/ Motoring

Which driver habits annoy you: bad indication, tailgating…

'Got patience?' painted on the back of a lorry

Narrowly missing a collision when a driver fails to indicate properly isn’t much fun, as I found out. This, along with drivers hogging the middle lane, has to be my biggest pet hate about others drivers – what’s yours?

Earlier this week, I was cycling to the station – in a hurry not to miss my train – and I came up behind a car which was, well, all I can say is ‘hovering’ beside a vacant parking space. The car was indicating left as though he was about to go in.

The road was clear, with no oncoming vehicles, so I decided it was safe to go past on his right-hand side. As I pulled up alongside, he changed indicators and pulled forward and right, across the road, into my path.

His action caused me to have to swerve, and both of us to brake sharply, in order to avoid me putting a large dent in his door (never mind how much damage could have been done to me or my bike!).

The driver apologised with a wave of his hand and a sheepish smile, and I restrained myself from saying what I thought, either in voice or with hand signals. After all, my focus was on catching that train, rather than showing my feelings or holding grudges.

Keep calm and carry on

My advanced driver training taught me two particular things for such circumstances. The first is to try to anticipate when the actions of other road users might be hazardous to my safe progress. As I didn’t hit him, I think that one was just about achieved. The second was to remain calm, even when something unexpected does happen, which I also managed quite well.

This sort of incident is, after all, par for the course for most commuting cyclists, and it’s probably only as bad (and potentially dangerous) as the habits some cyclists exhibit all too often. You know the ones – driving through red traffic lights or squeezing along the inside of a bendy bus that’s waiting to turn left.

The reality for me was that, luckily, I avoided the accident, caught my train and completed my journey without further incident.

What are your pet hates?

The very next day, a colleague asked me about which of the driving habits of others most wind me up. As I say, I try not to be ‘wound up’ when I’m on the roads, but I had to mention the incident with the indicating car, as well as the impetuous behaviour of too many cyclists.

And it’s not surprising to see that failing to indicate came top of a recent survey by confused.com about people’s biggest irritants on the roads. Other pet hates included tailgating and refusing to let others out at junctions.

I added to the list a gripe I’m sure I share with many. I really think UK drivers need more formal tuition about motorway lane discipline. Our motorways would flow so much more smoothly and efficiently if people used the lanes properly.

But the number of drivers who think the middle lane is their personal territory really annoys me and, in my view causes unnecessary and hazardous disruption to drivers trying to follow the highway code.

Are you with me – or the survey – with these pet hates or do you have others to add to the list?

What's your biggest pet hate about other drivers?

Tailgating (22%, 224 Votes)

Drivers on mobiles (20%, 199 Votes)

Hogging motorway lanes (19%, 192 Votes)

Bad indication (14%, 141 Votes)

Driving too slowly (8%, 84 Votes)

Dropping litter out of car windows (6%, 57 Votes)

Speeding (4%, 40 Votes)

Other – tell us in the comments (3%, 32 Votes)

Undertaking (2%, 23 Votes)

Not letting other drivers out at junctions (1%, 14 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,006

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Barrie says:
7 October 2011

what really gets me is the current “fashion” of holding the wheel in the 10 o’clock position with the right hand (or 2.00 o’clock with the left). Or even 9.00 and 3.00!! Who ever thought this was a good way to control half a ton of car?
Of course, “the icing on the cake” is when they have a mobile phone in the other hand……

A ton is, if I remember right, 2240 pounds…. and the average family car is closer to a full ton or more, rather than a half ton, re previous’.

There are other pet hates that I EQUALLY dislike but you did not make provision for that.

Belinda Z'Abat says:
17 October 2011

What time should the hands say ?
I’m usually painting my toe-nails with my left hand 🙂

My pet hate is the lack of driver competence and comprehension whilst driving –

Melvyn brown says:
7 October 2011

At traffic lights where there are two lanes and the driver in the front of me is in the outside lane until the lights change then indicates he is turning right when everyone else is committed to going straight on and in the ensuing me’lee some rather dangerous risks are taken by following drivers to change lanes.

