
20 Mar 17
#

Roksteddy said :

JC said :

Wow you really need to read the actual road rules, not the handbook!

There is no give way to the right rule.

This time from the actual rules:

“If the driver is going straight ahead, the driver must give way to any vehicle approaching from the right, unless a stop sign, stop line, give way sign or give way line applies to the driver of the approaching vehicle.”

There is more but it is similar to the handbook.

Which would be a situation where one would give way to the vehicles approaching from the right. As I mentioned

That is different to there being a give way to the right rule which is what many believe.

I am splitting hairs, but there is a subtle difference.

25
wildturkeycanoe 9:03 pm
20 Mar 17
#

Today, as the rain started to pour, I had something happen that has never happened to me before. I was the fourth car at the lights, turning right. The lights went green and the first two cars took off. The one in front of me started moving at a crawl, which is understandable as it was wet and slippery. We both entered the intersection, going so slow I wondered if their car had some mechanical problem. By the time we got half way through the intersection the amber lit up. The driver was so slow, the light had turned red before we’d even got to the traffic island on the street we were entering. I have never seen a car move so slow. As I overtook it, peering through the window I spied the driver, who looked calm and not at all worried about the fact they were holding up traffic behind them.
Every time I go out on the roads, I am 99% certain to see at least one driver with a mobile phone to their ear and if I am going down the three lane section of Parkes Way, there will be cars in the far right hand lane with no vehicles anywhere near them. These are my biggest pet hates. I also have noticed a whole heap of P-platers who really needed another 12 months on their learners. Parking a small hatchback into a Westfield park does not require a three point turn.

26
Paul2913 11:31 pm
20 Mar 17
#

Maya123 said :

Paul2913 said :

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.

My dislike is cars that approach roundabouts at speed; not showing any indication that they are planning to stop, or even noticed you approaching. They slow the approaching traffic on the roundabout, as traffic on the roundabout slows, not knowing if the fast approaching car is going to stop and give way, or cause an accident, and they slow themselves because of their behaviour. Likely they are trying to zip quickly onto the roundabout, but their driving behaviour gets the opposite result than what they appear to want.

Agreed, if there’s someone on the roundabout or about to enter the roundabout from the right you need to slow down on approach and probably stop (depending upon the situation)… I hope you weren’t getting the impression that I hurtle through busy roundabouts :-).

27
bryansworld 5:55 am
21 Mar 17
#

G-Fresh said :

Distaste for cyclists.

Distaste for the people driving cars who think it’s ok to overtake a cyclist while staying in their lane. Lazy and dangerous.

28
wildturkeycanoe 6:41 am
22 Mar 17
#

bryansworld said :

Distaste for the people driving cars who think it’s ok to overtake a cyclist while staying in their lane. Lazy and dangerous.

The term “lazy and dangerous” would be better attached to the cyclist/s who is riding 50km/h slower than the traffic whilst riding in the path of the cars instead of in their allocated bicycle lane directly to the left of the road, or in some cases separated from the road entirely. Laziness because they couldn’t be bothered taking the extra few seconds to meander a path that may take slightly longer than the roadway or because they couldn’t be bothered slowing down and going around pedestrians on the shared cycle path. Dangerous, because instead of weighing up the risks of being hit from behind by a large, fast moving vehicle and acting appropriately to protect themselves, they instead tempt fate by risking their life in the flow of traffic because it is their “right” to do so. We all have rights, but putting your legal justifications for doing something before common sense and self preservation is pure idiocy, especially when alternatives to dangerous situations have been provided, fully funded by the tax payer. Do pedestrians walk on the road instead of footpaths simply because they have right of way? No, they have more brains than that. What is the excuse of cyclists apart from there being too many potholes, bits of sticks, broken glass, pedestrians, dogs on leashes, kids on leashes, not being wide enough, direct enough, fast enough, flat enough and any other reason that the non-gold plated paths are unsatisfactory?
Cars can not overtake cyclists legally if the lane is not wide enough to allow the required distance, nor can they do so if traffic is bumper to bumper in the oncoming lane. So what can a driver do but drive well below the limit until the cyclist decides to go back into the bicycle lane or turn off a side street? If riders choose to take roads because they are more direct or faster than the paths allocated to them, why can’t they see the issue they are causing drivers who have no alternative but to use the same roads? Selfishness, self importance and self entitlement is why.

29
Maya123 12:43 pm
22 Mar 17
#

wildturkeycanoe said :

bryansworld said :

Distaste for the people driving cars who think it’s ok to overtake a cyclist while staying in their lane. Lazy and dangerous.

The term “lazy and dangerous” would be better attached to the cyclist/s who is riding 50km/h slower than the traffic whilst riding in the path of the cars instead of in their allocated bicycle lane directly to the left of the road, or in some cases separated from the road entirely. Laziness because they couldn’t be bothered taking the extra few seconds to meander a path that may take slightly longer than the roadway or because they couldn’t be bothered slowing down and going around pedestrians on the shared cycle path. Dangerous, because instead of weighing up the risks of being hit from behind by a large, fast moving vehicle and acting appropriately to protect themselves, they instead tempt fate by risking their life in the flow of traffic because it is their “right” to do so. We all have rights, but putting your legal justifications for doing something before common sense and self preservation is pure idiocy, especially when alternatives to dangerous situations have been provided, fully funded by the tax payer. Do pedestrians walk on the road instead of footpaths simply because they have right of way? No, they have more brains than that. What is the excuse of cyclists apart from there being too many potholes, bits of sticks, broken glass, pedestrians, dogs on leashes, kids on leashes, not being wide enough, direct enough, fast enough, flat enough and any other reason that the non-gold plated paths are unsatisfactory?
Cars can not overtake cyclists legally if the lane is not wide enough to allow the required distance, nor can they do so if traffic is bumper to bumper in the oncoming lane. So what can a driver do but drive well below the limit until the cyclist decides to go back into the bicycle lane or turn off a side street? If riders choose to take roads because they are more direct or faster than the paths allocated to them, why can’t they see the issue they are causing drivers who have no alternative but to use the same roads? Selfishness, self importance and self entitlement is why.

Most roads don’t have cycle lanes beside them. When driving I prefer to be a safe driver and share. I wait until it is safe to pass and do so only then. I have never had to wait too long. Thinking you do is more about attitude. I have also both driven and ridden in Europe, and there most drivers have a far different attitude than you and others like you do. They are much more willing to wait patiently until it is safe to pass. I took this way of sharing aboard and I do the same. It seemed a much more grown up attitude.

30
Mello 5:32 pm
23 Mar 17
#

My complaint is with the ACT road planning people. Whoever came up with that Barton Highway roundabout is a moron. Why not simply install proper traffic lights like up the road on the way to Yass?

Also, why are they removing slip lanes and turning them into places where you have to stop and then accelerate like crazy to get going, like Coulter Drive heading left onto Belconnen Way going to Civic… Not efficient motoring.

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