Top 10 Things I Hate About Driving

Things that really grind my gears when getting behind the wheel

Sunday 16th September 2012
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25 mins

Don't get me wrong, I love driving, but there are a number of things which can make it not so enjoyable.

10. Blind junctions; one in particular

I don't like these purely because they're dangerous and a lot of them are just down to bad road planning. There's various roads around here where you have to stick out half a car's length to be able to see what's coming, and although they may only be in 30-40 limit areas it's still enough to cause a problem, especially if someone is going too fast.

The junction onto the main road from our house is a bad one too. You basically need to have eyes on the side of your head like a rabbit to be able to pull out of it. If you look at it on a map or even drive around the bend itself you wouldn't think the junction is that blind, but it is. The road's a 60 and when cars are doing that speed you have about 2-3 seconds between seeing them and them coming past the junction. It's very hard to know what's coming from the left and the right at the same time when they're doing that speed and you have that amount of time, and it's worse when people are going faster than 60. You have to look left, right, left, right, left; if it's clear, you have to go for it, and once you've committed to it you can rarely back out of it. Far too often I've pulled out heading right and something has come round from the left 0.5-1 seconds after I've moved out; it's too late to stop because I'll be in the way of cars coming from the right, you have to just carry on. Some people realise it's a bad junction and will slow down when they see you're pulling out. Others just honk you and flash their lights, as if it's your fault you pulled out in front of them, and some will then overtake you, whilst still on the bend, because they can't slow down in time, or because they're just angry at you.

What do the council/highways agency do about it? Fuck all. And we've lost count on how many times we've written to them about it. The road from the right used to carry on being a 60 for another 2 miles or so, and a little while ago they changed it to a 50; however, the national speed limit sign at the end of that 50 is still before our junction, and it's right where the road widens out, so people will now be accelerating from 50 to 60, going onto a wider, seemingly faster road, only to then come past this bad junction at that speed. The council/highways agency admitted the sign was in the wrong place and said it will be moved to after the junction, but I can't remember how long ago this was, and nothing's changed.

The danger of this junction is plain to see. We've lived here 6 years and in that time there's been a car on it's roof, a car in the ditch, and an accident on boxing day a few years ago where a flatbed truck was literally ripped in half after hitting another car, where one person died and two air ambulances were needed; the air ambulance was needed for another accident too, and there have been more accidents than these mentioned. Yet the speed limit is the same and there are no extra warnings about the junction. Unfortunately 4 people need to die at a particular location before anything is done about it. The situation is made even worse when you consider the council/highways agency didn't even know the correct location of the accidents because the police told them they all happened at the next junction along; this may explain why the 50 limit ends there instead of past our junction, but also doesn't fill us with much confidence in the people supposedly in charge of our safety and the maintenance of the road. Either way I know it's only a matter of time before there's another fatal accident there and I just hope nobody from my family is involved.

9. Multi-storey car parks

I hate these things. Why do they have to make the ramps so narrow and tight? There's always scrapes along them from people who have misjudged it, wouldn't it make more sense to sacrifice one space per ramp to make them much wider and easier to drive up and down? It's worse in my car as the mudflaps always scrape along the floor and the exhaust often hits the floor too. I always think I've hit the side! Now that I park in one every day I'll hopefully get a bit more practice in so I don't hate them as much in future.

8. Relaying the wrong roads, and using crap materials

A lot of the roads around here are pretty poor. Rough, bumpy, potholed, gaps and patches all over the place. More often than not though, the roads that get relaid seem to be roads that were pretty good as they were, and it's more a waste of materials if anything when OK roads are relaid and roads in need of relaying are not. This problem is made worse when they use rubbish materials, primarily that gravel stuff that means you have to drive at 20 over it for a week before enough people have driven over it to wear it in a bit, and until then you just get stones kicked up at you. Sometimes roads relaid with this stuff just start to deteriorate again very quickly, I mean they're only really covering the road with another layer rather than actually relaying it; one road that was done like this had holes appearing no more than 24 hours after it was done, and within a week it was relaid again with better materials, meaning the first job was a complete and utter waste of time and money. Whatever happened to relaying roads with tarmac and a steamroller? Do they not do this anymore? If you relay it properly and do a decent job of it you won't need to keep coming back to it.