Sorry, Melvyn, I’ve lost you a bit here. Firstly you have not described the particular junction layout, Is it a four-way crossing or a three-way, or what? I believe you are referring to a four-way, in which case it would be appropriate for the vehicle in front of you to indicate his/her intention.
But how are you so sure that everyone else is committed to go straight ahead? What is the road signage, if any? Are there arrows painted on the road indicating straight on only? I have a four-way junction near me with a second, four-way within 70 metres. The first one has a right turn only lane, the second does not & is “peak hours” controlled, (straight on only during peak times). So, if I need to turn right at that second set of lights I need to start indicating as soon as I pass through the previous set. Yep, sorry to say, it does cause problems, there’s a bus stop nearby too & hatching at the crossing, just to compound the problem, but I do my best to give as much warning as is possible. It’s a “nightmare” double junction!

My pet hate is intolerance. We all make mistakes and some make more mistakes than others. Whatever the reason, it will not make others drive better if we utter rude words or make hand signals that don’t feature in the Highway Code. I’m not sure I would have been quite as tolerant as Dave Evans, but I hope so.

I agree with wavechange about tolerance and that we all make mistakes. I am often critical of others hogging the middle lane of the motorway, but occasionally, after I overtake some cars that are in the left lane, I find myself in the middle lane and stay in it as there are no other cars around so I’m not in anyone’s way. Or so I think. I start thinking about my forthcoming tasks for the day, then suddenly realise there’s a car about to overtake me and he’s making a sign calling me a lane hogger. This makes me feel ashamed but, more importantly, when I subsequently come across another middle lane hogger, I don’t think he’s doing it out of arrogance or ignorance, I think he may just be making an unintentional mistake, just like me earlier.

anthony benfield says:
8 October 2011

cars pulling out from the left (minor road onto a major road) forcing you to reduce speed, when there were no other cars behind you, if they had waited 5 seconds longer there would not have a problem. then they seem to compound this by stopping to take the next junction on the right, thus you have to stop and wait.

I agree with you. In fact most of the people who drive straight out in front of you from a side road inevitably then turn right very slowly. Perhaps they live locally and are cross with people driving through their patch?

When I am a pedestrian waiting to cross at traffic signals I hate the drivers who accelerate when the lights go amber. As a driver I constantly remind myself that amber means “stop” [unless it really is unsafe of course] and that red means “don’t go”. It’s tailgating that causes the amber gambling I’m sure as no one wants a shunt.
Other than that, bad roundabout discipline annoys me – surprised this doesn’t figure in the list.

I don’t see this as a problem for the pedestrian. What inconvenience or hindrance does it cause to you as a pedestrian if a driver does this? It saves the driver around half a minute and does not cost the pedestrian any time. If we had a warning of the impending change from green to amber, as in Austria, this would not be a problem.

You should always expect a green light to change to amber and not be driving too fast to stop safely.

We are facing the biggest problem of not to give indicators and tailgating. It is spreading like a disease.

Is Highway code is only passing the test ?

We will see more fatal accident in future as Council have switched of many street lights. We all have noticed that more drivers are speeding as they know that speed camera are switched off.
Who cares about us ?

I believe tailgating is often caused by a lack of driver confidence. Some drivers are not comfortable driving without someone that they can follow. They often seem not to know a lot about leaving an appropriate distance from the car they are following.
At the earliest opportunity I let them pass so that they can have the chance to learn how to read the road and cope on their own.

Belinda Z'Abat says:
17 October 2011

Tail gating is caused by drivers being too slow, so you have to virtually reverse to avoid running into them.

Indicators should be banned. How many times do you see a person indicating to turn (because they haven’t cancelled from the last manouvre), and then go straight on.
The person who pulls out, thinking it’s safe, is at fault if the indicating car runs into them ( according to the law, or insurers).
So you should be watching speed and wheels anyway, not indicator.
And roundabouts ? ? ? ? Watch the pretty lights !

