The Art of Bad Driving

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Have you ever seen a line of cars waiting in one of the left turn lanes – with no other cars in the adjacent turn lane? They are like elephants at the circus, the one behind following the one ahead  . . . gazing at its rear end.

This is but one example of bad driving – a thing that can be generally defined not so much by lack of  race car-driver reflexes and skill but rather by the absence of attentiveness.

And courtesy.

These drivers lining up in the one of two available lanes (causing the open lane to be blocked off, if the line is long enough – and thereby preventing a number of other cars from making it into the turn lane and through the light before it changes)  . . . and the ones who sit in the passing lane, never passing anyone but blocking the way of other drivers who would like to by matching the speed of the car beside them in the right lane are bad drivers not because they haven’t mastered the art of throttle steering through a curve – but because they haven’t mastered the art of using their rearview mirror.    

Or – worse – acting in a considerate manner in response to the information it conveys.

If you see a car gaining on you – and you are in the passing lane – then good driving practice is to get out of the passing lane. Which is the left lane of any two lane road as well as the lane meant for faster-moving traffic.

If you are neither of these, then you ought to be in the right lane.

This used to be taught in what was once Driver’s Ed but which is now a passivity conditioning seminar, in which “students” are taught the Prime Directive: Obey every traffic sign to the letter of the law. Except of course signs that say, slower traffic keep right and yield.

They are taught that speed limit signs are sacred totem poles and that it is unsafe to ignore them, ever. Thus, they will not pass a car to their right – even if they are in the left – if the car to their right is “doing the speed limit” – and so are they. They regard any driver who wants to pass as in the wrong – because he is “speeding.” And thus, they feel in the right to block his way – or at least, to make no effort to get out of his way.

They may not even be aware there is a car behind them, since they are “doing the speed limit” and thus anyone behind them ought to be doing the same and so why bother keeping track of what’s back there. Everyone just queue up and proceed at the same pace, like an escalator – or elephants at the circus.

This misses the point, entirely.

Driving a car ought not to be like riding an escalator – or being the middle elephant in line at the circus. Independent movement is the whole point of it. Being able to drive faster, if you like. Being able to get there sooner. Being free to drive at your own comfort level, rather than the least common denominator level.

Else there’s not much point to it.

Which probably accounts for the passivity conditioning seminars that are still called Driver’s Ed, of a piece with calling the activities of the Pentagon defensive. What is wanted isn’t merely a herd of passive rule-obeyers (well, some rules) but rather to transform driving from a joy to a chore, so as to herd as many people as possible into passive forms of transport, such as government controlled bus and rail and – soon – what are styled “self-driving” cars. Which means cars controlled by their programming, that drive as those who control them decide they will drive.

It’ll be a kind of personal bus. You may not have to share a seat – or listen to someone else’s obnoxious chatter. But you’ll go where (and how and when) the driver – which isn’t you – decides.

Back to the mirror.

It should be scanned regularly, no matter which lane you’re in. Government “safety” regulations have made it harder to see what’s behind you, due to the tunnel vision effect of much smaller rear glass and jacked-up rear ends seemingly inspired by the oddly formed proportions of Kim Kardashian’s rear end but which are actually designed to absorb the impacts made more probable by all of the government’s “safety” mandates  . . . and the general failure to scan the rearview.

But you still ought to be scanning.

And, moving – accordingly.

Try not to be an impediment to the smooth flow of traffic, including faster moving traffic. If you’re in the path of it you ought to try not to be. Ought to act preemptively, so as to avoid being.

If you are in the left lane and see a car gaining on you in the your rearview, it is good driving art to move over into the right lane – before the car gaining on you is right behind you.

This way, he can ease by you without having to brake – which interrupts the smooth flow of traffic.

Whether he is “speeding” – and you are “doing the speed limit” is not material. It serves no one’s interest to block the smooth flow of traffic. It only makes traffic worse – and driving less pleasant, for everyone.

. . .