Another road surface I have an issue with is that shiny black stuff they sometimes use. When it is wet, it is a total hazard and has no grip whatsoever. It is terrible stuff and I have absolutely no idea why they use it. It's bad enough having to brake on it when in a car (I usually see it's this stuff and slow down a bit or brake earlier/softer to avoid locking up) but once I was on my bike approaching a junction where the end of the road was covered in this suff, and when I braked, the back wheel instantly locked, I had no grip, and I just carried on across the junction to the other side. A car was coming from the right and if it had been about 2 seconds ahead of where it was I'd have been killed or at least ended up in hospital. I wasn't going fast at all approaching the junction but it was like hitting sheet ice when I tried to brake and I was very lucky not to get hurt. They should stop using this material at all costs.

7. Traffic lights and roadworks

This is probably a common one. Traffic lights always seem to see you coming and change to red and make you sit there for ages. It's annoying when they are red for ages and only turn green for a few seconds and only let a few cars through; if you're in a long queue, you'll be there for a while. The people who program these things don't seem to give more green light time to the busier roads entering a lights-controlled area, and this is usually worse with temporary traffic lights; today I was in a queue about 50 cars long that tailed back to go over a busy roundabout, and the traffic lights at the crossroads gave the same amount of green light time to this road as two roads that has hardly any traffic coming from them, meaning everybody was just sat wasting fuel while nobody was going past the green. In this day and age the lights should be able to see which roads have most traffic and which ones are empty and adjust the light change frequency to match; alas, they don't seem to do this.

Of course, where there's temporary traffic lights, there's usually roadworks. And when I say roadworks, I mean some cones, some traffic lights, some 'men at work' signs (which I always see as a man struggling to open an umbrella), sometimes some materials and a digger, and that's about it. No workers doing said work. Meanwhile the queues and contraflows and everything else are still there, seemingly for no reason. This is even worse on dual carriageways/motorways when they put up 50 MPH limits to protect the workforce that aren't there. When they finally do finish the work, it's either worse than it was before or they've done such a crap job they're there again in a few months to have another go. And so begins the endless cycle of roadworks.

6. People not seeing me/people not giving way

I'm constantly being cut up by people, having people pull out in front of me, or people driving infront of me like there's nobody behind them. I drive with my lights on all the time (and sometimes forget to turn them off when I stop) to try and make sure people see me, and also give them no excuse if there is an accident; you can't claim you didn't see someone with their lights on coming towards you.

Today was a good day for this, with three incidents within the space of 5 minutes. First I had a guy decide he wanted to go left (same way as me) instead of right at a fork in the road, meaning he nearly drove into me as he changed back into my lane without checking his mirrors, then he just stopped in the road and slowly pulled into a shop, with no signal, again not having checked his mirror. Then a woman pulled out infront of me from a junction and I could see she only looked left before pulling out, meaning I had to brake and drive around the back of her car to avoid hitting it. Then further up the road at a roundabout, a guy came from the left and didn't even attempt to slow down even though i had also started to enter the roundabout; giving way to the right is not a choice.

There's also a bridge near my house which only has a single lane going under it; one way has priority over the other and this is very clearly marked from both directions. However, the number of people who don't follow this is unbelievable and I'm surprised there hasn't been more accidents there. It's a bit awkward to see through when it's not your right of way but that's why you approach it slowly and look through before carrying on. if someone then approaches, you reverse back, t's their right of way. I met one woman in there who saw me coming with plenty of time but carried on coming through even though it was my right of way; we stopped under the bridge and both just sat there, with her expecting me to move back. Er, no. After about 5 seconds I quickly moved about 2 feet towards her and she got the message and moved back. Twice I've had to brake hard to avoid hitting someone coming the other way because they've kept coming, twice it was raining and twice i locked up and skidded a bit. People really need to read road signs, especially ones regarding priorities and rights of way, they are there for a reason.

