/ Motoring

Poll results: your biggest driving pet hate is tailgating

Tailgating appears to be the biggest cause of road rage among drivers on Which? Conversation. It came out on top in our poll of drivers’ biggest pet hates, but what else winds you up?

Dave Evans’ Conversation on bad driver habits prompted over 150 comments and 1,006 poll votes. So what’s driving you round the bend?

Almost a quarter of voters picked out motorists following too close behind – or tailgating – as their biggest irritant. This tallies with last year’s research from Admiral Insurance, showing that rear bumper crashes rose by 9% in the second half of 2010 and first half of 2011. Commenter Ed-first explains why tailgating is such a sin:

‘Setting yourself above others and actively pursuing this egocentric approach on the roads is dangerous in itself and gives rise to so many other risks. After being aggressively tailgated for instance, how long is it before you return your full attention to the road and begin to properly anticipate hazards again?’

Mobile phones and bad indication

Drivers using mobile phones was the second biggest irritant, accounting for 20% of your votes, suggesting that tougher penalties imposed in 2007 have failed to deter all motorists from using their phones behind the wheel.

Howard Danby can’t fathom out why drivers are still using mobiles in their cars:

‘You’d think that if they can afford x-thousands of pounds for a car then a couple of quid for hands-free Bluetooth set wouldn’t break the bank.’

Other road users hogging motorway lanes came in the third spot, with bad indication following close behind. This is contrary to the results of Confused.com’s survey last year, however, where 35% chose drivers failing to indicate as their biggest grievance on the road. Just 14% of Which? Conversation voters picked this option, but commenter Tony P thinks indication education needs to improve:

‘If these things are still being taught they are very rapidly being forgotten! All too many drivers these days seem to think that direction indicators are to be used to confirm that they are actually turning rather than to give advance notice of an intent.’

Putting the brakes on road rage

Other frustrations that riled Which? Convo readers included slow drivers, not letting other cars out of side roads at junctions, undertaking and litter being thrown out of car windows. But commenter ‘Just me’ gets annoyed when courtesy isn’t reciprocated:

‘It riles me and makes my blood boil if my courtesy is not recognised by other drivers, e.g. if I wave on a driver to join the queue I am in and they don’t acknowledge me with a wave, a flash of their lights or their indicators. I do it – and you appreciate it when it is done for you. Some people don’t think and are inconsiderate drivers.’

In situations of such sheer rage, Which? Car’s Dave Evans has these words of advice:

‘My years behind the wheel and undergoing advanced driver training courses have taught me two things for such circumstances.

‘The first is to try to anticipate when the actions of other road users might be hazardous to my safety. The second is to remain clam, even when something unexpected does happen.’

So do the results of our poll line up with your driver pet hates? Or is it more about being tolerant of other drivers’ bad habits? Or perhaps the results of our poll will make you look closer at your driving habits, like Louis:

‘One benefit of this discussion is that it has caused me to relook at my driving habits. I never realised that some of the things that I do may annoy others. This can only make me a better driver.’


I have a very simple rule if I’m being tailgated – I slow down to a speed appropriate to the distance between the tailgating vehicle and mine. It is very annoying to the tailgater, and possibly induces a dangerous rage in them, but is the safest available option when dealing with idiots.

I should add that I’m more than happy for them to pass me and zoom off into the distance, but quite often they will pass and then pull in closely in front of me. In this case, the only option is to stop at the earliest opportunity (and hope that they’re not armed and dangerous!)

I should add that I SAFELY slow down, I don’t slam on the brakes!

Kermit, please only slow down when you see an opportunity for the car behind you to overtake. It could be that the car behind you is not a tailgating moron, but an advanced motorist who is preparing to overtake. That’s normal and taught on the advanced motoring course.

I don’t need lessons in distinguishing advanced motorists from morons – I know the difference between tailgaters and overtakers.