Basically, some people are too stupid to use indicators.

In reply to Belinda, you should never assume that a car that is indicating left while you are waiting to emerge at a junction will actually go left. The driver may wish to stop just past the junction. This is part of what one is taught when learning to drive.

Mike says:
9 October 2011

Drivers who hog the middle lane on Motorways, and those who think they have the right to barge in from a slipway junctions onto the Motorway, even thou you have the right of way, and you are unable to filter out into the middle lane to allow them access.

Mate, if you’re not a part of the solution, you’re a part of the problem. In a situation like that you’re suppose to give courtesy to the driver trying to merge onto the motorway by backing off and allowing them on. This is the unconscience, underlying problem with British drivers. Too many are agressively adversarial and too little are courteous, but again I lay total blame on the way we are trained.

But there is always plenty of advance notice to enable you to act accordingly to allow access as to a vehicle emerging from a slipway junction….. anticipatory driving is also good driving.

Surely if you know there is a feed in of traffic coming up then you can (try to) get out of the number 1 lane to make room. Then of course there is the car behind you who doesn’t realise you are thinking ahead and make his presence felt.

That said there are drivers who when pulling in don’t allow for the traffic already there, matching speed and judging spaces.

Sometimes it’s a matter of the driver on the motorway losing concentration temporarily and not realising that there will be merging traffic.

Two seperate issues there, Mike. First one, middle lane hoggers, are a pet hate of mine, so I agree with you on that,
Your second point about “barging in” when joining a motorway I really cannot accept; that’s simply something you should anticipate & allow for, the “zipper” system as it’s know in some places, & it works well, a bit of give and take always works with driving as well as in life in general, I’ve found.

People who flash you on the motorway when you are in the fast lane already and are impeded by the speed of cars in front, and when there are cars going slower than you in the other lanes, Why should I get out of their way? especially when they are not emergency vehicles or other priority drivers like doctors on call.

I also cannot bear rude drivers that don’t let you change lanes correctly because of bad road design in the rush hour and make you think your at fault when your just following the road as it says its just the traffic lights and traffic wont allow.

Re Helen

But as to your being impeded by cars in front on the so-called fast lane, the motorist behind you may not know that and thought it’s a case of sheer obduracy on your part…agree what you say about rude drivers and in the example given. Plenty of other instances of bad, selfish and inconsiderate driving/behaviour I’ve personally come across too, both on the motorway and otherwise.

Was once doing 80 plus on the ‘fast lane’, impatient petrolhead behind wanted me to get out of his way and kept flashing his headlights when there was NO suitable gap for me to merge safely onto the middle lane.

When 80+ is acceptable even in the fast lane? the national speed limit as of today is 70 MPH and applies to ALL lanes.. so you were breaking the highway code in first place.

There is no such thing as a fast lane on motorways. All lanes have the same speed limit.

This is half the problem, a lot of people think there is a slow, medium and fast lane on a 3 lane motorway. This is completely wrong, the limit is the same on all lanes and you should always stick to the leftmost unless it causes you to weave about excessively. Obviously some people think that if they are doing 60-70 they should be in the middle or outside lane! This causes undertaking and tailgating by people trying to get past. Try the sections of the M25 near Heathrow where you get everyone bunched into two outside lanes with sometimes 2,3 or 4 almost unused inside lanes! Madness.

John says:
10 October 2011

Drivers who keep their foot on the brake pedal when they are stationary at traffic signals, thus activating the brake lights and dazzling the driver behind! This is even worse now some vehicles have a double set of brake lights.

All automatic cars do this, which cannot be avoided. If the driver takes the foot off the brake pedal, the car moves forward. Using the handbrake is not an option either, as electronic handbrakes will not deactivate unless the brake pedal is being pressed. Many more expensive cars are available only in automatic versions or the manual versions are difficult to resell.

This is interesting, when I took my test in the 80s it was drummed into us that you should never keep your foot on the footbrake. To avoid dazzling the car behind you should always use the handbrake as soon as you’ve come to a stop. Today’s driving instructors don’t seem to do this. I would be interested in learning what Advanced Driving practitioners think about this, especially in light of modern automatic cars that make this difficult for you.

