/ 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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Helen Langley says:
13 October 2011

People who don’t have the manners to recognise that a smile/nod/lift of the hand is a suitable way of saying thanks when you have pulled over to let them through a narrow gap!

Over recent times I have seen a tendency for cars to congregate on the 2 outer lanes of the motorway rather than returning to the inside lane at the earliest opportunity. I am convinced this is affected by satellite navigation systems telling drivers to “keep right”, when they mean ‘don’t take exit’.

I am reasonably certain this predates Satnavs by many years and is mainly due to the arrogance of many drivers who believe they should not be overtaken and therefore need not pull over.

Would be really interested to hear what you think about our latest Conversation: “We need a minimum speed limit on our roads”. You can comment on it here: https://conversation.which.co.uk/transport-travel/minimum-speed-limit-roads-slow-cars/

howard danby says:
14 October 2011

drivers on mobile phones. 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. especially applicable to bmw drivers more than most. that’ll get some replies!!!!
approaching road works on multi lane roads. most people have moved in to a single line of traffic a good distance from the cones and then some jokers drive down the empty lane and push in at the front which then means that every body else is pushed further down the line. just plain ignorant!!!!
finally for now, i’m driving along the motorway or dual carriageway leaving a sensible gap to the vehicle in front. some idiots then see that gap and pull in causing me to fall back further. and then they decide to slow down even more so that i have to overtake the car that has just overtaken me. where is the sense in that. can’t you just keep going at the speed you were doing to pass me????
rant over

Sorry Howard but I don’t think it is a good idea for drivers to use hands-free phones in moving cars. They are a distraction and I have even heard users say so.

I have had to take action to avoid accidents at roundabouts when other drivers have either been using hands-free phones (or talking to themselves).

Anyone who cannot make a journey without taking calls or making them should change their lifestyle or use public transport. Many people are killed or injured on our roads due to lack of attention or carelessness. I have been one of the victims.

Agree with Wavechange.

I witnessed an incident just today when walking my dogs.

Driver came to an abrupt halt in the middle of the road ON a junction to answer his mobile – utterly stupid – blocking the road both ways and the junction – until I went up to him outside his window – shaking my head in total disbelief at his crass action – He put the mobile away hurriedly and drove off.

paul says:
7 November 2011

That “joker” is the one who knows that the signs are warning of lane closure ahead, not instructing drivers to move over now.
We should use both lanes until we reach the closure, then merge alternately. This will reuduce the length of the queue and speed traffic through the bottleneck.

jim hassett says:
14 October 2011

A duel carrageway with a barrier inbetween has a speed limit of 70 M.P.H.
Why on a motorway (A1/M1 north towards Scotch Corner, over 10 miles!) with 2 & 3 lanes being in use while roadworks are in progress, is the speed limit 50 M.P.H. with avarage speed cameras all over the place?
It can only be for genarating revenue, not for safety reasons.

No – it’s because many drivers drive in a dream – and only “see” what the road is like without the road works. I have witnessed a number of incidents where drivers – drive into road works.

South Hams says:
14 October 2011

Pet Hate:
Chevrons on the carriageway. There appear to be no propper rules as to how we should deal with the chevrons.
Keep two chevrons apart says the sign!
What do you do when someone overtakes you? Brake and create the gap again? Causing everyone else to brake and creating an instant tailback.
If you overtake, do you wait until you are over two chevrons past the other vehicle before you pull in? Thereby hogging the overtaking lane.
Why do they persist in adding these useless markings to our roads?
The highway code, last time I looked, offered no guidance on how to deal with the abominable chevrons.
Away with the chevrons I say

Chevrons exist to help you to judge a safe distance. How one deals with them and the situations mentioned is pure common sense.

Mr Iain says:
14 October 2011

People who overtake you, then pull back in and reduce their speed to below yours. Similarly, people who accelerate from a hitherto constant speed as you attempt to overtake them.

Belinda Z'Abat says:
10 November 2011

And it’s becoming more common. Usually men in their late 50s/60s for some reason.
I even got clapped by one self-righteous 70 year old who was doing 30mph in a 60 zone.