Slowing down seems sensible. If you slow down, the stopping distance in an emergency is reduced. If someone is too close behind, I will slow down. It is better than taking the chance of both of us ending up in a mortuary.

‘It riles me and makes my blood boil if my courtesy is not recognised
by other drivers, e.g. if I wave on a driver to join the queue I am in and they
don’t acknowledge me with a wave, a flash of their lights or their indicators.
I do it – and you appreciate it when it is done for you. Some people don’t
think and are inconsiderate drivers.’

My personal experience of using the the A 40 when returning
from central London was in every single instance almost without
exception there was an appropriate acknowledgement of thanks
in respect of a courtesy accorded, by/to self and as to
other drivers.

Perhaps drivers in London are a more considerate lot in this

‘It riles me and makes my blood boil if my courtesy is not recognised
by other drivers, e.g. if I wave on a driver to join the queue I am in and they
don’t acknowledge me with a wave, a flash of their lights or their indicators.
I do it – and you appreciate it when it is done for you. Some people don’t
think and are inconsiderate drivers.’

Waving is an unauthorised signal and flashing of lights or indicators must be used only in the circumstances mentioned in the highway code. Waving on in particular can be dangerous. I much prefer to respect the rules. I will not normally acknowledge someone who does not.

JamesAard1 says:
28 January 2012

Whilst we all dislike the act of tailgating per se, the act of driving ‘too slowly’ or slowing down purposefully can cause more harm than good, especially as roads are intended for fast (compared to walking or riding a horse) and efficient travel from place to place. Apart from the fact that there is, in the main, no need to drive excessively slowly anywhere except where the road conditions/environment dictate, as is rightly stated in the highway code.
I certainly feel that traffic speeds are slowing down too much of late. Probably due to either the old age of drivers, overly worried health and safety freaks or those attempting to save petrol with our high fuel prices. There are also many drivers who seem to think that driving at a constant 40mph is fine, which is also very annoying and dangerous.
Those who live next to busy roads simply must move away and stop complaining. Those who drive too slowly should think why they are in a car and whether their journey is really necessary as there are those of us who use the road as part of our business and aren’t paid to drive and need to get from A to B quickly and efficiently and safely.

I hope you’re not suggesting that tailgating is a justifiable response to slow driving. Whilst I agree that slow driving is a legitimate pet hate for drivers, it is a separate issue from tailgating. By conflating the two faults you imply that tailgating is an acceptable response to slow driving.

Seventyplus says:
31 January 2012

I certainly feel that traffic speeds are slowing down too much of late. Probably due to either the old age of drivers,

So said JamesAard1, perhaps with experience we have learnt that speeding not only uses more fuel, is more dangerous, but also actually saves little time.

You may be surprised at how little time is saved by speeding; do some calculations if you want to verify this.

Also, what is wrong with driving at a constant 40 mph, particularly if that is the speed limit? Apart from anything else, driving at a constant or reduced speed reduces fuel consumption.

I know that it can be annoying; I have been in situations when I was in a hurry. But then it’s best to take a deep breath and think of everyone’s safety. We are all trying to complete our journeys without mishap.

You are exactly the kind of driver that comes across as entitled and arrogant. How dare you imply that older drivers or just slower drivers should not really be driving. The road is for everyone – not just for you. If you want to get from A to B faster, get up earlier, leave earlier, change route. Don’t expect everyone else to pander to your specific standards of what constitutes ‘safe driving.’ Tail gating is intimidating, wrong and unsafe.. Slow driving is merely annoying if it is legal. Not everyone drives a 2 litre and so they won’t pull out as fast or speed up quickly if they are in a small 1 litre city car.

Drivers in overtaking lanes when there’s nothing to overtake, thereby causing congestion. Drivers using mobile phones are my 2 biggest hates. Fortunately I don’t recall being tailgated, as I’ve normally spotted anyone catching me up and have moved over in plenty of time.

Said behaviour causes others to overtake on the wrong side and cause danger.

