If you’ve spent any amount of time behind the wheel, you’ve noticed it: a small army of drivers who habitually, but generally without malice, break rules of the road. Perhaps it stems from a well-meaning but misinformed Driver’s Ed teacher back in the day or maybe the person is – like us all – simply exhausted from what’s nearly a solid year of pandemic vigilance.
That doesn’t keep us from carping about these blunders, though. A simple drive through the downtown or along a parkway is enough to remind us all there are more than a few bad driving habits that a lot of us simply can’t shake.
With millions from which to choose, we’ve selected a septet of road-going irritants and aggravations.
Let’s start with what’s surely one of the most common unforced errors: the rolling stop. If we’re being honest, a quick straw poll indicates nearly everyone has almost-but-not-quite-stopped at some point behind the wheel, including your author who was pulled over in a foreign country by stern-looking gendarmes for this very infraction. In other words, I definitely put the “moron” in oxymoron that day. Technically, there’s no such thing as a “rolling stop” – either you stopped or you didn't.
Letting People Out
In what is surely the most Canadian of complaints, we’re calling out drivers who are simply too darn nice. We’ll allow there may – may – be a very narrow set of circumstances when it’s OK to wave someone into your lane (zipper merging is a good example). But those ninnies who stop in the inside of a four-lane boulevard to wave a left-turn driver across two lanes of oncoming traffic need to have their heads examined. It’s all too easy for another driver to come barrelling up the outside lane, even at legal speeds, just as a Good Samaritan waves the all-clear. Fun fact: the person doing the turning is likely on the hook for insurance in the case of that collision.
Turning Into the Wrong Lane
This one is easier to describe visually than verbally, but we’ll give it a go. When making a turn – left or right – from a side street or driveway onto a multi-lane road, drivers are required to stay in the same lane they were in when they started the turn. For example, if hanging a left from a one-way road to a multi-lane two-way road, turn into the lane just right of the centre line. Another instance: when turning right out of a McDonald’s onto a multi-lane thoroughfare, stick to the lane closest to the curb. Otherwise, you’re technically changing lanes in an intersection, which is a no-no. After the turn, move into the right curb lane when you can.
Not Merging Properly
When jumping onto a highway, that merging lane is there so drivers can get up to the same speed as fast-moving traffic. It does not serve as a place for terrified drivers to apply the brakes while looking for an opening in traffic, causing other motorists behind them to furiously jump on their own binders and creating a sea of brake lights from Kamloops to Kapuskasing. While we’re on the subject, some highway drivers see a vehicle that’s ready to merge but stubbornly stay the course even when there’s ample opportunity to move over a lane. These inconsiderate nimrods should be sent to the onion mines, post-haste.
Four Way Stops and Other Adventures
Some drivers get a deer-in-the-headlights look on their faces when presented with a four-way stop. Just in case you weren't aware, closing your eyes and flooring it across the intersection is not the proper approach. The first vehicle to halt at the junction should also be the first to enter it. If two or more appear at once, they should yield to the driver on their right. Three-way stops are similar. Two-way stops, with unimpeded cross-traffic, require people making a left-hand turn yield to any vehicle that’s facing you and planning to drive across the intersection – even if they got there after you did (while you were waiting for traffic to clear, for example).
Texting (or Any Use of a Handheld Device)
Yes, we see you using that smartphone while driving; the illuminated rectangle in your lap lights up your face like a neon sign. We’re well into the second decade of public awareness campaigns exhorting the importance of ignoring smartphone screens while driving, yet some drivers still haven’t processed the message. Anything that takes one’s focus from the road can be dangerous, and with their endless streams of media, smartphones like to grab a whole bunch of your focus. Bluetooth the thing and drop it in the console, mmmkay?
Unsecured Loads, Tailgating, and Other Annoyances
Buddy in the F-150 is surely excited to get home and start work on his new deck but, for the love of Henry Ford, secure those boards properly before leaving the lumber yard and place a red marker at the end of anything sticking out further than the truck’s back bumper. The latter is to alert our next aggravation, tailgaters, that they run the risk of skewering their windshield if they get too close.
Speaking of, a good rule for judging a safe following distance – especially on a two-lane country road – is to select a roadside object (tree, power pole, random wino) and pass it approximately two seconds after the lead car does. We know this may not be possible on major highways since Johnny Jumpstart will simply slide into the gap and foil your plans, but it is a good habit to keep in mind.
And, for the love of all that’s holy, use a turn signal. We’re lookin’ at you, BMW drivers.