5. People speeding/overtaking dangerously/tailgating

I don't know who some people think they are. The way some people drive makes me wonder how they're still alive. Now, on dual carriageways and motorways I usually do 80 instead of 70 but dual carriageways and motorways aren't quite the same as normal rural roads. The speeds I've seen people driving in some areas around where I live shocks me, and if they lost control on some corners at the speed they go they're be through two fields and the police would be knocking at their relative's doors, not to mention the fact an accident is far more likely. Everyone else manages to keep to the limit, t's not one rule for them and one rule for everybody else.

Overtaking is another bad one. Too many times i've watched people overtake where i've lifted off, covered the brake and held my finger over my hazard warning button to prepare to warn people behind that there's been an accident ahead. Too many people overtake when there is not enough room, or when there's a corner approaching and a car comes round when they're on the wrong side of the road and it's far too close; I've come round corners to see someone coming straight for me, and it is not in the least bit pleasant. All the time I see people edging out and looking for a gap that isn't there, and they usually go for it and only just make it. now i've made some bad overtaking decisions in the past but I've learned from them and don't make the same mistake again, however a lot of people are just impatient and think they're the best driver in the world. It's worse when you're in a queue and someone overtakes from behind you and tries to pull into a gap in front of you that just isn't there; they come out of nowhere and i have to slam on my brakes to stop going into the back of them.

What's funny though is that people who drive like this often don't get where they're going any quicker. My old route to work was about 12 miles, sometimes, quite near the start of the journey, i got overtaken by some person who then went speeding off, and I drove past them as they waited at the lights in the city. What did they achieve? Nothing, other than wasting fuel, which let's face it, isn't cheap.

Tailgaters are just as bad. There is no need to sit so close to somebody as it is extremely distracting and intimidating. If I have to perform an emergency brake, they're going into the back of me, and although it would be their fault (it's always the fault of the person who goes into the back of you baring some circumstances) I don't want the hassle of a damaged, and in my case, probably written off car.

The bottom line is, these people kill. Whether it's themselves, or some innocent person who was in the wrong place at the wrong time, they kill. Near me there is a road with a 50 limit, and for good reason; you could drive on it at 60 but there are two crests on this road that are larger than they look and too often I've seen people get caught out thinking it's clear, only to have a car appear from nowhere from behind the crest. There is a crossroads at the top of this road, which is hard enough to pull out from at the best of times, it's even harder when people are doing stupid speeds along it. A few years ago there was a fatal accident at this cross roads, one of many accidents and it won't be the last which is fatal. A car was seen speeding and overtaking along the road heading towards the cross roads. A car was pulling out of the junction and the speeding car hit it side on, on the driver's side. The driver was killed and the front passenger broke his back and his neck. I knew the passenger. And I saw the aftermath of the accident. I came around the corner and saw a sea of blue lights up ahead and knew it was extremely serious. I saw what I could just make out to be a car, and enough emergency services to deal with a small plane crash. I'd been overtaken by 3-4 emergency service vehicles on my way there and I felt physically sick and a bit dizzy when I saw the scene, I had to stop for a few seconds to compose myself, and this was before I knew who had been involved. However to this day I see people driving in the same way along that road and know it'll only be a matter of time before the same thing happens; I'm just glad my family don't need to use this junction much anymore. To make it worse, absolutely nothing has been done about this junction either as although there have been several accidents there, just like the junction outside my house, there hasn't been enough deaths to warrant something doing.

The job I would most like to do is to be a traffic police officer in an unmarked car (a nice 5 series, naturally). I would love nothing more than to drive around unassumingly, see people driving like this, light up the roof and book them. Then take ages doing it, walking around their car checking things just to really piss them off, and then follow them for a while to make sure they don't just speed off again. I would never, ever tire of this.