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  1. Ugh, left lane luggers are the worst in my neck of the woods. They give the same old, tired argument: I am going the speed limit! So they sit their for miles on end, passing no one, oblivious to everything around them. And never mind the line of vehicles behind them who cannot get around them. Meanwhile, the car/truck from an off-ramp on the right is bitching at me that I am supposed to “move over” and “let them in”. When I cannot “move over” because of said left-lane luggers who refuse to pass me. Never mind the car on the right forgot that they are the ones who are supposed to merge with the rest of us. You just cannot win some days.

    • Preach it, Shadow!

      I “practice” proactivity. Armed with countermeasures (e.g., radar detector) and vigilant situational awareness, I pass these fools before they even realize I am passing them. Double yellow or not, sayonara. The problem, of course, is that – eventually – there are just too damned many of these meatsacks. You pass one and find yourself behind the next one.

      At which point, it is time to think about moving to a place where there are fewer of them.

  2. Seriously, someone from New York needs to explain their habits to me.

    It’s bad enough they just lay around in the left lane, miles of traffic piling up behind them. But when they *finally* clear the hell out of the way and let you pass, they inexplicably move BACK into the left lane, only to have another line of cars gather behind them. Amazing, uniform, pig-ignorant stupidity.

  3. I completely agree that you ought to move to the right if you’re not passing (you’d get run over in Germany if you pulled that shit on the autobahn). However, in your video, you’re not on a limited-access highway, left turns are possible on that road. So should everyone be in the right lane, if they’re going to turn at the intersection after the next, for instance? The point is valid, but I’m not so sure about the example.

    Something else that drives me nuts, is people dashing to pass you on a multi-lane road, then getting in front of you and slowing down, either to your current speed or slower. WTF? If you’re going to dash to get past me, then keep on dashing! I could (and often do on limited-access highways) run with my cruise control on (mind you, typically 5 or so over the speed limit), and you slowing down in front of me defeats the purpose of cruise control. I noticed this a lot more when I drove a semi, but lately I’ve been seeing it when I drive my car, too.

  4. I’m going to second and expand on what ReadyKilowatt has suggested:

    Eric, you should put out your own “Driver’s Ed” videos, including common courtesies, of course, but also replete with road warrior skills and evasion tactics, as in dealing with AGWs and clovers.

    Maybe make videos for sale: “EPAutos Driving School”. I’d buy one!

  5. In the Pittsburgh area we have the Parkway East. There are a lot of bridges and tunnels in the region and the one that makes this road a pain in the ass is the Squirrel Hill Tunnel.
    The drivers are the problem, not the tunnel. Just about every day for as long as I can remember the traffic backs up for miles as people slow to a crawl though this tunnel. Once they exit the other end of the tunnel they speed up to normal highway speeds. The locals call this tunnel “The Tunnel Monster”. The phenomena also seems to occur only on the west bound tunnel. The road does not narrow in the tunnel, there is plenty of lighting, the surface is well maintained. I personally have laid on the horn on many occasions for people to speed up in front of me in the tunnel with little success.

    • The ‘Burgers enjoy spending time in front of the tunnels, for sure. Same thing happens at Idaho Springs twin tunnels on i70 west of Denver, and they are just a few hundred feet.

      What I could never figure out was headed east through the fort Pitt tunnels. Backed up the whole way up to the mall, but then once you hit the bridge it’s off to the races on the bridge where you have to negotiate a difficult lane change to get routed to the right ramp, and might be inclined to pause and take in the view.

  6. Couple of adages I drive by, that serve me well in keeping my sanity on the road:
    “Always drive as fast as you possibly can!”,
    “NEVER give up an opportunity to pass”,
    “Use the WHOLE road”,
    “In FRONT of the Prius is always a good place to be”, (another one: replace “Prius” w/bus)
    “BEHIND the cop is always a good place to be”
    “Take the New Jersey left”
    “There are no driving threats BEHIND you”

    • Oh, forgot one:
      “Nobody ever complained about too many lanes in the road”

      Like you, I am utterly amazed at the amount of performance in cars these days (vs the old days) and how poorly skilled the drivers are. My 14 VW Sportwagen has damn near every bit of HP (but yes, far less torque) than my 88 Mustang GT did. And it handles far better. And my VW is just an average car! Cant imagine what a new GT does… Hope to find out someday…

    • Good adages!
      I always like seeing a Prius in heavy traffic when I need to change lanes…guaranteed slot right in front…due to their sluggish acceleration mindset!

