Bad Driving 101

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Living by a few basic rules of roadway etiquette can make all the difference between safe, courteous driving – and driving everyone else on the road crazy.

Do your part to ease road rage by avoiding these common driving errors:

* Left lane hogging –

Driver’s ed courses used to hammer home the point that the left lane was for faster-moving traffic – and passing. If you weren’t passing another vehicle or traveling at least as fast as the cars behind you – you were taught to yield and move over to the right as soon as you safely could.

Unfortunately, many drivers no longer yield to faster-moving traffic. Some believe it is perfectly acceptable to stay in the left lane indefinitely, no matter how many cars are stacked up behind them – so long as they are “doing the speed limit.”

But failing to yield and let faster-moving cars get by needlessly increases tension – which can result in unsafe tailgating and passing-on-the-right as frustrated drivers try to get around the slowpoke. This serves no one’s interests. And while you may be in the right as far as not exceeding the posted limit is concerned, you’re guilty of impeding the flow of traffic, which is also illegal in most jurisdictions.

So, keep on eye on your rearview mirror. If someone wants to get by you, let them. It’s no skin off your nose. It also makes the road safer and travel less frustrating. 

* Cruise control passing –

Related to the problem of left lane hogging is the cruise-control pass. The typical scenario is a two-lane secondary road where a car in the left lane is attempting to pass a car in the right lane. But instead of accelerating to rapidly overtake the other car, then moving back into the right lane, Yertle the Turtle inches forward at a glacial pace – his cruise control set on 60 as he tries to pass a driver doing 57.

Meanwhile, everyone else gets stuck behind this rolling roadblock.

If you want to pass, signal your intent, then move left and speed up sufficiently to get past the other car quickly – even if that means turning off the cruise control and pressing down on the gas pedal. That’s what it’s there for, you know. 

After executing the pass, signal and move back into the right-hand lane.

* King of the Road Syndrome –

It’s extremely inconsiderate to be trundling all by yourself down a two-lane road, see a car up ahead at a side street clearly waiting to make a right-hand turn into traffic – and refuse to slide over to the left lane in order to give the other driver room to enter the road. A related phenomenon is the guy who refuses to use his signal – making you sit there at an intersection until Regal He either turns in or passes you by.

When you see another driver trying to get onto the road, help him out and make room if you can. Move over to the left. And use your turn signal if you intend to make a turn. It’s the nice (and safe) thing to do.

* The Infamous Stop Merge –

When entering a freeway using a merge lane, do not stop and then pull out into traffic running 70. The whole purpose of the merge lane is to give vehicles entering a highway an opportunity to speed up to match the flow of traffic, then safely merge with it. If you stop or slow to a crawl, then pull into traffic that’s going 30 or 40 miles-per-hour faster, you are asking to be rear-ended. Not only do you create a dangerous situation for yourself, you force other drivers behind you to attempt the same dangerous maneuver. 

* Blinded By The Light –

Some drivers like to see where they’re going – even if no one else can see a thing. They won’t turn off their brights for oncoming traffic – temporarily blinding those other drivers. Be considerate – and safe: Turn the brights off when other vehicles are approaching, or when you are bearing down on a car up ahead.

* Multi-tasking behind the wheel –

When you’re behind the wheel of a car, your main focus ought to be the road ahead of you – and the environment around you – not the radio, your sail fawn or the GPS display.

If you need to make an important call, read a map – or add creamer to your coffee – pull over and do it by the side of the road. You’ve only got two hands – and just one brain. Even professional drivers can’t fully concentrate on maintaining control of their machines while simultaneously consulting their broker – or arguing over who gets the kids this weekend. The modern driving environment is often chaotic. To avoid accidents – and possibly hurting someone – it’s crucial to be constantly vigilant.

* Captain Tailgate –

When you walk down the street, you don’t walk an inch behind other pedestrians; you leave enough room to avoid trampling the guy ahead if he suddenly stops. The same applies to driving. Following too closely means you probably won’t have enough time and space to avoid slamming into the car ahead’s rear end in the event he brakes suddenly. And if that happens, it’ll be your fault, too – ticket-wise and higher insurance-wise. Rightly so.

Beyond the safety issue, it is also highly aggressive to crawl up someone’s bumper. And leaving aside common courtesy, even if you’re Randy Couture, there’s always the chance the guy in the other car will be bigger or badder than you are. Or armed.

Or just plain nuts. 

Is it really worth getting killed over? 

Throw it in the Woods?


