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Jul 09 2013

Annoying drivers

On my way home from work, there is a stretch of road that has two closely spaced intersections with traffic lights that have large amounts of cross traffic. So naturally when I approach the first intersection, I stop at the lights even when they are green if I see that the traffic is backed up ahead so that I cannot clear the intersection. This is for the obvious reason that if I have to stop in the middle of the intersection and the lights change, then I would be blocking the cross traffic which has green lights.

You would think that this would be clear to the meanest intelligence. But I cannot tell you how many times the car behind me has horned (and it happened again today) because the driver wants me to move a few feet forward. When I look at them in the rear view mirror, they have this angry expression, as if they think I have stopped to eat lunch or something.

I of course ignore them and stay put until I can clear the intersection but given that some drivers are prone to uncontrollable road rage, it is always in the back of my mind that some lunatic may try to vent his anger by doing more than blasting his horn.

30 comments

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  1. 1
    Rob Grigjanis

    This is why our species is doomed. :) Too many of us value short term apparent gain (moving ahead a few feet), with no concern for consequences (especially to others), even obvious ones.

  2. 2
    Lofty

    In my area its actually illegal to enter a blocked intersection. This means only about 50% of the traffic ignores the rule. Perhaps you can ask your local media to publish the idea that entering blocked intersections is worth a fine. Or just put a sticker to that effect on the back of your car.

  3. 3
    eigenperson

    For some time I’ve wanted to install a display in the rear window that could show a variety of predefined informational or sarcastic messages with one button press.

    “There’s no room” would definitely be one of the messages.

  4. 4
    Joel

    You were following Ohio law:
    No driver shall enter an intersection or marked crosswalk or drive onto any railroad grade crossing unless there is sufficient space on the other side of the intersection, … to accommodate the vehicle… without obstructing the passage of other vehicles… pedestrians, or railroad trains… [http://publicservice.columbus.gov/content.aspx?id=34668]

    I also encounter people daily to that do not know this simple thing, not only in the situation you describe, but also when they are stopped at a stop light on a major road and block the side roads. It’s generally an annoyance that is minor and you forget soon enough, but when there is a heavy snowstorm, selfish or ignorant drivers blocking intersections is what creates most of the gridlock in the city.

    I appreciate it when people do the right thing.

  5. 5
    CaitieCat, getaway driver

    Yep, law here in Ontario too, with big fines if you do it in certain specific intersections in Toronto, too (they’re marked on the road, with signs explaining the markings). “Gridlock” is the technical term for it. It’s basic good driving technique to never enter an intersection you can’t safely leave.

    Given you’re in the US, I’d be worried about a lot more than the finger, with the number of people sporting “Insured by Smith & Wesson” on their bumpers. Getting shot over it would feel like a very futile and stupid way to die. :/

  6. 6
    ollie

    Same for our area; it is illegal to stop in the intersection for the reasons Mano stated.

  7. 7
    Henry Gale

    This is called blocking the box and its illegal in Ohio.

    The reason for this is the same reason people stand in line at the grocery store for 15 minutes and then after everything has been scanned and bagged they start looking for their checkbook.

    People don’t think.

  8. 8
    Rhee,el

    Heck, where I live no one knows the basic rules for a four way stop, let alone traffic lights!

  9. 9
    WMDKitty -- Survivor

    If I had $5 for every close call I’ve had with a car… *sigh*

    The worst yet was just last week — a bicyclist was riding on the gorram sidewalk and took a wide turn right into my left side. Being in a motorized wheelchair, well, I ended up taking a high-velocity bicycle to the left arm and may have somewhat injured my left shoulder.

  10. 10
    Mano Singham

    I am really sorry to hear this. I hope the shoulder gets better soon.

  11. 11
    WMDKitty -- Survivor

    It’s nothing requiring proper attention, and resulted in a stiff shoulder for about a week.

  12. 12
    TGAP Dad

    First: Thank you!
    Second: when I think of road rage, in the context of the relaxed gun laws, I also think “potentially armed.”

  13. 13
    kevinalexander

    At the end of my block is the entrance to a fast food place. When the light at the intersection is red I stop before the entrance so as to allow cars coming the other way to turn into the drive through. This prevents gridlock at the intersection.
    Invariably the guy behind me leans on his horn. The light is red, he’s not going anywhere until it changes but for some inexplicable reason he needs to be twenty feet closer to the intersection so he can be waiting twenty feet closer to wherever the hell it is that he’s going. Last week a guy pulled around me so he could claim his constitutional right to the twenty feet and gave me the finger for inconveniencing him.
    Which gridlocked the intersection so he and everyone else had to wait an extra five minutes.