Absolutely. Handbrake, neutral. And the same goes for automatics. It may be OK to keep brake lights on if you are at back of queue especially in poor weather but when someone else is there. Handbrake, neutral (or park). And if stuck for a while, engine off.

These are usually the same people who spot a red light and then creep along to try to avoid actually having to stop at all. In the end they can’t remember how to find neutral, the handbrake, first, drive or any other gear, so sit on their brakes keeping the clutch nice and hot.

Indication (and checking mirrors) seems to be entirely optional these days – do they not teach mirrors signal manoeuvre during driving lessons anymore?

Ed-first says:
10 October 2011

Oh yes we do teach mirrors, signal, manoeuvre! Along with much else. Do you think bad driving results from ignorance or not caring? Obviously both, but mostly, in my opinion, from selfish attitudes. These days the focus is very much on developing drivers who think for themselves.

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.

Cruise control – causing concertinas, congestion and accidents across the country because people have to brake on the motorway when they encounter a car going slower than them.

Cruise control is dangerous, a menace and encourages less awareness, ban it, ban it now!

Cruise control prevents concertinas by keeping the traffic at a constant speed without braking and acceleration.

Claptrap, yours is a common misconception of drivers with cruise control, you assume that everyone on the road has it.

So when you are “cruising” at a certain speed and the person in-front of you has slowed down, what do you do exactly?

If a) you turn of your cruise control to ease off gradually then….. why use cruise control? why not just use your foot


b) you brake – you are causing accidents and congestion behind you

Dean, I follow your (a) option. I drive along with cruise control on for miles with the traffic in front constantly concertina-ing. Being in a 4×4, I can anticipate further ahead than other drivers and I leave a safe but not excessive distance, making small adjustments to the cruise control speed. The result is that the traffic behind me maintains a constant speed and does not concertina, resulting in lower fuel consumption for me and everyone behind me.

Again, not true.

The comment “I leave a safe but not excessive distance, making small adjustments to the cruise control speed” – this means that you are adjusting the speed of the vehicle, but with your hand and not your foot. So why not just use the accelerator instead? Surely altering the speed of your car with a plus and minus sign on or around the steering wheel is not the most intuitive or indeed safe way to drive your car?

Either way, if you reduce the speed via the cruise control button, your brake lights come on, resulting in more concertina effects behind.

Can’t say I’m surprised that you drive a 4×4 to be honest, by that I mean that you appear to be blinkered to the needs and requirements of the road and other road users which of course is a stereotype of the 4×4 driver.

For constant speeds, making minor adjustments to speed with + and – buttons is easier and safer than keeping one’s foot at a constant mid-level pressure on a pedal. The latter is appropriate only when one’s speed needs to be constantly changed.

“Either way, if you reduce the speed via the cruise control button, your brake lights come on, resulting in more concertina effects behind” – you are right on this point, for this reason when reducing cruise control speed, I deactivate cruise control and then reactivate a few seconds later after the car has slowed down. This is one fault of many cars’ cruise control design.

“Either way, if you reduce the speed via the cruise control button, your brake lights come on” – Really? Are you sure? I know this is not true, at least on Mazda and Alfa Romeo cruise control systems and would be surprised to see it on any other manufacturers’ cars. Can you give me a link to a technical document explaining this system that turns on the brake light? Does the brake light also come on when you are not using cruise control and you release the pressure on the accelerator pedal?

nfh, then you are one of the good ones!

I still don’t see though why this is less hassle than keeping a constant speed with your foot (it’s already in the right position) and then lifting off when cars slow down, rather that than messing around with a button on the steering wheel turning it off/on…. Surely by controlling the speed of the car with something other than the pedals is less safe? Can’t anyone else see that?

Cruise control is worth using in the US, but in the UK, there just isn’t a long enough stretch of straight road with no traffic on to warranty it. Lots of people (probably not yourself) like to boast about the gizmos on their car, perhaps seeing the use of cruise control being a necessity just because it has been fitted on their car.