  1. What is lacking is the discussion of individual judgment in a straight forward manner and manners. There are speed limits and lines, rules and regulations, but those things do not negate the need for individual judgement based on the facts of that moment or your knowledge of driving. It is COURTEOUS to move to the right to let other cars pass just as it is COURTEOUS to move to the left, if possible, to let traffic merge. It is like everything else in life, as you go about your business, let others go about theirs in the manner that suits them. Be polite and helpful to others just as you would want them to be to you.

  2. I’m through with passing people slowly while other people want to pass me. From now on, it’s no longer a numbers game. Speed limits aren’t worth it. From now on, I’m going to pass decisively. I’ve just thought this through, and it is now clear to me that trying to go the speed limit simply isn’t logical. When there are two lanes, you usually have two speeds to choose from; I’m simply going to choose the one that’s suitable for me.

  3. One thing wes left out in this article. The left lane is not for speeders. The left lane is for passing is what I remember from drivers training. Sometimes I think people believe it is their lane because they are the fast ones.

    • What is “speeding”? By definition, it is driving faster than a number posted on a sign. But is it bad? dangerous? By no means. For example, prior to 1974, most American highways were posted 65-70 mph. Then in 1974 – as a fuel economy measure – Congress imposed the 55 MPH National Maximum Speed limit. Did it suddenly become unsafe to drive at 65 or 70 mph on the same highways simply because the number on the sign changed? When, in 1995, the 55 MPH limit was repealed, did it suddenly become safe to drive 65 or 70 mph on those same roads once again, simply because the number on the sign changed? Of course not. Yet millions of people received tickets for “speeding” during the 21 years the 55 MPH limit was in force.

      “Speeding” in this country often (usually) has nothing to do with whether you’re driving at a reasonable, safe speed. This is why speed limits are almost universally ignored. Thus, a driver who is “doing the limit” in the left lane is obstructing the flow of traffic because traffic is almost always going much faster than the posted maximum.

      If you’re not comfortable going faster than the posted maximum, then don’t. But don’t impede other drivers; move over and get out of their way!

      • Exact words spoken by a person with road rage beause of the peron in front of them driving a couple of mph slower than you want to. I do not drive slow in the left lane. I do sometimes pass at speeds over the speed limit and pass one or two cars and have someone like you fly up behind me. I have as much right as you do in being in the left lane for the seconds it takes to pass someone. I am sure with your road rage though that you would say I am wrong because the left lane is yours.

        • Imagine that, people trying to do the exact speed limit but diverging by 1 mph because their gauges are imprecise. So slightly slower people cause a minor obstruction. Those who want to do faster execute a cruise control pass that takes 10 minutes to complete. An on-ramp approaches, and people have to slow down to make room for an entry. This causes a traffic jam, which is unnecessary and would have been avoided if only a few people were willing to do 10 mph faster for a few seconds. Is this what you want?

          On two-lane roads it’s worse. Someone doing 45 mph could hold everyone up because a 10 mph differential is not big enough to pass safely. In that situation, I’d want to accelerate from 45 to 80. According to one source, two states allow exceeding the speed limit in this situation.

          Now you know why.

          • Dood, I have an on ramp I drive on daily to get to work. It’s a left entry ramp that places you right into the hammer lane on the highway. Speed limit on the highway is 70mph. After about 100 yards the guard rail forces a merge. The entry speed on the ramp is 45mph. The traffic you’re merging into is normally going 75mph. 70% of the time I’m encountering clovers trying to enter the highway from that ramp and going around 45mph. To make matters worse, the highway has posted merge signs for the motorists on the highway to make some room for the people to be coming onto the highway from the ramp (they have a perfect view of the oncoming cars from the ramp)and most don’t give way. I’m considering setting up camp there one day and videoing all the drama, the place is a complete disaster. For the record it’s the on ramp at exit 23 on route 66 in Virginia. Between the clovers and the highway hogs it makes for a great morning.

      • To answer your post about speeds make no difference, I was involved in a long wait a couple of years ago. There was a problem ahead with some kind of vehicle so all traffic was stopped. I was probably a half mile from the problem. 10 minutes later we hear a huge crash behind us. Later we found out it was 2 miles behind us and we heard it with the windows shut. It was a semi that crashed into many vehicles. He was of course speeding so he could not stop like everyone else was able to. That is one example out of hundreds each year. Oh,there was one death and many injuries and 100s of thousands in damages. I hope he had insurance by the way. One more thing, many of those injured were in the slow lane because an accident like that covers the entire roadway.

        • Speed wasn’t the problem there; inattention was.

          People who worship posted speed limits (any speed limit; whatever it happens to be) fixate on driving faster than a number on a sign as the Original Sin of driving.