Just me. says:
15 October 2011

It riles me & makes my blood boil if my courtesy is not recognised by other drivers, eg: If I wave on a driver to join the queue I am in or if I wave on an oncoming driver to let them turn right instead of them having a long wait, holding up traffic behind them – & neither instances do they acknowledge me with a wave, a flash their lights or their indicators. I do it – & you appreciate it when it is done for you. Some people don’t think & are inconsiderate drivers. They should have their car reg details taken & their cars scrapped!!!

A little extreme, perhaps … .

I am a very considerate person and always try to acknowledge the courtesy of other drivers and road uses. But sometimes I realise afterwards I have just nodded, smiled or given a little wave without taking my hands off the steering wheel. If I am holding up other traffic or negotiating a tricky junction, it’s not always possible to give a Royal salute. And flashing lights or indicators just to say thank you can cause confustion in these situations.

So I would hate to think my car is going to be scrapped because you didn’t see my acknowledgement writ large. And I don’t find myself getting annoyed with other “discourteous” drivers because I give them the benefit of the doubt too.

Waving or flashing lights is against the highway code. I just smile and say thank you, but this cannot always be spotted, I assume.

ROUNDABOUTS – I would like to see most drivers indicate their intentions at roundabouts. Do they think we are all mindreaders? Secondly I would like to see UK adopt the Channel Isles rule that only the first vehicle approaching from the right has precedence – then it’s your turn. Hey Presto! the end of delays and frustration when the road on your right is a busy main road and you can’t join it. But I suppose the whole country would just collide with each other if you tried to introduce something so radical….

Sounds like a confusing system, but if it’s been adopted successfully in the CI, then perhaps it’s not.

Steve says:
16 October 2011

Drivers who think they can access dual carriageways or motorways from slip roads without giving way to approaching traffic, forcing you to break if you can’t pull over because of overtaking traffic.

The way to deal with this situation is to slow down (Oh My God!) and let them in. Equally the joining traffic must accelerate to a speed which allows them to merge with the minimum interference with the main route traffic. In other words both groups must co-operate to get a smooth flow.

I agree with “traveller”, anticipation is the key here, Steve, it’s give & take from both sides. In fact anticipation is the key to most motoring situations. I strongly recommend taking the I.A.M. course & test.

Belinda Z'Abat says:
10 November 2011

Traveller – how silly that the car on the main road should slow down. I can’t believe anyone would want the cars behind also slowing. It is the responsibility of the sliproad user to merge – and that might mean slow down, or it might mean speed up (oh no, panic) or even STOP.
People on the main road should try and give space to joiners (although some are too stupid or mean to do so) but sometimes they simply can’t, and it is grossly dangerous to force your way onto the main road if there is insufficient space.

Steve says:
16 October 2011

Cars that pull over facing approaching traffic and leave their headlights on thus dazzling everyone.

Belinda Z'Abat says:
17 October 2011

Constant use of foglights when it’s a nice sunny day.

I can tell the age of driver from the car make.
Rover – too old to know what the button is for
Subaru – late middle-age male. The biggest, so must show them off
Peugeot – old – boy racer, baseball cap
Peugeot – new – blonde bimbo
Chelsea tractors – late 30s, overweight

And now VW Passats and Skodas have those unnecessary low slung lights that you can’t switch off – that’s going to encourage the blind and the stupid to have foglights on even more

…he he

Nobody seems to have mentioned those drivers that fail to turn off their rear fog lights when no longer required. I have to assume they are unaware of what that little light on the dashboard is for!

Belinda Z'Abat says:
10 November 2011

Hi CB47 – I sort of included this when I said “Constant use of foglights when it’s a nice sunny day.” but didn’t have time to list all the misuses of foglights. I personally think they should be banned; they serve little use. When I come up behind rear foglights, even in fog, I back off – I.E they have done their job – safe to turn off – “I’ve got the message”. But no, people turn them on and forget about them. It’s an intelligence thing again.

My biggest hate is people dropping litter or cigarette ash on the public road (and not just motorists). I become very angry with these thoughtless and lazy idiots.

Then there are those who park facing the wrong way in the dark and leave lights on; this is both confusing and potentially dangerous.

Cyclists who overtake on the left. Do these people not realise that they are entering a blind spot and are therefore putting themselves at risk of injury? I tend to not leave enough room for them to do this, for their safety and the avoidance of damage to my car. Cyclists are subject to the same rules of the road as everyone else.