Phil says:
30 January 2012

JamesAard1 “move away and stop complaining” if you live next to a bus road? Please tell me that you were not being serious. I presume otherwise that you must be one of those who drive along my 30mph limit road at 40-45mph and make crossing the road hazardous especially with my grand daughter in tow.
You’ll almost certainly also be one of those drivers who are infuriated when I drive at 30mph or even less when necessary. The operative word here is ‘limit’ after all. 30mph might seem very slow but heaven help any pedestrian who gets hit at 30, let alone 40 or more. Doubtless you’ll be saying that it would be their fault for getting in the way. Shame on you and please take an advanced driving test straight away before you kill somebody.
Otherwise the usual bigger points arise in this discussion: in short, what is it about being in a car that makes reasonable human beings act like selfish, potentially homicidal monsters? I wish I knew. The strangest thing is that many of the things mentioned can cause an equal amount of frustration or harm to the perpetrator.

“What is it about being in a car that makes reasonable human beings act like selfish, potentially homicidal monsters?”

I remember reading something about this. Your car is your castle and you feel powerful inside it. I can’t remember the actual psychological explanation. I also remember with amusement the car insurance advert that made this point. As pedestrians, we would not behave like this.

There is no way that I feel powerful in London driving a 1 litre Peugeot 108. No way at all. I feel more like a despised cockroach that everyone can’t wait to squash underfoot. But when I test drove that Porsche 911 Carrera, I was no better driver than before, but other road users treated me like royalty nonetheless.

Personally, I don’t mind being tailgated. If the car behind crashes into mine, it’s going to be their fault and given the age of my car I could do with it being written off so that I can get a new one.

The trouble is that the insurance companies won’t see it that way and usually apportion blame and cost fifty fifty. Also, do you want the inconvenience of an accident, even if you need to write your car off (not to mention the risk of harm to you)?

That is why I NEVER park next to or in front of older, beat up cars. I have a brand new car and I feel far more vulnerable to drivers who are happy to take the kind of risks with an old car they don’t care at all about, knowing full well that I won’t want to – and will make all the concessions and do all of the compromising to avoid being pranged.

Phil says:
30 January 2012

Must take some touch typing lessons…a ‘busy’ road is what I should have said. Doesn’t make too much difference though and the post from JamesAard1 still makes me see red.

We can all make ‘typos’. I certainly understood that you meant ‘busy’.

john mccolgan says:
31 January 2012

Maybe time James Aard1 that you stood back and had a look at your own driving / attitude, not one person agrees with your point of view

Re James Aard1

It is the prerogative of him as Convo participator to say exactly
what he thinks that are perfectly valid and sustainable
and as to the matters he (subjectively) believes in
….the fact that others may not agree with what he says shd
not make the slightest bit of difference, is neither here nor there
as to the things he has quite effectively set out that he is entitled

Highway code encourages one to drive as robustly (as implied) and
safely as road and weather conditions allow, not least to assist in
smooth flow of traffic. Have self noticed (usually) younger petrolheads
driving much too fast and recklessly and by the same token, drivers
usually of and above a certain age being over-cautious, infirm (?)
and whatever else driving much too slowly and as to use of both A roads
and motorways (lane-hogging, for example) much to the inconveniences
and annoyances of other legitimate users.

I wd go so far as advocating insistence on re-taking a driving test
AND a compulsory medical as to those past a certain age. And NOT
thereafter such licence issued be an UNconditional one
w/out limit of time.

I doubt that tailgating is deliberate except where drivers fail stay in a lane provided for overtaking. If that is the problem then it can be resolved by moving left when it is safe to do so.

I am more concerned about tailgating on winding country roads and the solution that I have used is to flash my rear fog lights briefly, to make it look as if I am applying the brakes, without slowing down. I am very careful not to flash my fog lights anywhere where they could confuse other drivers and never do it on corners or anywhere else where I might contribute to an accident. Yes, I am well aware that I should not flash my rear fog lights but I have found it to be a very effective way of encouraging drivers to drop back.

