How Not To Be a Clover

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Clover (the plant) ruins your lawn by choking out the grass. Out on the road, Clovers choke the flow of traffic. Their inconsiderate – and inept – driving makes getting anywhere more difficult, stressful and time-consuming than it needs to be.

Here’s how to avoid being a Clover behind the wheel: No Clover lead!

* Don’t use the speed limit to justify being a jerk.

It may be “the law” – but it’s nor your job to enforce it. If other cars are stacking up behind you, let ’em get by you. Move over to the right lane – or off onto the shoulder for a moment  if you’re on a single-lane road – and wave them by. You will defuse tension rather than build it.

Try to remember that some day you, too, may find yourself behind a “slowpoke” (according to your standards) and wouldn’t it be nice if he made the slight effort to not block your progress?

* Don’t increase your speed – temporarily – to thwart someone trying to pass you. passing pic

Do the opposite. When a car is clearly trying to get around you, help him out by reducing your speed a little. Brake lightly (he’ll see your lights) or just ease off the gas. Doing so makes it safer for the passing driver because he will be able to execute the pass more quickly, and spend less time in the opposing lane of traffic.

That makes it safer for you, too.

* When merging, accelerate.

Forcing other cars to slow – to brake – to accommodate you is a signature Clover move. It’s obnoxious and it’s dangerous (Peterbuilts can’t stop on a dime). There’s no excuse for slow-motion merging anymore, unless you’re still driving a ’90s-era Geo Metro. Any car built during the past decade has the gumption to get up to the speed of traffic quickly. It’s just a matter of pressing down on that pedal under your right foot.

* Overtake – and move right – in good time.Clover block

American drivers are conditioned to emulate the Galapagos Tortoise. To creep along, often with another “tortoise” in the next lane beside them … and a bunch of cars trapped behind the both of them.

If you’re in the left lane and there’s a car next to you in the right lane, either accelerate and pass him – or drop  back and get behind him. Changing lanes ought to take no more than a few seconds. Do it smartly. Don’t drift languidly as if on an Ambien IV drip.

* Don’t leave a half car length of space between you and the car ahead when stopped at a red light.huge gap pic

This artificially backs up traffic and also often blocks the turn lanes, especially when several Clovers leave a half car length (or more) of air between their car and the car ahead of them. You’re trying to squeeze past, but can’t because Clover won’t pull his car up the necessary couple of inches. So you miss the light – and get to wait – while Clover goes on his way, oblivious and indifferent.

It takes no effort to pull your car forward a little. And it makes life easier for everyone.

*  Don’t stop (or almost stop) in the middle of the road before exiting the road.turtle pic

This forces the cars behind you to also come to a near-stop, then accelerate again – which disrupts the flow of traffic as well as wastes fuel (and brake pads). Signal, slow and ease off the main road in a continuous, smooth transition.

Related: Don’t turn on your signal and creep along at 10 MPH below the under-posted speed limit half a mile before your turn.

* Know your limits as a driver – and don’t impose them on other drivers.

Everyone’s skill level (and comfort level) varies. The speed that feels “unsafe” to you may feel (and may well be) completely reasonable to a driver who is more skilled/experienced than you. And that driver may encounter another driver who has an entirely different sense of things. All can coexist peacefully – and safely. Provided none behave aggressively (or passively aggressively) toward the others.left lane hogs

Yield – and expect to yield – as the situation demands.

Worry about your driving – not what the other driver is doing.

Maintain awareness of the constantly evolving situation around you.

Make an effort to accommodate others rather than impede them.

And most important of all: Don’t blindly worship “the law” – and get pissy when someone else ignores it.

Sometimes, common sense trumps what the book says.

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26 COMMENTS

  1. The thing that gets under my skin about Cloverism is its wanton wastefulness — of other people’s time, money and fuel.

    Cloverism causes people to spend time in traffic that could be otherwise better spent…and time that you can’t get back. Time is your most valuable resource…after all, you can always make more money, but not even Bill Gates and Warren Buffett can buy themselves even an extra second in the day.

    Plus, I gotta wonder how much fuel is wasted due to Cloverism…it has to be no small amount. Would reducing Cloverism by just a few percentage points have a larger effect on our fuel consumption than, say, making us drive hybrids or ditching 3.8 liter V6s and 4/5 liter V8s in favor of turbocharged 2.0 liter 4-bangers?

    • Hi Bryce,

      The gas (and time) waste is tremendous. And to a great extent, avoidable. Theoretically. Practically, the only way to avoid them is to get away from high concentrations of Clovers. I used to live in the DC area and there was such a high concentration of them that it was effectively useless to fight them. I moved to The Woods and while there are still Clovers, they’re fewer and farther between and easily evaded/passed, etc.

