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Driving Muppets

June 27th 2008

I have a rule. Never let anybody out of a side street. This is not a rule I have adopted lightly and I’m not an inconsiderate or aggressive driver. In fact, quite the opposite - I’m courteous and respectful of other drivers and will always give them their fair share of the road; I’ll let people change lanes in front of me on a congested motorway and I’ll give way to other road users when they have the right of way. I’m professionally trained too, having both motorcycle and PCV licences. But, driving experience over 20 years and about 400,000 miles has taught me many lessons and this rule has naturally presented itself and been adopted by my brain.

There are two reasons for this rule. Firstly, when I drive I see the bigger picture. I think about the flow of traffic and how my actions affect other road users. So I’ll never slow down on a main road in order to let someone out of a side street. In most of our towns and cities and some rural areas the roads are so full and operating at capacity that interrupting the flow of traffic to let someone out of a side street can have serious knock-on effects. It can cause problems further back along the road and carry on for ages afterwards. Don’t get me wrong, if the traffic is congested and crawling or stop-start, I’ll never block anybody in. If I have to stop on the main road I’ll always leave a gap at the side road to allow anybody in or out. It’s just that, if the traffic is flowing, I’ll keep it flowing.

Secondly, and more importantly, half the people on the road are inattentive muppets. How many times have you flashed or waved somebody out at a junction and they’re not paying attention so they hesitate, or don’t react, then you have to decide whether to flash them again or carry on and risk being rammed in the side. Choose the former and if you’re lucky they’ll go, usually slowly. If you’re unlucky they still won’t react and you’ll be almost at a standstill. QED.

Occasionally I’ll let my guard down and break the rule but every time I do, without exception, the situation reminds me why I have the rule.

OK, there are many other examples of bad driving; like failing to indicate, driving too close to the car in front, inappropriate speed, poor road positioning, lane hogging etc., but they’re all borne out of the same problem...people don’t give driving the respect it deserves. They don’t take the responsibility of controlling a large, heavy, fast moving chunk of metal seriously. They jump in, set off, put their make up on / eat their banana / drink their coffee etc. and drive like they’re pushing the shopping trolley round Asda (don’t get me started on that). They don’t pay attention and often are not aware of what’s going on around them and the consequences can be serious, often fatal.

Maybe it’s because I have more training than most. Certainly, riding a motorcycle makes you more aware of your surroundings than you can possibly imagine if you haven’t done it - you are very aware that if you don’t pay attention you’re likely to end up dead. Maybe everyone should be made to ride a motorcycle before being given a car licence - it would instil a healthy survival instinct and respect for the road.

So think about it, next time you get in your car ask yourself, do I deserve to be driving? Am I courteous, respectful and fair to other road users and is my driving style easing or worsening the congestion? Make sure you can answer positively, then we can all enjoy driving and we’ll get where we are going much quicker.


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