Another useful technique is to help tailgating drivers to pass where it is safe to do so. It is not my role to decide what speed anyone else should drive at, even if helping them pass allows them to exceed the speed limit.

Phil says:
31 January 2012

Some drivers do tailgate deliberately the intention being to intimidate the driver in front to pull over. To do so is simply to encourage bad behavior. Slow down and let them wait.

You do what you want, Phi.

Agree with Wavechange. Much more important to think of your own safety and let the tailgater pass as soon as it’s safe to do so. It’s not your problem if he/she speeds, but it becomes your problem if you’re in an accident.

Tailgaters may be people in a hurry and may not be thinking straight. They may be reasonable at other times (not everyone is a petrol head!). I’ve been there and will never forget one occasion, when I was in a hurry and the driver in front slammed on his brakes, nearly causing an accident.

You never know what the other person may be thinking. My mum was in a scary experience with a tailgater who overtook on a dark and quiet road, stopped suddenly, got out of his car and proceeded to threaten my mum and hurl a lot of abuse. Thankfully, she had the presence of mind to lock herself in and ignore the maniac, who eventually just sped off. That’s exactly it; how do you know that the person behind is not a nutter? As I said at the start, your safety should come first.

As always, you present a very reasonable and balanced view. I might try your suggestion, but by turning my headlights on briefly if it is still daylight. This will illuminate my rear lights.

Phil: this is a form of bullying, for those who do so aggressively. But not everyone is a bully.

Phil: slowing down and letting them wait can actually be extremely dangerous. Letting them pass at an appropriate point is safer.

My 11:53 pm comment on 1/3/13 was aimed at wavechange. Sorry for not making this clear.

Thanks Louis. Rear lights are not as bright as brake lights or fog lights, so they might not be noticed by the tailgater, but it’s worth a try as long as your headlights will not confuse drivers in front.

Seventyplus says:
31 January 2012

If you can pull over you should, it is not your job to decide what speed others should do, and you are supposed to drive on the left. I agree that if you can’t then slowly slow down and help the tailgater to pass when you can, it is no fun being hit even if you are in the right, and he may be uninsured.

Uninsured or Untraced, not a problem as MIB shall see to either.

Better it be Uninsured from a compensatory point of view.

Seventyplus says:
1 February 2012

That was not my experience with the MIB when it happened to me.

What I mean is if you were injured by Uninsured driver
as opposed to an Untraced driver, you can expect compensation
payable by the MIB to be significantly higher and this fact is borne
out by actual cases litigated.

Any legal team instructed worth their salt would know that.

Sorry for being thick, but what’s MIB? I thought it was “Men In Black” but that doesn’t make sense.

Motor Insurers’ Bureau. Compensates in some cases when a driver is uninsured or untraced. But my experience is that it takes ages.

They’re some pretty maniac drivers out there… even tailgate and flash their lights
in closed tunnels, motorways and A roads when it’s clear it’s not safe to
move over to give way in whichever case.

Indeed there are. The worst case of tailgating that I’d ever experienced was a white van driver barely an inch away from my bumper. He was flashing his lights and beeping his horn constantly. Yet there was no way I could move. I wasn’t even in my car. I was actually standing right outside the white van driver’s door trying to tell him I had broken down. If he stopped beeping, he would have heard me.

Phil says:
31 January 2012

There’s another Phil at work here! I’m the first one to comment (and often more verbose). I’m going to have to change as we may not agree or I might get the blame for someone else’s comments.
Original Phil goes as from now.

Commonsense dictates that the software would insist on unique usernames. We have certainly got a few Davids and Richards contributing, so having a couple of Phils is hardly unexpected. I don’t know what Patrick will do when two people with the same username start a heated argument.

frances says:
1 February 2012

Have you ever noticed how well behaved everybody is
when there’s a Police Patrol Car in the vicinity ?