4. People driving too slowly (and average speed cameras)

Despite the above, people driving slowly are just as bad as people driving too quickly. There are countless people who do 40 in a 50, or 40 or 50 in a 60, and frankly, if you cannot drive at 60 MPH, which is not fast on a clear, dry, open, straight road, then you should not be allowed a driving licence. If you don't have the confidence to drive at that speed on a road like that then you are not fit to be a driver. If it's due to eyesight or something your licence should be revoked immediately as you are a danger to people; how many articles have you read about elderly drivers mounting the kerb and killing pedestrians? I've read too many, and driving too slowly is a prime example of you not being fit to drive. They can cause as many accidents as anybody else as people get impatient and try to overtake when it may not necessarily be clear, and people stuck behind get agitated and annoyed. It's you drive slowly because your reaction times are too slow then again, you should not be driving as that is a severe danger to other road users.

That obviously doesn't apply to learner drivers. I have a lot of time and patience for learners. Everyone was a learner once, I was a learner once, everyone at one point had no idea what they were doing and were scared as hell, and the last thing they need is people up close behind them or overtaking them badly, they have enough to think about as it is. I always make sure I leave a larger gap behind a learner than I normally would and when I over take them I go out early, go as wide as I can, don't bomb past them, and wait a while before pulling in again. i appreciated it when people drove like this around me when I was learning and hated people who didn't.

Then, there's average speed cameras. Around here, there's a stretch of road that has average speed cameras along it. Half of it is a 50, half a 60. It's a nice wide open road, straight apart from some very large bends, and you could easily drive along it at 60 the whole way. The problem is with the sheer number of people who don't understand the concept of an average speed camera. The clue's in the same. Average speed. Average. It takes the time you go past one camera, the time you go through the next, it knows the distance between them, so knows how fast you went through them. Simple. Except some people feel the need to consistently go 10 MPH under the limit the whole way, through fear of getting a ticket. Why? Do 60 the whole way, you'll be fine. In fact, do 65 the whole way, you'll probably be fine. Although, the thing that makes me wish I had a rocket launcher attached to my car is when people brake going past the cameras. People. They are not Gatsos. They do not flash as you go past. They do not record your speed as you go past. They record the current time. Just go past them at whatever the speed limit is, and keep doing that speed, and you'll be fine.

3. People who don't turn their beam off

This one really grinds my gears. It's common knowledge that your full beam is a very bright light aimed at a higher angle to help you see further at night. What people don't seem to realise is that it is incredibly blinding especially when it's very dark and too many people don't turn it off quickly enough. The last thing I need when driving at night is spots infront of my eyes for 30 seconds because I've been blinded by somebody's beam. You can usually see someone coming round a corner as there's a visible beam of light and you can turn it off before they come into view or at the split second they do; this is what I do, and I drive with one finger on the stalk so I can turn it off immediately. Despite this there are times i'm a bit slow or forget and I quite rightly get flashed for it, as I often have to flash people. Unfortunately while I get the message after the first flash, a lot of people do not, and simply leave their on or take an age to turn it off despite multiple flashes. I even had to drive on the wrong side of the road and flash someone coming the other way because they didn't turn their beam off; the car infront of my was flashing to no avail so i had to go into the other lane to flash the other car too.

An even more annoying thing is when people behind leave their beam on, as if it's somehow not as bright; it still fills up my mirror and is incredibly distracting. My dad used to have a spotlight fitted to the back of his car to flash at people doing this to blind them back; it's apparently fully legal as long as you have sufficient warning around the switch for it inside the car; genuinely considering looking into having one fitted. Would be good against tailgaters too.