          Your example has nothing to do with the question at hand – it simply shows you have a reverential attitude toward “the law” – and an inability to use judgment as the basis for deciding whether something’s reasonable or not. If it’s “the law,” why it must be right!

          Did you vote for The Chimp?

          • Nice one. Commenting on what caused the accident without the facts. No it was not inattention. He was passing another semi and I believe it was around a slight bend in the road so he did not have miles of warning. The problem was he was speeding. You of course say that speed never is the cause of an accident. This is an example where it was. That is why there are speed limits. The police usually do not do anything about people doing 5 mph or even 10 mph over the limit. That is why the majority of people drive that fast. They feel like they are getting by with something and it boosts their ego. Much like when you say that you break every law out there and are proud of it.

            Another problem that is very evident is that people do not slow down when road or traffic conditions change. That is why there are hundreds of cars in the ditch at times in the winter. They do not slow down in the rain and I have even seen where they do not slow down very much in the fog. I have seen semis drive over 45 mph when you can hardly see the white line along the edge of the road. You say that people drive safely no matter what. Then you complain about tailgators but probably do it yourself if someone is in front of you.
            I do try to drive the speed limit if I am alone on the road or when the right lane is traveling at that speed. If I am driving at night on an empty country road I try to drive under the speed limit because of animals like deer often on the roadway. I have grown up and know that driving fast wastes gas, increases damages and injuries in an accident and often gets you somewhere at about the same time as speeding.

            • I believe it is called “too fast for conditions.”

              Obviously the truck driver was completely at fault. It’s akin to not slowing down for fog — if you can’t see what’s ahead, you shouldn’t be driving like you can.

              Even when I’m traveling at 150 mph, I make sure I can STOP in the distance I can see ahead (and respond to traffic ‘surprises,’ if present.) Likewise, I’d never pass another vehicle with a speed differential of greater than 30 mph. If I’m crowning a hill, I’m already slowed to a safe speed for the conditions. If I have 3 miles of visibility, and no traffic clumps, what’s the harm in ‘making good time?’

          • I agree, and if it was foggy, I bet 45 was below the speed limit, and it was still two fast for the conditions. No number on a sign can tell you how fast to drive in bad weather.

  4. Here’s a problem I have with ‘left lane hugging’, typically I get in the left lane and go about 5-10 over the limit, that brings me up to the traffic in front of me-or close to it, but there is always a guy in back of me that wants to pass me because he wants to go 10-15 over the limit, when I let him by he just moves up a notch and I fall in behind and tail him for miles while he pesters the guy in front to move which will only result in him moving up one slot again. screw him-he can wait if the ‘flow’ of traffic is such that he is much faster then it.

    • I know exactly what you are talking about.

      What I do is just go into “screw you mode” where I flip up the rear view mirror and point the side view mirrors down a bit so his tailgating doesn’t upset me.

      • If a tailgater gets on my ass, I find a quick, unexpected tap on the brakes works wonders. Of course, I do this in my “Hit Me… Please” 12-year-old truck!

        • Dood, I had a buddy named Willy Wonka that would do some shit I could not believe. Mind you he only did it with his beater car (whatever that happened to be at the time). Anyhow, my man would pull up the parking brake, hard and fast, wouldn’t even give the tailgater the option of seeing brake lights. He would lock up his rear end completely. This was only done in extremely tailgating situations, but man that dude would almost make people slide off the road trying to avoid rear ending him.

          Note: Don’t do this shit unless you completely understand the risks. Cuz your ass could get hemmed up quick.

          • Definitely!

            I’d only do it if the person behind me was being an uber-asshole. Most of the time, they’re just oblivious – and a light tap on the brakes gets them to back off. But every now and then, you have to take it up a notch. And for that, nothing beats a paid-for old beater. Go ahead, sphincter boy… hit me. I could use the insurance money!

    • Sure, but if you are sure the guy won’t hold YOU up, why not let him by? Who knows, if he gets the rest of the left-lane hoggers to yield, you can let him rabbit for you and then YOU can do 10-15 over.
      It’s possible that other drivers may have different / better countermeasures than you. Perhaps they have a good radar detector (Valentine1) and maybe even a laser jammer, where not prohibited, of course.
      This is a problem I’ve dealt with several times recently as I was driving the family across country over the holidays. I would frequently let someone pass, only to be disappointed when they’d get in front of me and invariably slow down to a speed less than my cruise was set. After the first time, I’d ignore their apparent desire to pass if it wasn’t convenient to me. But I’d let anyone pass me at least once… and at the first opportunity.


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