  14. 14
    jaybee

    People make a big deal that with the anonymity of the internet, it brings out the asshole in people. Well, it predates the internet, and you get it frequently from people in their glass and metal cocoons. I was in a traffic crawl in the SF bay area and the driver in front of me drops some litter out his window. I gave him a short toot to register social disapproval. His reponse? To scrounge up every bit of the plentiful garbage in his car and make point of throwing each bit out, followed by a middle finger.

    I wonder if there is any correlation between people who think automobiles are a birthright and people who think guns are a birthright.

  15. 15
    kyoseki

    I live in Los Angeles and the standard of driving here really is abysmal – I’m British and learned to drive (and ride) there and even that driving test was barely sufficient, the US one is laughable.

    It seems that nobody pays attention to anything other than the taillights of the car in front and even that’s asking a lot – some of the things I’ve seen other road users doing are simply staggering (I hate to call them drivers since that would imply that driving was their primary focus) – one particularly notable example was a B list actor rolling down Santa Monica blvd reading a script and highlighting his goddamned lines.

    … and don’t even get me started on these muppets in the wet.

    I’ve been hit by cars whilst cycling twice, by people who either didn’t bother looking or thought they had enough room to squeeze past …. and that’s not counting the number of times I’ve ALMOST been hit and only avoided it because *I* was paying attention – even in the car (and it’s not a small fucking car), I’ve had more than a few people try to drive through me because they weren’t looking or simply didn’t care – yes, I know it’s called a “blind spot” but in Europe we learn an advanced driving technique called “turning your head” which seems to help (seriously, is there any safety system quite so unnecessary as “blind spot monitoring” ?)

    Then there seems to be the pervading belief that unless you can see an oncoming car, there must not be one there – as opposed to the idea that unless you can see that the road is clear, assume that it isn’t.

    The only car crash I’ve been involved in as a driver was a result of some idiot in a brand new Lexus SUV making a left turn in front of me because she assumed that since she couldn’t *see* oncoming traffic (even though her view was almost completely blocked by a box truck) there must not be any.

    Car crashes in this country kill 35,000 people a year – that’s more than guns. If you factor in injuries (another 4.2 MILLION annually), you’re over 40 times as likely to be killed or injured in a car crash as you are to be shot, but nobody seems to give a damn.

    For every child under 10 who dies because of an idiot with a gun, another FIVE are killed on our roads, but I have never seen a politician decry that as unacceptable or push for mandatory breathalyzers/speed limiters or even propose making the damned driving test harder.

    They don’t even make the news unless someone did it on purpose or manages a higher than average number of casualties.

    Ineptitude, it seems, gets a free pass.

    These are all needless deaths, but nobody seems to give a crap and I don’t know why.

  16. 16
    machintelligence

    kyoseki @ 12
    I think you are experiencing confirmation bias. If you look at fatalities per billion Km traveled, the UK is at 5.6 and the USA is at 8.5 (and Ireland is 4.2 Iceland is 3.9 and Germany is 7.0). These are among the lowest in the world ( Brazil is at 55, and third world countries are not calculated, but will be in the three and four digits. All from Wikipedia.
    In the USA automobile fatalities are dropping, and are now at levels (for raw totals) that haven’t been seen since the 1950′s.
    Things are not nearly as bleak as you paint them. There is still room for improvement, of course.

  17. 17
    kyoseki

    machintelligence

    I think you are experiencing confirmation bias. If you look at fatalities per billion Km traveled, the UK is at 5.6 and the USA is at 8.5 (and Ireland is 4.2 Iceland is 3.9 and Germany is 7.0). These are among the lowest in the world

    True, but you also have to factor in population density. You’re far more likely to be involved in a collision in a built up area than you are to be hit out in the sticks, so the fact that the US has a MUCH lower average population density than any European country would serve to drop those figures, as well as the fact that Americans tend to drive a lot further than most European countries, so it’s not really an apples to apples comparison since the nature of driving itself is rather different from here to there.

    If US roads were a lot more like European ones, I’d lay any money you like those numbers would be a hell of a lot higher.