      • In my experience, (clover) traffic here costs me 2-3 mpg in town and about the same amount for the poorly timed traffic lights.
        Sometimes I wonder if a large chunk of clovers are just highly unskilled hyper milers. Best time to practice some of those techniques is when nobody else is on the road with you….

      • eric, I’ve read a plethora of traffic studies over the decades. Any good one addresses the danger blocking traffic causes. Even in the nanny state of Tx.(it wasn’t always so but what with now being the 2nd most populace state and rising rapidly…..stay in Ca., you chose it and probably voted for most of what’s wrong)traffic signs with SLOWER TRAFFIC KEEP RIGHT are now replete. There are still those who get on the interstate or 4 lane roads and ride the inside lane. It’s not as if those people don’t know they’re holding other up, they are bullies, even if they’re split tails that weigh 80 lbs, road bullies any way you look at it. They do realize if they slam on the brakes they’ll possibly be run over though, every damned one of them. Put on your brights and get within a few feet of them and they’ll be doing the rear view mirror thing constantly till they move their stupid asses over. I make a point of showing them I think they’re No. 1. I’ve noticed I get noticed a great deal more in Step Child with the brights on or even with no headlights than I do in a pickup. How many people can really not notice a bright red Peterbilt 5 feet behind them? None, zero, zilch. They KNOW they’re blocking people, not a slip of concentration or anything else. If a ticket should be issued for anything, that definitely should be at the top of the list but I don’t recall ever seeing it.
        And when they’re blocking me, speed limited to 70 mph, you can bet I have a conga line behind me. For the life of me I can’t figure out why anyone in a new vehicle will get on a 75 mph PSL road and drive less than 70 but there’s plenty of them, too damn many.

    • I don’t want to sound pissy, since I’ve read your posts, I know you’re not a Clover.
      Do you know the logic behind this? I always try to snug up pretty close, but if I could see their rear wheels? There’d be enough room for another car between us, basically.

      Why would you leave that much space between you and another car? Even on a hill, with a manual trans truck in front, you shouldn’t need THAT much space – and being a truck, you can get close before that rear wheel is no longer visible….

      Asking for clarification, that’s all.

      • When (not if) you get rear ended it is more likely to be a two car accident instead of three+
        The bigger problem is when people accelerate slower than an 80K lb. tractor trailer and leave multiple bus lengths between cars after the green light.

        • Hoping to dodge the “when” bullet. So far, so fantastic… 😉

          I try not to smell their exhaust, but I don’t leave tons of space, either. I’m driving a 98 Buick LeSabre. Lots of steel. Can’t see the tires of the car in front of me, though.
          The Kia we have, a Soul, though – you can almost see the tires when kissing bumpers. 😉

          Agree on the lackadaisical acceleration. Sort of an inertial drift more than actual acceleration. Got all of time and space, and … Going to use it all because nowhere special Ah need to be….

          Makes me wish for Roof-mount Particle Beams.
          While I’m at it, a Veritech would be cool, too…. 😉

      • Jean, as I’ve said before, traffic studies having to do with stop and go traffic have all shown leaving a car length or better yet, a couple car lengths end up with the traffic getting away from a light faster. Close up, you jab your go button and then hit the brake because the person in front didn’t go at the same rate. This translates on back down the line with some people having to come near or completely to a stop. The effect is exaggerated for every vehicle back of you and if you’re at the light, that’s every vehicle waiting for the light.

        I often have to traverse a few miles of 4 lane divided road with most of it a 45mph zone with 3 lights varying distances apart. It makes a big difference how easily it can be done when everybody is familiar with the route and leaves room in front of them. It’s all uphill one direction for two lights not far apart and I’m almost always loaded going that direction. If everybody leaves enough room and goes when they should I can time the light so I don’t have to stop or hopefully get into the low range of the transmission so I get up to speed quicker and so do those big rigs….and cars, behind me.

        As far as keeping some distance of at least 10′ feet behind a big rig on a hill that should be a no-brainer. I get out of one truck, into another and the clutches are nothing alike. I may have been driving one rig for long enough I’m tuned into it and then when I switch, I’ll forget to reset my brain for the clutch and trailer I’m pulling with another tractor. I’ve been guilty, almost always, heavily loaded, of having my rig roll back a few feet just because of the difference where that clutch engages. I might start backing off the brake and not realize it’s going to be a bit longer for the clutch to engage. I can tell you for a fact, it can happen fast. I sometimes forget I’m not pulling a particular trailer. Some have extension you can’t see and forget about. Just stay well back from anything longer than a long pickup.

