I’m grumpy much of the time, just ask my colleagues. But I’m rarely grumpier than I am after a drive through Melbourne’s suburbs, fresh from harrowing encounters with often oblivious four-wheeled dangers.
I am fortunate enough to have driven on five continents and in more than 50 countries, which has afforded me plenty of context to form a dim view of Australia’s driving.
The almost complete lack of driver training here – as described so eloquently by our friend Steve Pizzati – has created a subset of Aussie drivers both angry and timid, overly confident yet under-informed. Dunning-Kruger exemplified.
It can be dire out there, I’m sure you’d agree. Having done a quick office straw poll, here are some behaviours that particularly piss us off.
Right lane hogs
Do some people not know that you shouldn’t sit in the right-hand lane unless overtaking?
People who occupy the fast lane beneath the speed limit – either because they’re oblivious or self-appointed road police – cause a huge amount of frustration out there.
They cause traffic to back up and elicit mistakes from irritated people stuck behind them. Just try doing this on an Autobahn and see how long it takes before a 7 Series pushes you off the road.
It’s perfectly fine to drive well under the limit if that’s what ensures you stay comfortable, but don’t hold everyone else up while you’re at it, please.
Poor use of blinkers manifests in all manner of ways.
There are those drivers who believe in telekinesis, since they change lanes without offering a whit of notice to those around them.
Then there are also folks who indicate and immediately change lanes, as though using that little stalk near the wheel immediately clears your path on all sides.
Let us not forget those who drive along with their indicators on for minutes by mere accident, oblivious to the second-guessing they’re causing all and sundry behind them.
Worst of the bunch? People who get to a traffic light with multiple lanes, and only once stopped at the red remember to indicate to the right. If you gave us some notice, we could have moved into the other lane, so as not to be stuck behind you while you wait for a gap…
Can’t use a roundabout
Am I the only one who regularly has to hit the brakes mid-roundabout?
You’re supposed to give way to a vehicle already in there, which you are at risk of hitting. This generally manifests as giving way to the right. Makes sense, yes?
And yet, plenty of folks either stop when they should go, or go when they should stop, reducing those efficiencies inherently part of roundabouts to start with.
Poor use of headlights
I get it, sometimes it’s hard to tell if your lights are on if the road itself is well-lit. Moreover, not everyone’s car has dusk-sensors.
Yet for all this I can’t remember any recent nighttime commutes where I didn’t see a car or three trudging along either with no lights on, or using daytime running lights instead.
Or perhaps worst of all, high beams into oncoming traffic.
When driving at night, just take a microsecond to consider your surroundings. Check your stalk and your cluster, and monitor the light pattern just ahead of your grille. All your answers may be found therein.
Australia has really intense speed-limit restrictions, in parts dishing out fines for doing just 3km/h over the limit.
Which means you might find yourself caught between a rock and a hard place: doing the indicated speed limit with a dual-cab driver in high-vis practically tapping your bumper, or speeding up to change lanes and risking a fine from a hidden camera.
But beyond those scenarios, many Australians tailgate, remorselessly, just because.
Most baffling is when the culprits are driving old vehicles with bad brakes and balding tyres, but in all cases it’s both an annoyance and a danger.
This sort of ties into the poor indicating section, but decisiveness is key on the roads.
If you see a gap, take it promptly. If you need to get across a lane or two, signal clearly and take the chance when it presents. And if you’re approaching the end of a lane, don’t shoot to the front of the queue and shaft everyone with a last-ditch, apologetic manoeuvre.
Melburnians are so poor at merging that we have traffic lights letting through one car at a time onto major highways now…
I know, I know, you really want to see how many likes that Insta reel has garnered. Don’t do it, full stop.
Not while driving anyway, one hand on the wheel and another on the phone, eyes and mind occupied while your car edges ever-closer to mine across a double line.
Nor while static at the lights, because you’ll be slow on the uptake when they go green on account of your attention being elsewhere.
Just put the device down, use hands-free, or pull over.
Matching the speed of those overtaking
Ever been waiting an age for an overtaking lane, only to find the slow car ahead matches your speed when you finally decide to round them up?
Is it the manifestation of a misplaced sense of road ownership? An inferiority complex? Just a sense of pettiness? Why do this?
Take a trip somewhere in regional Australia, and if you don’t once come across someone genuinely trying to stop you passing them, I’ll eat my flat cap.
People who reckon their car is 50-times its size
Hey, do you drive a truck? A bus? Kudos to you, and thanks for your vital service.
If not, you don’t need to edge into a parallel lane to give you room to make that tight turn. I don’t care how big your car is.
Nor do you need to mimic the Scando flick, turning one way before turning the other. You aren’t a Finnish rally star, you’re a business consultant.
Ah the irony, you say. Thin-skinned journalist complains about road rage!
Guilty. But even so, there are people out there who genuinely fume, who shout and rave and scream, and in some cases physically intimidate those around them.
If you’re the sort who flips the bird or tries to side swipe other road users, you should hop into your nearest bin and never come out.
How about you? What irks you out there? I want to see the comments firing!