If you haven’t driven in Europe yet, don’t bother. You’ll only come back home to be even more frustrated at the standards of driving in Australia.
As CarAdvice kicks off a new segment of opinion pieces, we’ll plead guilty that this subject of driving standards is an obvious one – but as one that gnaws at the heart of anyone with the remotest interest in motoring, it’s one we can’t ignore.
Before we delve into the worst driving habits witnessed in the (Not So) Lucky Country, mitigating circumstances should be presented for the defence.
The blinkered approach to speeding by Australian politicians – and in turn Australian police – means motorists in this country have effectively been bullied into being inferior drivers.
So here, in no particular order, are some of the worst examples of driving pretty much seen in the modern Western world (not including the still-too-new-to-motoring countries such as China).
The Fast Lane Hog
Also know as Mr Righteous (and possibly why they think they can occupy the right-hand lane permanently). There are typically two scenarios. One, they’re in the right lane with nothing to their left, and they either eventually realise they have a car filling their rear view mirror and belatedly move over. Or they are driving parallel with a car in the right lane and either overtaking at one millimeter per hour or just stubbornly staying there – believing you have no right to pass just because you’re going faster.
The Freeway Stalker
The car ahead is ambling along on the freeway under the speed limit, and you overtake them. You move back into the left lane with plenty of clearance … and then wonder why you’re not pulling away from them. You try a burst of acceleration to bridge a gap but the car behind just follows suit without ever overtaking.
The I-Don’t-Know-How-Fast-I-Want-To-Travel driver
A variation of The Stalker, though this driver actually decides they don’t like being overtaken, and repass you … only to then back off further up the road. Your set cruise control then inevitably means you catch that car up again and – you guessed it – sees the need for you to indicate and overtake again. Repeat process.
Driving fast along a winding road takes skill; driving fast along a straight road doesn’t. Some motorists, however, believe they’re giving the impression of being Formula One material by charging along up behind you on a busy two-way road, yet disappear from your rear view mirror as soon as a series of bends come into play.
The Reluctant Lane-Merger
Merging onto a freeway isn’t difficult. Get up to speed (preferably as close to the 110km/h limit as possible), indicate, and merge. Some drivers want to dawdle, though, thinking it’s safer to travel along a slip road at about 50 or 60km/h, only getting up to or near the limit once on the freeway. To be fair, they do have to watch out for…
…The Ignorant Motorist
One of the great examples of selfish motoring. Here, you’re travelling along the slipway, ready to join the motorway. Yet for some reason, the car already on the freeway hasn’t seen you and remains entrenched in the left-hand lane. You’re left with two choices if they continue to be short of sight or manners: accelerate hard to move ahead of them, or brake and slot in behind.
It’s rush hour, every lane is chockers, and it’s just going to take patience (and a good album or radio station) to see you to your destination. Yet some drivers are convinced they can swerve from lane to lane – forcing other cars to take avoiding action – and make valuable time/ground. But just stick to your lane and, as the traffic progresses, you might be surprised how many times you end up right behind that very same car (at which point a mocking shake of the head combined with wry smile is permitted).
Slightly more excusable owing to the prevalence of the aforementioned Mr Fast Lane Hog on Australian roads, and certainly not a crime of motoring etiquette restricted to Down Under. The occasion when tailgating is particularly poor form is when the tailgater zooms up to be almost touching your rear bumper despite the fact you’re clearly going at a sufficient pace to overtake a number of closely grouped vehicles in the left-hand lane. For those with rear foglights, there’s the temptation to flick them on to scare the tailgater into thinking you’ve hit the brakes (though of course CarAdvice wouldn’t, ahem, condone such behavior).
The Queue Jumper
The warning signs that motorists need to blend into two from three lanes are placed far in advance, and most drivers make smooth and timely lane changes accordingly… yet there’s plenty who just can’t resist the temptation to accelerate down to where the lane ends and then try to force their way into the line of traffic – slowing the traffic that was otherwise moving at a consistent pace.
The Itchy Right-footer
The competitive streak that seems to reside in every Australian can also be experienced when stopped at red lights. If you’re at the front of a two-lane road, count how many times vehicles next to you feel the need to nudge forward, thinking they’re anticipating lights that won’t change for at least another minute. Just put your right foot on the brake pedal, son.
The Dozy Dawdler
You’re queued at the lights at a junction where the green light seems to come along as often as a blue moon, and when it does … the car at the front remains stationary for crucial seconds, before ambling off - allowing just one other car through (if lucky) before the red lights up again. This is particularly frustrating for green filter lights.