Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Get off the road!

Yesterday I made the call on my number one pet hate when driving - testosterone fuelled morons who threaten the well-being of everyone else. I have to admit, a close second for me is drivers who are overly timid and tentative. I know traffic can be an overwhelming and scary thing and a certain degree of caution is warranted, but every day I have to deal with people that give the impression they'd be more comfortable wrapped in cotton wool in and underground bomb shelter.

I also acknowledge that confidence is something you gain with experience and everyone needs to build their driving confidence with time. In fact one of the biggest problem with my number one hate (hoons) is an absolutely unwarranted level of confidence in their abilities. These cretins seem to have an inverse proportional relationship between their arrogance and their actual abilities. Having said that, I do have an issue with drivers who never seem to lose their fear of driving.

At a certain point, my advice to pathologically timid drivers is get some fucking therapy. Spend some time on the psychiatrist's couch or even stay on your own couch at home watching daytime soaps. Anything that keeps you off the goddam roads. Think about becoming a shut-in. Get a dozen cats and see how it feels. Because if you brake at a green light again in front of me I'm going to pound your fucking head into a colour chart until you understand the difference between red and green.

For people who are only a little bit timid and are looking to improve their confidence, the number one piece of advice I would offer is "learn how to read traffic." I am constantly frustrated by people who don't react to changes in traffic until the last second. The first skill of driving is learning how to deal with your immediate surroundings and being able to react but an absolutely necessary longer term skill is being able to look more than a car length in front of you.

A few examples: If there are two lanes going in your direction and you can see a block or so ahead your lane is blocked by a vehicle waiting to turn, change lanes as soon as practical, NOT AT THE LAST FUCKING SECOND. At worst, you'll cause an accident and at best you'll fuck up the flow of traffic when you have to come to a complete stop rather than fluidly moving between lanes. And people behind you often can't see past you (particularly if you're driving one of those stupid oversized 4WD pieces of shit) so you can end up causing an unnecessary banking up of really frustrated people. On the plus side, this is often a chance to broaden your vocabulary as passing motorists share their "well wishes" with you.

Another good one is when you approach an intersection, try and work out what's happening before you actually get there. Give way signs and roundabouts are not stop signs; you're only meant to stop if there's someone to give way to. At an open intersection with good visibility you should know what you're going to do before you get there - a sure way to get on my shit list is to stop unnecessarily, THEN look, THEN decide there's no traffic so you can go.

Also, when merging with traffic get a realistic idea of when you can go forward. I've seen people at intersections who seem to be waiting for someone in the next suburb to drive through before they'll go themselves. You're not going to get a written fucking invitation, you need to be a little proactive. Again, commonsense is required - visibility and the speed of traffic are variables that need to be taken into account but I'm not the only one who gets angry at people who don't go through gaps that you could run a circus parade through.

In short, if traffic scares you, you need to deal with it. If you've been driving for more than 5 years and you're still overly tentative it's time to take action. Maybe you could take an advanced driving course. Or maybe you could drink heavily before driving to calm your nerves (kids, this is a joke - don't do this!) But if you think you can't deal with it, do everyone a favour. Stay off the fucking road.

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