That tells us all we need to know.

Was a fine summer’s day going up north on the motorway;
there was a police car nr Nottingham doing no more than 70…. all of
the cars followed suit where ordinarily wd see many flash past
at 74-76, 80 or very much higher speeds.

Just wondering, why are speed limits 70 whether going uphill or downhill? Wouldn’t it make sense to have lower speed limits downhill (as it would take longer to stop) and higher uphill (as gravity would assist the car in stopping in a shorter distance)?

How many people could cope with that complication?

John Thomson says:
1 March 2013

Too many drivers [using the term loosely] seem to think that a limit is actually a target, and that anyone sitting at or just under the limit is nothing more than a mobile chicane.

Two of my pet hates are drivers sounding their horn (usually because they are too lazy to get out of the car) and cyclists who overtake on the left (by entering my blind spot, they are putting themselves in danger). But I see red when someone lotters the road.

LITTERS the road.

It would be helpful to have an editing facility for posts that have already been sent (allowing editing for half an hour after posting, say).

Don’t hold your breath Louis. I asked the same thing a couple of years ago, and the site is littered with follow-up comments pointing out users’ mistakes and asking for an editing facility. I occasionally use another site that has both a preview and editing facility, and it is considered good practice for users to indicate why they have edited their posts.

Simon Birch says:
25 May 2013

One thing that irritates me is the 46mph phenomenon. I am driving on the open road, speed limit 60mph, and come upon a car driving at the aforementioned speed over many miles building up a queue behind it. Then we come into a built-up area, 30mph, so I slow down to comply only to see the car in front of me increase its distance from me because it is driving at….. 46mph! I guess I will see it again on the other side of town…

There’s another speed with the same phenomenon, 25 mph. They do 25 in a 30 and carry on doing 25 when the limit drops to 20.

Yep. And there’s also the 65mph phenomenon. I overtook a load of cars on the motorway, then they overtook me after I slowed down to 60 when it became misty.

Broadly speaking my two pets hates are drivers who are careless and unsafe (I’ll tackle those later), and those that are aggressive and unsafe: those that take an ‘oughts and shoulds’ approach to other drivers who are driving in a legal way. The best drivers are capable of and do adapt to road conditions as they are – not as they feel they ‘should’ be to suit them. Good drivers fully respect (not necessarily agree) that other drivers, in other types of cars (smaller, not so good at handling to their own more powerful car), are still legally entitled to be on the road – like they are – and to drive their car the way they wish to for their risk profile, car type and eye health too – not the way the aggressive driver wishes they did (fast, get out of my way, I’m king of the road in my 2 litre BMW, you’re the peasant in the 1 litre tin can on wheels attitude). The O&S aggressive (and unsafe) driver seem to think they own the road and feel entitled to take their annoyance out on other drivers by penalty driving to scare and intimidate those that frustrate them. Frankly, anyone long-beeping (misusing their horn), tail gaiting, verbally abusing, barging out at junctions, swerve driving into slower drivers on dual carriageways to intimidate them, inappropriate dodge driving – trying to duck and dive trying to over-take in single city 30 mph carriageways – forcing drivers already in front and indicating to pull out to avoid a bus stopping to stall behind the bus instead – forcing them to wait for ages until some benevolent soul lets them out (which they won’t – not in London). All of these types of drivers deserve to have their license revoked and forced to take their test again because they are clearly unfit to be driving at all – except in an empty car park on at brands hatch. The other types of drivers I hate are those who are unsafe but not necessarily aggressive – not looking in their mirrors, looking at their mobile phones, not indicating in good time on roundabouts (or at all), precariously balancing on the clutch and slipping back on hills, not looking when reversing out of supermarket car parks, flinging their car door open on roadsides without looking or caring about cars driving past, expecting them to swerve out of their way rather than looking and waiting for cars to pass.