IAIN ROBERTSON

The certainty of hatefulness that arises from being a self-appointed denizen of the public highway tends to work both ways…if only you realised it.

Living in a ‘blame culture’, as we do, where the police appear powerless at times to deal with circumstances, opines Iain Robertson, a certain inevitability exists around our on-road conduct, which has created a ‘Top Ten of Worst Driving Practices’.

Before I launch into a growing list of on-road irritants, many of which most of us will have experienced at some stage in our motoring lives and can be supplemented with ease, please allow me to state that, however annoying another driver’s behaviour might be, reacting to it is NEVER a good idea. Far from Newton’s equal-and-opposite forces cancelling-out each other, displays of unwarranted (no matter how much you think it might) ire seldom resolve the situation.

The motorcar has become a safe haven. Modern manufacturing installs so many soft surfaces, inflatable air-bags and semi-autonomous safety devices that the driver no longer feels as vulnerable at the controls, as he might have done 20, 40, or 80 years ago, when rolled-over, battered and bashed vehicles littered the sides of our roads and fatality rates were threateningly high.

As a child of the 1960s, I can still recall my father remonstrating with the ‘bloody idiot’ that may have hindered his pre-70mph limit progress. Yet, those occasions were rare, mainly because our roads were significantly less crowded and it was less likely that interaction with other motorists would even occur. Despite our ‘penniless state’, it is increased prosperity and a well-promoted desire to experience the freedom of personal mobility that has led us onto the much-vaunted ‘road to hell’.

The simple fact that our personal spaces are likely to be invaded by strangers, with whom we wish to have zero contact, mostly when it is of an ‘unexpected’ nature, is one of the key reasons for the hackles to rise and tempers to boil. Sadly, on one too many occasions, regardless of ‘cause’, the reactionary ‘effect’, however self-righteous it might be, is often every bit as incorrect as the initial ‘offence’.

In order to be deemed suitable to drive a motor vehicle, we indulge in expensive driving lessons and mind-expanding practice sessions. We are told to learn The Highway Code; a book that contains the Rules of the Road and appropriate motoring advice. However, once the Driving Test has been passed, the rot sets in. Bad habits develop. Some of them inferred upon and instilled in us by friends and relatives. It is at some time between three months and three years post-Test that most of us will have reached a level of self-imposed confidence, perhaps even cockiness, where we simply know better…even though we probably do not, and the Highway Code is chucked out as readily as the baby’s bathwater.

A recent report compiled by Accident Advice Helpline revealed that it was ‘understandable for motorists to get frustrated by the activities of others’ but that ‘we can all be guilty of similar behaviour’, especially when it is of a retaliatory nature, or when we feel that we know better…when, put basically, we do not. Putting a simple expedient in place, if you want to be ‘right’, then learn how to be so from a position of strength, not from a self-aggrandising stance and a deep personal belief that two negatives will self-cancel.

As a professional motoring writer, often commissioned to write about road safety issues, I elected to undertake several courses of driving standards improvements that started with the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) assessment, followed by the RoSPA test. I have completed the Police Class One driving test, passed the Driving Standards Agency instructor’s test and also gained qualifications through The High Performance Course (HPC). Until only recently, I also engaged the services of a senior driving instructor (now retired to New Zealand) to provide me with an annual check test and to keep me abreast of motoring law. While I am not ‘Peter Perfect’, at least I am armed appropriately.

Yet, I am frustrated frequently by the lack of consideration, carelessness and genuine rudeness of other road-users. I cannot admit to innocence, as I do react occasionally, sometimes with guile, but never in a way that might be discernible, either by them, or other road-users. If there is a key to survival that I can recommend, it is NOT to be distracted by the poor decisions made by others. While it is difficult, try to be as unemotional as your motorcar. By all means, do not ignore, or forget, what has occurred but do put it into perspective and even learn from the misdeeds of others. In fact, partake of extra driver training, preferably not of the enforced type.

Top Ten Irritants (and how to deal with them):

  1. Tailgaters

Keep your wits about you. Do not feel threatened. Do not ‘brake test’ the following vehicle. If they do not overtake you, slow down, indicate, pull over when safe to do so and let them pass.

  1. Non-signallers

Do not drive so close. Keep a safety space around your vehicle. Be ready for the unexpected. Avoid reacting physically, as a curse beneath the breath can act as a positive release valve.

  1. Driving Texters

Feel ‘aggrieved’ but do NOT react. Be certain that you never do the same. The Law of Averages suggests that the annoying ‘texter’ will soon be caught and fined appropriately.

  1. Full-beamers

At night-time, divert your eyes to follow the side of the roadway. Even cars equipped with automatic full-beam can sometimes fail to dip the headlamps and I shall guarantee that you have been caught out at times.

  1. Bad-parkers

Parking inconsiderately is one of my bugbears and, if no other spaces are available, it can be irksome. However, BE patient. A space will occur. If not, move on, try elsewhere. Perhaps plan better to avoid all the spaces being taken early.

  1. Lane-hoggers

Do NOT close the safety gap. Hold back. Be patient. Bear in mind that you may be progressing at a sensible rate anyway. Be aware of what else is happening around you.

  1. Slow-coaches

Just because another road-user wants to travel at a pace slower than you, plan ahead. Wait for the opportunity to pass safely. Provide them with space. Be a giver, not a taker.

  1. Thankless road-users

Just because you have been gracious does not mean that the other party will be polite and return the favour with a grateful thank-you, mouthed or waved. It is better not to have expectations. Avoid judging people by your own high standards…it’s a start.

  1. Hedge-hoppers and queue-jumpers

Those last-minute rogues that believe they can gain an advantage…over you! Just remember your priorities. Will they arrive any quicker? No. Will their heartbeat be any higher? Yes. Does it really matter? No.

  1. Red light-jumpers

As long as you have planned better than they have, you will be the survivor. Worry less about their misjudgements and more about your own personal safety and that of people around you.

 

Conclusion:    Being a better driver involves a judicious blend of forward planning, careful timing, circumspection, smoothness, an ability to foresee the unexpected, positive experience and adherence to rules and regulations. Judging others by your own standards is only feasible, if you are totally perfect. If you feel that you need to know better, then be educated. Take further lessons. Brush-up on The Highway Code. To be an ultimate driver demands patience, care and knowledge, especially on today’s ever-busier town and country roads. Safe progress!

 

 

 

 

 

About Iain P W Robertson

Frequently being told to 'go forth and multiply', Iain P W Robertson's automotive wisdom is based on almost forty years in the business, across all aspects from sport to production, at the highest levels. He likes dogs and drives a Suzuki (not related).