    • I was taught that at a stop on an upgrade you should leave a bit of space in case the car ahead has a manual trans that the driver does not know how to use properly.
      If you are concerned about potential car-jacking, CCW is a better solution.

  2. Many of the clovers who speed up when I try to pass are yacking on the phone, not paying attention. When you come up alongside them they notice you in their peripheral vision and “instinctively” try to match your speed. A quick toot on the horn will usually wake them up, but then it’s off to the races when they see how slow they’re going.

    Another thing that I’ve noticed is that there seems to be a pre-disposition amongst some humans to herd together in clumps. I don’t know if it’s another instinctive move or just because they’re all used to sitting in city traffic, but I see it all the time, every day. They aren’t interested in passing, just that they seem to actually enjoy cruising 4 feet from the car in front of them. I come across big long lines of them, sometimes 10 deep. Every once in a while there will be a road hazard like a retread in the lane, and they all end up hitting it or swerving into the other lane at the last second. I do my best to avoid these clovers like the plague, especially in inclement weather. And they make it much harder to pass because now you have to pass 10 cars instead of 1 or 2. It’s a big road, no need to draft off the guy in front of you.

    • The fun part about ‘herd’ clovers is they tend to crash – domino effect style – in bad weather. Instead of one car in the ditch there are 4+ piled up, safety in numbers you know….
      The other thing I see here all the time are the ones that still slow down to 20-25 mph in school zones on weekends/holidays when there are no kiddies in sight. They like to ‘test my zen’.

  3. Eric:
    Great post – but Clovers are not worth raising your blood pressure over. I admit they get me every day as well.

    I live 5.7 miles from my cube-farm office in a suburban area around Detroit. My blood pressure must spike 50 points on every commute due to these and other “center of the universe” driving traits.

    The only – repeat only – solution to curbing cloveratic behavior on the roads is the demise of socialist roads patrolled by police whose primary directive is revenue generation. A socialist road is simply a road with no competition for traffic.

    The primary directive of any private – for profit – road would be to move as much traffic as quickly as possible through the road to maximize profit (assuming you pay by the mile proportional to the weight of your vehicle).

    I could see such glorious developments on a private, for profit road system as minimum speed differentials between lanes. Take a 4 lane expressway. Right lane is 65-70 mph. Second lane is 85-90 mph. Third lane is 105-120 mph. Fast lane is simply “yield to faster traffic within x seconds.”

    Instead of targeting speeeeeeeeeeeeeders, the few (private) “police” would target those who slow the flow of traffic (and profit). Private roads would be herbicide to clovers.

    For anyone arguing “carnage would result,” please see primary directive. Collisions cause traffic backups, and necessarily – heavy losses (less cars per mile though any given stretch).

    There would also be far less useless traffic lights operating at hours they have no logical purpose for operating (like the one at the schoooooooooooool near my house, which operates 24/7/365). Everybody knows how heavy traffic is coming and going to schooooooool at 3:00 am in the middle of summer – fucking – break. Even the left turn arrow (which eats up 10 seconds – every light cycle) operates at these hours – EVEN THOUGH IT HAS MAGNETOMETERS AND NO CARS ARE SITTING ON THEM!

    Apologize for the all caps rant. Lost it for a minute.

    Different licenses would be required on different roads. Discounted rates at off-peak hours. Ahh – the possibilities are endless.

    Fines for any and all passing prior to a construction merge would be Old Testament steep. First offense: $2,000 fine and lifetime banishment from road.

    This would be clearly stated and easily patrolled.

    I could go on for days.

    But I know that would never work. I do realize that private industry does not have the technological chops to match piss-poorly designed, massively inefficient roads in an eternal state of miserable disrepair. You know – like the jewels we have in Michigan.

    Just put struts on my Civic last weekend – for a broken coil spring. BROKEN COIL SPRING AT 56,000 MILES. There I go again with the all caps – sorry. But WTF!!!!

  4. I disagree with not leaving space in front of you at stop lights, and I do leave said space. Especially in the big city. This is for safety concerns. I don’t wanna be trapped should, in a true emergency, I need to get the hell out of there. (carjacking attempt) However, when the light turns green and we all start moving, I get up.

    • A couple years ago I stopped 30 feet behind a welder’s rig in road construction instead of being right on his rear. I was a quarter mile from the front of the line in a big rig with a load of concrete culverts on a drop deck dovetail trailer. A driver occupied somehow with a phone, probably some game or texting, failed to notice all the flashing signs, the rough rumble strips and fairly much everything. He ran his big KW up on my trailer, right up on the culverts and finally steered to the right before he knocked off my cab. I had the foot brake on since I was anticipating, from the diesel exhaust up front the start of the conga line of small to large trucks.