Cyclists and motorcyclists who weave in and out of traffic. Similarly, motorists who share a lane with cyclists and motorcyclists. This requires consideration from all concerned. Bike riders and motorcyclists have a right to a lane to themselves, as do motorists, just as one motorist would not try to share the same lane with another motor vehicle.

People who fail to indicate. At best, this is inconvenient and at worst, very dangerous.

One benefit of this discussion, and the one on minimum speed limits, 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.

Another benefit that I have right now is that my wife is learning to drive. Not only does she pull me up if I do something wrong, but the fact that I am the accompanying driver on practice sessions means that I have had to go back to basics and reconsider things that I had taken for granted.

Louis, That is such a positive approach to have; to constantly reassess how we drive and listen to others’ constructive comments. What I have found interesting about the comments on here is the scary way in which people justify poor driving such as tailgating, not indicating or forcing their way into the path of traffic.
It is refreshing to hear a driver who says I might be wrong , let me consider this and take a look at the Highway Code.

Lady Driver says:
25 October 2011

1. I like to have a ‘breaking distance’ space inbetween my car and the next (obviously dependent on common sense and speed) my pet hate is the person who thinks I left a space just for him/her to pull into, forcing me to brake. On motorways I personally like the ‘2 chevrons’, it is a reminder to some of how much braking distance they actually need at higher speeds.
2. The ‘I have indicated’ brigade who seem to think that just because they use their indicator light it gives them THE RIGHT to complete their intended manouvre. Use of indicators is to advise other road users of your intentions, not give you automatic right of way.
3. The drivers who use the clear outside lane, then cut into queing traffic at the last minute.
4. Drivers who cut right across 2 or 3 lanes of traffic to take the exit they almost missed.
5. Drivers who block junctions in queing traffic, would it really hurt to leave a space?

Do you leave a breaking distance to let the breakdown vehicle in, or do you leave a braking distance so you don’t have to call on the breakdown vehicle anyway? ……

Home Officer says:
29 October 2011

Horn abuse ! Down my way people greet their friends and acquaintances on the High Street with a cheerful honk or two. As I reserve use of the horn for impending collision warning only, these “cheerful” honks scare the **** out of me.

Totaly agree. A horn is to be used in two very specific circumstances as mentioned in the Highway Code. It is not to be used in anger or in any other way.

I HATE those lazy and inconsiderate idiots who sound their horns outside someone’s home, just to announce their presence. Some do it more than once. Not only do they make me jump, but when I’m working they destroy my concentration. Why can’t these people just get out of their vehicle to go and ring the doorbell?

The worst offenders are taxi drivers and school minibus drivers.

Falcon47 says:
5 November 2011

MOTORWAY JAMMERS – WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT MOTORWAY SHEEP QUEUEING UP (and usually tailgating) IN THE OUTSIDE LANE? – We drive on the left in the UK – so why do so many drivers queue up in the outside (right) lane on motorways? – slowing everything down to less than 60 mph. I know what excuses are coming here – “there’s lorries several miles up the motorway and if I returned to the left lane I will never be able to get back into the outside lane for ages” – RUBBISH – or “I’m driving a big more-money-than-sense-top-of-the-range monstrosity and I want to stay in the outside lane throughout my whole journey to make progress”- ARROGANT RUBBISH – or “what’s the point in going back into the left lane, ’cause there’s another lorry doing 55/60mph just a mile up the road and I’ll have to change lanes again” – or “there’s a lorry doing just 1 mph faster than another and he is taking ages to overtake it so I might as well stay in the outside lane. – YOU ARE ALL BREAKING THE HIGHWAY CODE AND YOU ARE THE MAIN CAUSE OF ALL THE TAIL-BACKS ON THE MOTORWAYS. Read on – it’s common sense and a safe procedure – you are on a two-lane motorway (as most rubbish UK motorways are) and you are doing 65-70mph along the inside (left) lane – making progress as you call it. The nearest vehicle ahead of you in that lane is a lorry, approximately 1 mile away – but all the vehicles who want to overtake that lorry are in the outside lane DOING 55 – 57MPH. As you approach that line of vehicles you have the choice of slowing right down to their speed to avoid UNDERTAKING which is illegal and very dangerous or move over to the right lane and join the sheep at a slower speed than you were doing in the inside lane. I have been motorway driving between Central Scotland, London and Europe since 1970 and this problem has just got worse over the years. IT’S SIMPLE – OVERTAKE – RETURN TO THE LEFT – AND DO NOT HOG THE OUTSIDE LANE OF ANY MOTORWAY JUST BECAUSE YOU’RE DRIVING A BIG CAR AT PILE-UP ACCIDENT SPEED AND DON’T CARE ABOUT SPEED LAWS – YOU DON’T “DRIVE” A CAR AFTER 70 MPH – YOU AIM IT!

