Think you're a great driver? You're not alone. Sixty-four percent of people rate themselves as "excellent" or "very good" drivers. But they don't think as highly of other people. Only 29 percent rate their friends as "excellent" or "very good," and just 22 percent rate people their own age that highly.
(That's not as odd a result as the study that showed 94 percent of college professors rated themselves above average compared to their peers, though.)
But still: Maybe you are an excellent driver. Maybe your driving skills truly are superb. But do you do things that annoy or irritate other drivers?
Let's find out.
Here's my list of the most annoying things other drivers do. (I've left off obvious items like not using your turn signals, or texting while driving, or not clearing ice or snow off your car...hopefully avoiding any items that make you think, "Well, duh.")
See what you think about my list, and then list your pet peeves in the comments below.
1. Flashing headlights to get the car ahead to move over...even though there are cars ahead of and beside that car.
If we're on the interstate, and I'm in the fast lane, and I don't see you quickly approaching behind me...hey, flash your lights. That's on me. I shouldn't be in your way.
But if I'm in the left lane and there are cars both ahead of me and strung out beside me... where do you expect me to go? And if I do manage to squeeze over into the right lane, where are you going to go? You managed to move up one place in line.
As Christian Bale would say, "Oh, good for you."
2. Passing and then immediately braking hard to make the exit.
Another interstate no-no. I'm in the right lane, you flash by me in the left lane, dart over in front of me...and then brake hard so you can slow down enough to make the exit ramp, causing me to slow down, too.
If I don't have to hit the brakes, no problem. Pass away. But if you cut in so late that I have to slow down, then you should have just stayed behind me. (After all, we're talking seconds.)
But if your heart is set on passing--or if you didn't notice until the last minute that your exit was coming up--just wait until you're in the exit lane before you hit your brakes.
And feel free to give the little "my bad" wave. Most of the time other drivers will excuse just about anything if you admit you goofed up.
3. Pulling out in front of the only car on the road.
You're at a stop sign, waiting to turn right onto a two-lane road. A car is headed your way, close enough that, if you pull out, it will have to slow down because you can't get up to speed in time.
And there are no cars behind it. None. Zero. Empty road.
But you pull out anyway. Great....
Wait the extra five seconds or so to let the approaching driver pass. That way, they get to maintain their speed, plus you won't feel the need--although people who do this never seem to feel this particular need--to get up to speed too quickly.
4. Playing the yo-yo game.
You're on a long trip. You're rolling along. There is little traffic. You're finding your Zen place.
Except there's a guy who passes you, merges into the lane ahead of you...and then a mile later starts going so slowly that you have to pull out and pass him. So you do.
A couple miles later, he passes you again. And then he slows down....
Pick a speed. Or at the very least, if you decide to pass a car, be willing to stay past.
Or just line up behind it, because it's clear you're going to get to the same place at the same time anyway.
And speaking of cruise control....
5. Not using cruise control.
Cruise control is not just the easiest way to make sure you don't get a ticket--I routinely set mine 6 or 7 miles an hour over the speed limit, and (knock on a huge piece of wood) can't remember the last time I got a speeding ticket--but it's also the courteous move, especially on the interstate.
After all, if I know how fast you intend to go, I can decide whether to pass or not. Maybe I'll bump my speed down a mile or so an hour and follow you. Or maybe I'll bump it up a mile an hour and ease past.
Other people can make the same decisions. And then we'll all be happy.
Since we're talking about police officers....
6. Slamming on the brakes after spotting a police car.
Dude. When you see the cop car, it's already too late. Go ahead and slow down, but braking so hard your front suspension dips? A police officer once told me, "When I see people do that, I think, 'Seriously? You don't think I'm smart enough to notice?' It's almost like they're asking me to pull them over."
If you're doing, say, 77 in a 70-mph zone and you see a trooper, bump your cruise down a couple of miles an hour. That's like saying, "Yeah, I know I'm going too fast. I'm sorry."
Police officers don't hope you'll speed so they can write you a ticket. They hope you won't speed and hopefully won't cause an accident and hurt other people.
So show a little respect. You'll almost always receive it in return.
7. Merging too soon.
You're driving on a multi-lane road and one lane will end ahead. Most people try to move out of that lane as soon as they can, but a few will cruise past the long line to merge at the last moment.
They're rude, right? Nope.
Actually, they're helping traffic flow better. According to various studies, staying in the closing lane until it ends and then take turns merging (the so-called "zipper merge") leads to a 15 percent increase in traffic flow and a 50 percent shorter line.
So don't try to force your way out of the lane that will close. All you do is jam up cars in both lanes. Cruise to the merge point and then take your turn. (And if you're already in the "right" lane, let one car merge ahead of you when you get to the merge point.)
The more smoothly everyone merges, the faster the entire line goes. (For a lot more on this, check out Minda Zetlin's article, "Rude Drivers Who Merge at the Last Second Are Doing You a Favor.")
8. Firing retaliatory high beams.
On country roads, high beams are your friend--but after long stretches with no oncoming cars, it's also easy to forget you have them on.
If I'm approaching and I've left my high beams on, by all means give me the quick "high beam flick" to let me know. But don't feel the need to slam me with your high beams. If it's unsafe for me to do to you...it's unsafe for you to do to me.
And if a car doesn't respond to the high beam flick, leave yours in low beam. That way at least one of you will be able to see.
And speaking of country roads....
9. Not pulling over when four or five cars line up behind.
Some people drive slowly on country roads. Add to that the fact that some country roads are so twisty there are very few legal places to pass. (There's a 20-mile stretch of Route 20 from Scottsville to Dillwyn, Virginia, where the speed limit is 55 but there are only four or so very short sections where passing is allowed.)
(And if you're a Breaking Bad fan, yes, that Dillwyn.)
If you're doing 40 or 45 in a 55 zone, and there aren't legal places to pass, and four or five cars have lined up behind you...pretend you're a tractor: Pull off and let everyone by.
You absolutely have the right to drive slowly if you wish, but not at the expense of other people.
10. Honking the (beeping) horn.
Someone did something that made you mad. Does honking your horn make the situation better? Does laying on the horn, even after the guy ahead of you has noticed the light has changed, help anything?
If you need to let the guy who is texting know that the light has changed, a quick blip of the horn is enough. If a guy pulled out in front of you on a two-lane road and caused you to brake hard, honking is unnecessary. It won't change anything.
Don't lay on the horn. Lay off the horn. Honking is like using all caps.
11. Failing to pull far enough off the road.
If you have to stop for an emergency, pull as far off the road as you can. Over 10 percent of interstate highway deaths involve people who are outside of their cars on the road or shoulder.
Plus we've all seen videos like this.
Pull way over. And then get out of your car and stand way off the road. When traffic is busy--and especially if you're following a tractor-trailer--we may not be able to see you or your vehicle until it's almost too late.
That's irritating for us, but that pales in comparison to the fact it could be fatal for you.
12. Not giving tractor-trailer drivers the respect they deserve.
I know. Sometimes tractor-trailers go too slowly. Sometimes they won't move out of the fast lane quickly enough. Sometimes...well, sometimes a tractor-trailer just seems big and scary and you wish they weren't on the highway at all.
But keep in mind approximately 70 percent of all freight in the U.S. is moved by tractor-trailers: Whatever you just bought, whether at a store or online...chances are it got part of the way to you on a tractor-trailer. And keep in mind that the vast majority of tractor-trailer drivers are not just consummate professionals, they're better drivers than we are.
So give them a break. They're just trying to do their jobs, often under tough conditions and considerable time pressure.
Just like the rest of us.