    Now, fair enough, it might just be Los Angeles in general, but as someone with plenty of experience on 4 wheels and 2 (both motor & pedal cycle) in both countries, I can tell you that a lot of these guys are truly truly awful drivers :)

    …. now pedestrians in London, on the other hand ….

  18. 18
    kyoseki

    Clarifying the “Americans drive further” comment – it’s generally my experience that commutes in the US are longer, but also generally take place on much safer roads, particularly freeways (similarly in the UK, motorways are far safer than most city streets) – though again, LA is probably an outlier in that regard.

    … although I will also say that I haven’t seen nearly as many ladders, couches and other assorted bits of debris on the motorway, so maybe freeways aren’t all that safe :)

  19. 19
    B-Lar

    YES. I have a suspicion that this product would sell like hot cakes at an English country fete.

    How about “Ride that exhaust, baby!” as another option?

  20. 20
    brian faux

    In the UK the area is called a `box junction` and is nearly always painted with yellow stripes: the rule being that you don`t enter unless your exit is clear.
    Not 100% reliable but generally works well.

  21. 21
    Mano Singham

    That kind of stupid behavior drives me crazy too The sheer pointlessness of it is what is so irritating.

  22. 22
    Reginald Selkirk

    Linky

  23. 23
    Reginald Selkirk

    I live in Los Angeles and the standard of driving here really is abysmal…

    My experience is different. In LA, as in most big cities, drivers tend to drive aggressively, which is bad, but carries with it a certain predictability. If you know someone is going to cut you off, you can deal with it. My worst experiences driving were in St. Louis, where many people drive stupidly. For one example, with a car coming up behind me, I signaled for a lane change to the right. The car behind proceeded to switch lanes and pass me on the right. Really?

  24. 24
    Reginald Selkirk

    “Box junction” – I don’t see that catching on. Maybe if they renamed it “Kill zone”…

  25. 25
    Guess Who?

    In my area, a turn signal is a command to other drivers–to do anything it takes to cut you off: slow down, speed up, change lanes. In my younger years I used to mess with people by turning on my turn signal (with no intention of turning) and “forcing” someone into a right-turn-only lane that disappears after a light. :-)

  26. 26
    kyoseki

    Yes, aggressiveness I can deal with, but those seem to be the exception here – for every driver I see aggressively making their way through traffic, there’s dozens or hundreds who aren’t paying the blindest bit of attention.

    Even driving in this morning I was amazed at the number of people who wander all over their lane on the freeway, this is easily the simplest task anyone will do whilst driving and yet they still can’t seem to manage it.

  27. 27
    Mano Singham

    I have not noticed people deliberately doing that in the Cleveland area. But people have been clueless the way kyoseki says in not noticing that other drivers are needing some accommodation.

  28. 28
    kyoseki

    Happens here all the time.

    That said, people use their turn signals so infrequently I always try to make a point of letting anyone actively signaling a merge do it.

    … unless they’re doing 40 on the freeway and want to pull in front of me, then they can damn well wait until I’ve gone by :)

    I think my particular favorites are the guys who will dawdle around a single lane freeway connector at 30 and then gun it when it widens out to stop you passing them, but again, those are the exceptions.

    As with most things, the odds are 5% malice, 95% stupidity.

  29. 29
    AsqJames

    the rule being that you don`t enter unless your exit is clear

    I might be wrong, but my understanding was you don’t enter a box junction unless your exit is clear or you’re turning right (i.e. across oncoming traffic)? The latter part is important because otherwise at really busy traffic light intersections you might never get into the box if you’re light goes red at the same time as that for the oncoming traffic.

  30. 30
    frankathon

    Thank you SO MUCH! for writing this. First I would like to thank you from the bottom of my heart. The reason being that I don’t drive, I walk or bike, downtown and it infuriates me when drivers block the intersection because they thought they could make it before the red light. Then they stay there like sitting ducks blocking the path for everyone making it impossible to go through or to turn left at a light. This I cannot forgive; its blatant ignorance of the law and pure impoliteness. I always make a point to scream obscenities (I literally scream the word “Obscenities” at them), they cannot hear me but that way I’m not actually swearing in front of kids and easily offended people. It makes me feel better and it’s much better than carrying a crowbar around destroying people’s cars and getting arrested.

    Now would you like to hear my rant about cyclists and there apparent lack of understanding of traffic laws? Or maybe I can continue with my rant at pedestrians who think bike lanes are sidewalks?

    Nah I’ll spare you 

    Thanks for being a good driver.

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