And Clint, the differing manufacturers all have their own systems, that’s why it doesn’t work properly. If everyone, and I mean everyone had a radar guided cruise-control system fitted, yes, it would work, but we’d all fall asleep at the wheel or something stupid like that.

Your questions seem a trifle troll-like to me so I won’t answer them. Go and drive between St Albans and Bedford on the M1 and see just how much cruise control disrupts the flow of traffic, that is of course, assuming that you can actually drive.

Come on cruise controllers, by being lazy, you are actually giving yourselves more to do, and, depending on which car you drive, or your ignorance to people behind, is a lot less safer.

Why so obsessed with cruise control? It’s just another method for controlling the car. The EXACT same issues you mention can be cause by cars without cruise control. I use CC on even short stretches of road, especially where there are speed cameras, to keep to the legal limit, but only where the traffic allows it. If you are in stop-start traffic you don’t use it because it’s not worth it. All of the faults you describe are to do with the driver, not the technology.

John Ingram says:
23 January 2012

Total rubbish, learn to drive properly, there is no problem with cruise control!

I use it regularly especially in speed restricted areas, as long as traffic is flowing.
I set it at 2 to 3 MPH over the speed limit on the speedo, (only where it’s safe to do the max limit) this is checked against my GPS which is very accurate (most car speedos read a few MPH high) this puts me spot on the actual speed limit, again, so long as it is safe to do that speed. At least I don’t exceed speed limits and catch a fine!!

As for brake lights being activated when you slow on the cruise control, I don’t think so, at least my Volvo C70 & Skoda Superb don’t.
If you want to see good use of cruise control, drive in the USA, where virtually everyone uses it and virtually every vehicle is spaced nicely and mostly doing the speed limit.

You do not have to turn cruise control on & off all the time, they can be adjusted by increments of 1 mph and contrary to some speculation, it actually saves the driver energy so fatigue is less, can you remember back to when you first started to drive and your right leg ached from holding your leg in an un-natural position, resting your leg while using cruise control will keep you more alert for longer, it’s a fact, just think about it!

It seems to me a number of gripes are from folk who have not used cruise control and who are perhaps weekend drivers as they were once called, awareness of what’s going on around us and the ability to read a potential hazard or situation keeps us safer than anything else in my mind. It also gives us more time to remember to signal correctly and more often than most these days

Mel Butcher says:
10 October 2011

Argghhh where do I start, people that force you to give way to them, then thank you, so they feel better because, then they can kid themselves that you had a choice, people that deliberately slow down when they can see you are willing to give way to them. I guess those are the 2 that annoy me most, but given the chance I’d be able to rant on all day about annoying driving habits.

Ed-first says:
10 October 2011

I voted for tailgating as representing the biggest sin of all in my opinion – Bullying. 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?

I like the TV campaign that asks why you would behave like that on the road when you wouldn’t on the street. It’s the Me Me Me attitude combined with some sense of self importance conferred by driving a car.

Gerry says:
10 October 2011

Passing a stationary line of traffice by using right only or left only turn lanes only to cut back in at the head of the queue.

Simon says:
10 October 2011

– People who think they can just pull off a motorway sliproad no matter whether there is a gap or there speed matches the flow or not
– Despise tailgating and particularly tailgating by lorries, they weigh what… 30-40 times what my car weighs. I appreciate the difficulty they have in slowing down and speeding up in heavy traffic but if they don’t brake as quickly as me and they don’t, I am toast.
– People using mobile phones, why? Even if the call is that important, with hands free technology so affordable now it is just totally unnecessary.

Beresford Catkins says:
10 October 2011

My real pet hate at the moment is people driving at 40 to 45 on a national speed limit country road and then continuing at the same speed through a 30mph village. On my way to and from work each day if I’m following someone doing 40 to 45 it’s almost without exception this occurs. Conversely the people travelling nearer the national speed limit usually slow down to 30 in the villages. Are the former incompetent drivers or just inconsiderate?

