Introduction What is it about today’s society that once inside the diminutive world of their cars they seem to lose all rationality; become impatient, lose all common sense, courtesy and driving etiquette? Are we all in such a rush that we forget the principles we were taught whilst learning to drive and that allowed us to pass our tests?
Personally, I believe that for many drivers these rules and regulations go out of the window as soon as they receive their ‘fully qualified’ status. I passed my test many years ago but have recently started to drive again after a long spell of not owning a car. I was apprehensive when getting back behind the wheel and drove quite slowly until I gained my confidence. What does surprise me was how other drivers seem to like being stuck to the rear of my car. This worries me because if I have to brake suddenly they will end up crashing into me. Have we forgotten the principles of braking distances? According to the Highway Code, when we drive at 30 mph we need 23 metres to stop.
This includes 9metres thinking time and 14metres stopping distance, which is equivalent to 6 car lengths. Now unless ‘Joe Bloggs’ behind is thinking in matchbox car sizes, he will not have enough time or space to avoid a collision. On motorways there are distance/speed indicator chevrons painted in the middle of each lane. These are 40 metres apart and by keeping 2 marks between each car can give a safe driving distance at 70mph.
Now I’m sure most of us have heard about the 2 second rule; ‘Only a fool breaks the 2 second rule’. This means that you have to allow the minimum of 2 seconds between your car and the car travelling in front to have a good chance of stopping in time to avoid an accident. So again, why do people insist that they have the right to tailgate another car’s rear-end? This is not only un-nerving and dangerous but it’s illogical.
Another area where logic and courtesy seems to go out of the window is on slip-roads that join the motorways. I think it is good manners that if I see a car trying to join the motorway I pull over into the next lane. If this is not possible then I will either speed up or slow down to allow them to enter safely.
But not all drivers accommodate this, which can result in a very slow procession of cars trying to join. I experienced this awhile ago, but the third car in this queue decided that waiting wasn’t an option and pulled out across the chevrons; straight into the middle lane then sped off. Fortunately no harm was done but it’s this sort of impatience that can so easily lead to accidents and for what – a matter of having to wait a few more seconds, come on guys is it really worth it?
The use of car horns is, at times, appropriate, but not when I am stuck at the roundabout from hell with an irritable driver behind who insists that I must move, even though there are no gaps for me to move into. The fact that the driver couldn’t see the constant flow of traffic from the right because the roundabout is at the top of a hill and his view was blocked by shrubbery, didn’t seem to stop him letting me know he wasn’t happy. What I found ironic about the situation is that I wanted to go as quickly as he wanted me to because I was taking my daughter to school and we were late.
The lack of use when it comes to indicators; what’s that all about? Was there a queue for handing out telepathy once you had passed your test? If there was, I was obviously stood in the wrong line. Am I instinctively supposed to know that the car in front is; going to pull out, which exit they intend taking on a roundabout or are turning the next corner? When I was learning to drive it was drummed into me about the importance of letting other road users know your intention; mirror, signal, manoeuvre, always indicate! Maybe I should go and retake my test to ensure I’m stood in the right queue afterwards!
The question is; how do we stop this war on the roads? Retesting? This may work on a small minority but the majority would pass their tests and revert back to bad habits. Banning all impatient drivers? This could only work if they were caught in the act and we don’t have enough police out on patrol. So I think the solution lies with each and every driver taking a bit more time, care and thought for other road users.