Belinda Z'Abat says:
14 November 2011

How can anyone disagree with Falcon? I am dumfounded.
He may be a bit SHOUTY, but like me, he’s probably sick to death of incompetents, and people who make excuses for them.

I’ve watched with fascination as the list of irritants unfolds. What’s interesting, is that the majority of responses concern the behaviour of other drivers that are not intrinsically dangerous to other road users, unless the poster chooses to make it so by reacting badly.

For instance, driving too slowly in the middle/outside lane of a Motorway is not unsafe, unless the driver following undertakes, tries to force them into a different lane, or leaves evasive action too late. Likewise, “cutting in” – leave a gap, “tailgating” – move over and let them pass, “bad signalling” – anticipate … .

Even use other driver’s predicable behaviour to your advantage. Car in front left their rear fog lights on, so you can’t see properly? Leave a large enough gap and the tailgating moron behind will hopefully fill it for you. Problem solved!

And I fail to see how cruise control, or sitting on the brakes at a traffic light could be unsafe. I was advised to do this by Hampshire’s senior Class 1 police instructor, when I bought my first automatic with a foot-operated parking brake – a Mercedes. I still put it in “Park” if there is going to be a delay before moving off as a courtesy to the driver behind, but it is not mandatory.

So why not show a little more respect for other road users who do not drive exactly the way you would choose to, or have a larger/smaller/different vehicle from your own. Save your ire for drivers who put other’s lives at risk – jumping traffic lights, speeding (why so low in the poll?), the distracted (talking, reading, star-gazing) and finally, those that exhibit gross intolerance of other road users and their bad habits.

“People who can’t control their own emotions like to control the people around them”. I try to remember this and it serves me well when other drivers begin to annoy me.

Belinda Z'Abat says:
14 November 2011

Em. It beggars belief that you can justify behaviour as long as it is not unsafe.
You mention gross intolerance, but fail to mention gross inconsideration.
I do anticipate, I do avoid annoying drivers where possible, I do make allowances.
In fact I have to do it so much due to gross inconsideration, I have started to work from home.
It’s always the same in this country – we have to make allowances and excuses instead of solving the problem.

Graham says:
23 January 2012

Since when is driving too slowly in the middle or outside lanes NOT dangerous. The speed limit is supposed to be 70 mph but too many times you see drivers doing 60 mph or less whilst in the middle or outside lanes.

This is far more dangerous than speeding and is what generally causes other drivers to undertake or tailgate.

A speed limit is exactly that: a maximum limit. It does not mean that you have to drive at that speed, regardless of what lane you are in. It may not even be safe to do so under the conditions. In particular, there is nothing wrong with going at 60 in the middle lane if you are overtaking vehicles on the left. There is one more overtaking lane for those who want to go faster.

It is those who speed, undertake or, worse still, tailgate, who are extremely dangerous. I am sure that many accidents could be avoided if people remembered to leave a safe gap in front.

I suggested tolerance near the start of this debate but it seems to be in short supply. 🙂

Sitting on the brakes at traffic lights may not be dangerous but it can be unpleasant for the driver of the car behind. Some (not all) of the LED brake lights on newer cars can be particularly unpleasant. Yesterday evening, I spent 15 minutes stationary in traffic behind a new Mercedes and it was so unpleasant that I shut my eyes. Drivers should know to use the handbrake when stationary in traffic, but I am surprised that some of the LED brake lights on cars are approved for use on our roads. It was much less of a problem when the regulations allowed a pair of 21 watt bulbs. Used intelligently, LED lamps are much better. I might be tolerant of deficiencies in driving but poor car design really annoys me.