Regarding middle lane hoggers, when driving in France I’ve noticed how disciplined motorway drivers are there – moving into the nearest inside lane available at the earliest opportunity. Coming onto the A3 in Surrey the other day I saw someone move straight into the middle lane of three from the slip road even though the inside lane was completely empty. It isn’t just ‘middle’ lanes though, where the M25 is 4 lanes wide regularly there will be a line of traffic in the penultimate outside lane while little in the two inside ones.

I think that a lot of people drive on assumptions – supported by the statistic that a significant proportion of accidents happen within a short distance of home. I believe that driving should be regarded as a privilege, not a right, that you take on considerable responsibility when you drive a car and as such the standards required to obtain a licence should be equivalent to an advanced driving test. I can’t really see another way to improve the standards of driving generally.

Ah, the 40mph merchants – glad someone mentioned them! I agree with everything else you’ve said, too – I don’t think there’s much wrong with driving skills generally, it’s people’s attitudes that badly need attention.

Belinda Z'Abat says:
17 October 2011

If you made a motorway with 10 lanes, the same inbreds will leave 8 empty lanes and drive in the 9th.

The so-called 40 mph people may not be familiar with the road ahead and will therefore drive at a speed that they feel is safe. Been there, done it.

Louis, familiarity with the road ahead can give false confidence. You may be familiar with the road like the back of your hand, but you don’t know if there is a broken-down car in the middle of the road just past the bend. You should always drive at a speed at which you can stop in the distance you can see clear ahead of you, regardless of how familiar the road is. Conversely, non-familiarity with the road is not an excuse to drive at 40mph on a dual carriageway or motorway.

I mostly agree with you, Clint. One should drive at a speed that is appropriate to the conditions. However, what harm is a slow moving vehicle doing on a multi-lane carriageway, if that vehicle is in the left hand lane? Others are not impeded from making progress at their desired speed, as they can overtake.

Driving at a slower speed also saves money, so there has to be sensible compromise.

Beresford Catkins says:
14 November 2011

My main point at the start of this thread was that I often follow people driving at 40 – 45mph on national speed limit (single lane) roads who then continue at the same speed through 30mph limit villages. I wasn’t criticising people just for being unable to drive at the speed limit, but this combined with driving way above the speed limit though residential areas.

Driving slowly does not save fuel. Driving at a consistent speed at optimum revs for the gear you’re in. with little or no braking, saves fuel.

Normally I would agree but I drive a Hybrid that cuts the engine when the car is stopped and foot brake applied. In neutral with foot off the brake, the engine starts. So I’d rather not use unnecessary petrol.

Sorry, this was supposed to be in response to people leaving their foot on the brake at traffic lights.

You will use petrol anyway to recharge the battery which is powering the brake lights while the engine is stopped.

Pal – The Highway Code says you should apply the handbrake when the car is stationary. It does not matter what sort of car you are driving. Why should the person behind be dazzled by your brake lights?

Maybe the manufacturer is not familiar with the Highway Code.

People that dawdle over traffic lights! ARRRRGGGGHHHH! Can’t they see the queue behind them? The lights change for a ‘short’ set time limit and most change back to red faster if they detect a gap in the traffic. Close the gaps people!

Also, I agree with a previous comment about people using left or right turn only lanes and then pushing into the main flow of traffic at the base of the queue. They push EVERYONE back even though most of these pushers had the option to joint the queue way back at it’s start. Must go now as the red mists are settling.

Pal: “People that dawdle over traffic lights! ARRRRGGGGHHHH!”

Yep, some seem to be totally oblivious to other people on the road. I’ve even seen someone stay at the lights while they finished typing their txt msg on their phone.

Oops, got to go, traffic lights turned green…

Along the same lines (Pal), people who see roadwork signs and try to push in at the last minute instead of changing lanes in good time. This is extremely selfish and inconsiderate.

All of the above. But mainly tailgating in 30mph areas (and they are often on the phone at the same time!).