  7. As Longshanks said in the movie Braveheart: “You must look for the good in any situation”;
    This is only a anecdotal observation but I don’t see as many tickets being issued as have in the past. Maybe some former Marines whom have become peace-officers are protesting in their own way against BLM and the defund the police movement?

    • Yes….and some places like Chicago have become lawless. Shootings aside, go there at night and you will see all kinds of dirtbikes on the road and other plate-less vehicles including apparently some atvs and a mario cart go cart. So long as no one gets hurt and the traffic flows, im not complaining. red light cameras are useless without plates, so thats good

  8. Back in the ’70’s or early ’80’s, there was an epic argument that took place in the Letters to the Editor of the Washington Post. Some guy (whose name is rattling around in my brain but I can’t remember), I believe he was ‘older’, enraged just about everybody because he asserted his right to put his car on cruise-control at the marked speed limit and basically hog the left lane. Kind of an uber-clover. The letters back and forth went on for weeks, if not months. I remember being impressed by the stubbornness of the clover and the vitriol directed at him by just about everybody. He might have had defenders, but I don’t remember any.

    I wonder if anyone else remembers this.

  9. Just to play devil’s advocate, in the video you were in a commercial area with a center left turn lane. These were just coming into vogue when I was learning to drive, and my driver’s ed instructor told us that through traffic should stay in the left lane. Of course he might have been wrong, and for sure it would be assumed that if you’re just going through the area you should keep moving.

    Went over to Grand Junction after work. Got several Clovers stuck to me through Debeque Canyon and they just wouldn’t go away. One female Clover was in her Mini Countryman, as soon as she got cell service back (it drops in the canyon) she started yakking away. First she tailgated me. Then suddenly passed me at 10 over PSL, 65 MPH. Then once through the canyon and the speed limit went to 75, maintained 65. I pass her. She then speeds up while I’m passing, now we’re over 80. I give up and drop back to 75, move back into the right lane again. She SLOWS DOWN TO 70! WTF! At that point, pretty much everyone is just doing whatever speed they want in whatever lane they want. What a mess! I exited and took surface streets to my destination.

    I’ve said it before, but if the government really wants to do something useful, instead of forcing all media outlets to run the state of the union address, just use that time to run driver’s ed films. Or better yet, just a highlight reel of Eric’s rants.

  10. I think another cause of bad driving not mentioned especially in young drivers is the fact that a lot of them are under the influence of prescription Ritalin and antidepressants. Living in a brain-fogged world would account for a lot of the “not the sharpest tools in the toolshed” unnecessary clogging up the roads.

    • And a majority of them are just stupid, without the pills. And it isn’t really their fault, but rather their parents, schooling, and government ‘education’. They don’t critically think anywhere, let alone on a road. They just think… “Get to point B from A, don’t hit cars, don’t get pulled over. But if I hit a car, insurance will pay for it. If I get a ticket, daddy will pay for it.”

      Plus they are probably on their phones while in the left lane. I’ve seen it a lot… a car comes up from behind in the left lane, it passes. I then catch up to it while I’m in the right lane, I pass it. Back and forth, accordion-style we go.

      All of this on top of Eric’s points about saaaafety features in the car and everything else he mentioned in the article of course.

  11. Nice reminder Eric, that driving is a social activity, meaning good manners go a long way. But as you point out, maybe the driver’s training instruction was lacking. Re the double turn lane populated in only one: I think this happens because of fear that drivers will not let them merge back into traffic once the turn has been made – especially if the road narrows down to one lane.

    Just a lack of courtesy a lot of the time, in my opinion.


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