      When his trailer caught the rear of mine it violently shoved my truck over 20 feet forward, ruining his wheels and tires and gouging a big hole in the pavement, screwing up my trailer badly too. Luckily, I didn’t have on a seatbelt so it simply catapulted me into the windshield, much better than being stopped from moving with a chest belt that would have messed me up badly. I got a ticket for no seat belt and not a day goes by I’m not glad I didn’t have the damned thing on. It’s easier to peel oneself from the windshield that to endure the impact of being shot out of a gun but belted in. It’s not hard to figure what would have happened to the welders in a one ton truck if I had been 10 feet behind them. I’ve seen rear-end accidents that caught several vehicles that were close together. Contrary to what a great many people think, many studies have shown a good distance between each car speeds the flow of traffic leaving a light. It’s also a good way to not be one of the vehicles involved in a rear-end slam.

  5. I prefer desert where clovers dry up and blow away. For a few months I’ve been trying subtropical bayou. This also seems promising, the constant rain and stagnant surface water quickly drowns the clover so they can’t long survive and become a fatal nuisance to you.

  6. Acceleration to merge…. so someone in what must have been an E350 passenger van decides he’s going to right on red in front of me this morning forcing me brake and then wait for him to accelerate. Seriously, what kind of self centered *#$%* decides that right on red has priority like that?

    I eventually got a chance to pass him. A rude chance, not dangerous just rude, but since he was rude to me and if I didn’t take I would be stuck behind him for 2-3 miles more so I did it. Suddenly he’s upset I passed him.

    • Just now – coming home – I got caught behind Clover A and Clover B. Clover B passes Clover A at a pace maybe 4 MPH faster than Clover A was traveling; the two of them were side-by-side for what seemed an eternity. Clover B finally gets past Clover A and then languidly sidles back over into the right lane, having eaten up 90 percent of the legal passing zone.

      Well, I used the remaining 10 percent, blasting past both Clovers.

      Now all of a sudden Clover B is in a hurry. Instead of just barely going faster than the speed limit (55) he’s attempting to close on me (I’m doing 70).

      I lost him in the curves.

  7. I farm in the shinnery and have tried clover but we don’t get enough rain. Instead I use hairy vetch that spreads and helps keep the soil moist and fixes nitrogen. Years when I see clover I take it as a good sign.

  8. “Clover (the plant) ruins your lawn by choking out the grass.”

    No it doesn’t. Clover adds available nitrogen to the soil, feeding the other species growing with it. Grass seed producers offer a “Contractor’s Mix” of seed with several varieties of grass and clover for establishing lawns. Clover isn’t a noxious weed.

    Past that, your fixation on a site pest (who you have described as your muse) is kinda tedious. Why not fixate on something else? Using that pest’s screen name to describe obnoxious assholes in general doesn’t make sense to me. There are as many site pests and traveling trolls as there are blogs. Most blog owners don’t fixate on the assholes, they just nuke their posts and/or ban them.

    • The clover in my lawn dominates the grass, is the grass choked out? well sorta. I suppose if I let both grow beyond legal length the grass would do alright but with regular mowing the clover covers it up. Not that I care much but it can get out of control from an appearance point of view requiring at least mechanical intervention.

      • If you lived in west Tx. anything growing in the lawn that doesn’t stick you with thorns is a-ok. A lawn of clover would be great. Walk through our yard in hot, dry weather and you’ll understand why I have those pieces of catwalk that have the steel formed into grips sticking up. You rake your boots on them and heel spurs(goatheads), grassburrs, cacti and all sorts of other things will be shed so you can walk into the house and not deposit killer stickers behind you. Mostly, I walk onto the porch, take off my boots and put on my crocks or diggers or whatever hasn’t been used outside. It’s the reason we have pit bulls, no fur for the crap to stick in and feet like iron. I’ve had to go rescue other dogs, pick them up and carry them to the house where I could remove stickers of all sorts. We used to clip the fur on our furry dog’s feet. Cholley Jack comes flying in and falls on the bed on top of you, no matter he’s got walking stick cactus stuck to him. Let’s play…..yeoooww

  9. Hey Eric – I for one do not consider clover in the lawn to be a problem, or even a nuisance. As a legume, it fixes nitrogen from the air which then serves to feed the grass. And it is a high-protein munchy for the sheep that graze most of my unwooded areas. But I agree there is NO benefit to them on the roads.

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