2. People who drive while on the phone

No matter what you say, if you are talking on the phone while driving, you are not giving the road your full concentration, and you are a danger to yourself and other road users. I can't walk up stairs if I'm doing something on my phone, I don't know how people can drive while being immersed in conversation with only one hand on the wheel. A hands free kit doesn't cost much, and if nothing else you'll save yourself a 60 quid fine and 3 points on your licence. When people stop people for being on the phone while driving I hope they show them pictures of horrific accidents and deaths that have occurred as a direct result of drivers being on the phone; hopefully that would stop them doing it if the aforementioned penalties and other inherent dangers aren't enough. When I was in New York all the taxi drivers and even a minibus driver were on their phones most of the time, some of them even playing with iPads while going along and every time they stopped. My first cab journey was like this and it scared me shitless, especially considering the roads and general driving style in NY are a lot madder than they are here.

1. People who can't drive on motorways

Now I will say straight away that the primary problem with people not knowing how to drive on motorways is that you are allowed to drive on them with a full licence but you are not required to drive on one or display any knowledge on how to drive on them in the test, which is shocking and downright dangerous because driving on a motorway is very different to driving on a normal road, when you consider the speeds involved and the way the roads themselves work. You're not allowed to drive on them when you're a learner but have full access once you pass and this is something that urgently needs changing. You can drive on a dual carriageway as a learner which is better than nothing but is still a big step away from a motorway, but I didn't drive on a dual carriageway when I was a learner as they were too far away; I drove on dual carriageways and motorways on the pass plus course which I took after I passed, where I gained vital experience, but a lot of people don't do this and expect to be able to run a marathon after just learning to walk.

The main problem is people don't understand lane discipline or what the different lanes are there for. People refer to them as the slow lane and fast lane but this is a gross misunderstanding of what they are there for if people think your speed governs which lane you should be in. On a dual carriageway or motorway, you drive in the lane as far left as you can. That is the fundamental rule. If you are on a dual carriageway, the outside lane is to overtake people on the inside lane, and on a motorway, the third and fourth lanes are to overtake people in the second and third lanes respectively. Once you've overtaken, you get back as far left as possible. You don't need to sit in the middle/outside lane because you're doing 80 and should never sit in a lane if the lane to the left of you is empty. This is what ends up causing congestion as people have to go into an outer lane to overtake someone going too slowly. On a motorway, if someone is sitting in the middle lane and the inside lane is free, you have two choices; undertake them (i.e. stay on the inside lane and go past them) but this is illegal and for good reason; if you do that and they then wake up and change lane, you'll collide, and it'll be your fault. Your other option is to go right out to the outside lane, overtake them, then pull back across to the inside lane. going from lane 1 to 3 to 1 to get past someone sat in lane 2 is very bad and dangerous, and is what causes accidents and congestion. This is where I would usually sit behind someone and flash them to get into the right dam lane, but they often have no ide why you're flashing them as they have no idea what they're doing wrong and just stay there. This problem is worse if on a dual carriageway as you can't overtake them, so you either have to undertake or sit behind them, again something that causes accidents and congestion.

Another rule is that if someone is coming up behind you, it is your duty to get out of their way wherever possible, not their duty to go around you. If someone is coming up behind you and the lane to the left of you is free, you should pull across. If you can't do this, this is when the car behind would overtake you if there is another lane and that lane is free. If you're overtaking and you're in the outside lane and someone behind you is trying to get past, you should pull in at the first opportunity to let them go. Follow this, and traffic will flow far better.

In 2010 I went to France and as soon as we hit the dual carriageways and motorways it was immediately apparent the French know how to drive on these roads. 95% of cars were in the inside lane, only changing lanes to overtake before pulling in again immediately after. And the roads were congestion free and flowed better than any English road I've driven on. Then, as soon as we cam back to England we could see how British drivers have no idea how to drive on dual carriageways and motorways, with people sitting in whatever lane they felt like. This is something the Government needs to change as a matter of urgency. While they are (quite rightly) planning to raise the national speed limit to 80 from 70, safety campaigners are complaining there will be more accidents; no, there will continue to be accidents as long as people are allowed to drive on these roads with no education on how to drive on them, and that is what should be being campaigned for.

Overall though, I do love driving. Just a shame some things have to go and spoil it.