Driven to Distraction

I recently set out some views about the respective driving practices of men and women. Since writing about it, I have come to realise that the rot runs much deeper than I first believed. Is it just me, or are the roads choc-full of really bad drivers?

Now, I don’t mind the odd missed indication, or even those who accelerate when the lights change from green to amber. But some of the things we witness might make us question how on earth certain people were ever allowed to get in a car, never mind turn the key.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Just another self-unaware ranting session. After all, nearly everyone thinks they’re a better driver than most, and that it’s other drivers who are to blame for the world’s ills. In fact, polls suggest that 80% of drivers think they are ‘better than average’. On the basis of statistics like these, people assume that most drivers over-estimate their abilities behind the wheel. However, there is another possibility: that 80% of drivers really are better than average, but that the average is dragged way down south by a small minority (say, 20%) of absolutely awful drivers. But at least they admit it.

When pootling around Edinburgh on four wheels,  one is liable to encounter these terrors of the tarmac. There are those, for example, that see the ‘lane system’ as a set of informal suggestions, rather than as measures designed to preserve life and limb. Having been blessed with the ability to plan more than five seconds ahead, I often find myself occupying a spot in the correct lane (for my purposes) only to find that someone in the adjoining lane has designs on exactly the same portion of space as I’m currently occupying. They proceed to mosey on over, without so much as a by-your-leave (even a quick signal would do). It’s not even as if they don’t see you. It’s almost as if their desire to be in the correct lane is greater than their desire to continue existing.

Did you read about that chap charged with causing death by dangerous driving the other day? He’d had a few tipples before he started his journey, but told police “I thought as long as you were wearing a seatbelt you were alright to have eight or nine pints.” He didn’t have a licence either, unsurprisingly. I imagine he would’ve stumbled at the theory test.

Anyway, this irksome train of thought led me to the Baddriving.com, a site which chronicles complaints about poor driving, and allows those afflicted with otherwise-unmanageable road-rage to let off a bit of steam. Here’s some of the photographic evidence from the site:

parking.jpg

Now, I’ve taken the liberty of obscuring the number-plate, since I know that certain ‘Logues readers are die-hards (you know who you are). I wouldn’t want to advocate tracking down the person responsible for this ‘Crap Parking’ and in order to give them a good biffing. However, if you are in any way aggrieved and are looking for an outlet, why not visit the website and Rate This Menace! You will see that a lot of the submissions to the site (including the one above) were made by ‘thegooddoctor’, who bears the dubious honour of being the ‘Most Easily Annoyed Member’ as well as sharing a nickname with the late Harold Shipman.

After having a little look around the site, I’ve had a slight change of heart. In retrospect, I’m not sure what’s worse: bad driving, or those who keep going on about it.

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7 Comments on “Driven to Distraction”

  1. Hannah Says:

    As a non-car-owning pedestrian, I think all drivers are a menace. Particularly those who accelerate towards the pedestrian crossing on my route to work just as I step off the pavement onto the crossing. And then glare at me like I’m the one who’s a dangerous lunatic behind the wheel of a ridiculously over-priced, unnecessarily large killing machine.

  2. Doug Says:

    Hannah – It’s funny how perspectives change.

    When I’m on foot (as you are all the time) I tend to think the same as you. And I like to toy with drivers by walking across zebra crossings r-e-a-l-l-y – s-l-o-w-l-y.

    But then again, when I’m in the car, I tend to think it’s pedestrians who are the menaces. Walking in the road, stepping out without looking, and (the most heinous of crimes) starting to cross on a flashing green man. Therefore, I tend to use my significant metal presence to shepherd them a little bit.

    The self-serving perceptual bias strikes again.

  3. Ross Says:

    I can only agree with what’s been said…

    As a pedestrian, drivers annoy me. As a driver, pedestrians annoy me. Thinking about it though, as a pedestrian, other pedestrians annoy me and as a driver, other drivers annoy me. Is sociopathy something you grow into?

    Surely the most heinous of all crimes is to not acknowledge when someone has impeded their own journey to allow a fellow road-user to progress their own. A raised finger, an open hand, a nod, smile…some kind of gesture that says “Yes, I see what you have done, halting your motor vehicle so that I, in my motor vehicle, may proceed. You are kind and gracious and I thank you for it.” I’m constantly alarmed at how very angry I become when snubbed in this way.

  4. Doug Says:

    Ross – do pedestrians and drivers annoy you even when you’re sitting at home behind drawn curtains? If so, there are numbers you can call.

    You are right to point out how important it is to acknowledge the steps taken by other drivers to assist your progress. I tend to favour the raised finger, although most people don’t seem to respond too well to it. Maybe I’m doing it wrong. Is there a particular finger you’d go for in this circumstance?

  5. Ross Says:

    Avoid displaying the nail of the central finger alone, no matter how proud you are of your manicure. Also, holding the index and middle fingers up together in a divergent ‘V’ shape can cause trouble.

    I typically opt for a strong and definitive gesture; open hand, wrist resting on the steering wheel and held in place for about five seconds, long enough for the other driver to notice. That way if they don’t respond in kind I am morally justified in my rage and retribution (ie making a sweary remark about their physical appearance).

  6. Doug Says:

    Although it might have not been quite what you meant, I am always interested to see whether people do respond in kind, i.e. whether they make a counter-acknowledgement to your acknowledgement. When I let someone through, I expect a wave (or other suitable gesture from your list), to which I will respond with a sage nod of the head, or perhaps a little wave of my own, usually accompanied by a closed-mouth smile.

    It’s an anthropologist’s worst nightmare.

  7. Ross Says:

    A sage nod of the head? Give it some exuberance! Wave madly and blow kisses…you’ll make someone’s day!


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