driving Morons on the road

Hello, Sunday drivers

I’ve become something of a Sunday driver since I no longer generally drive anywhere on weekdays. But I’d like to think I’m better than the stereotype.

Out and about yesterday, I’m just staggered by the number of people not paying attention, or wilfully ignoring the rules, or apparently ignorant of the rules.

Ms Old Bomb — if you’re going to turn across my path, you need to give way. That doesn’t mean crawling out of the side street so I have to slow down to avoid hitting you.

Mr 4WD — pausing coming out of your driveway on North Road was a good idea. Leaving the back of your car out in oncoming traffic was not. Yes, your arse does look big in that. At least you noted my beep and moved out of the road.

Mr Mercedes — this is not a complicated rule: If you are doing a U-turn, you give way to EVERYBODY. Yes, even if you drive a Mercedes.

Mr Little White Car — you obviously didn’t notice the “Merge right” sign. That means your lane is ending. That means you merge into the lane to your right. The one I was in. You don’t just try and overtake me as your lane vanishes. I’m glad I saw you coming up behind and to the left of me. (My driving instructor Andre always taught me to keep checking my mirrors.) I’m not confident you even saw me before I beeped at you. Please don’t merge your car with mine.

Mind you, I wonder if the line markings could be modified to more clearly show the merge.
North Road, Oakleigh South
(Pic from

Mr Bogan on Monkey bike — no, the driver of the car correctly turning right on a green arrow is not the “f—ing idiot”. You are, for (a) illegally choosing to ride your stupid monkey bike on footpaths, and (b) for ignoring the red man and almost getting yourself mown down. (Why did you even press the ped button if you were going to ignore it?) Dickhead.

I suppose all you can do is keep your eyes open, give people some space, and be prepared to give way, and to use the horn when it becomes dangerous that they haven’t noticed you.

Unfortunately there’s no mechanism to transmit details of someone’s transgression (complete with photos, diagrams and a cite to the relevant road law) direct to their vehicle. Well, you can try shouting at them, but that is unlikely to do any good.

Who’s taken a defensive driving course? Are they good?

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

28 replies on “Hello, Sunday drivers”

I’ve often thought that some sory of loudspeaker attached to my car would be good – but your idea of transmitting directly to another vehicle would be even better!
I’ve done a defensive driving course, which was excellent for learning the capabilities of my car. But the biggest lesson from it was to keep alert and assume that everyone else on the road is going to do something unexpected or stupid (the same advice my driving instructor gave me when I was learning to drive). That attitiude has saved me many times!

As someone who no longer drives regularly in the city, I’ve noticed drivers getting worse and worse. When crossing at pedestrian walkway with lights, I seriously am very careful as a lot of the time moronic drivers barely pull up in time to avoid hitting you.

I’m taking a week of leave soon and we’re renting a car to get out of the city for a while. I’m seriously not at all looking forward to the drive out of town.

everyone is getting worse! i am a frequent city cyclist and these days, i worry less about getting hit by a car (though it’s still a present danger!) and more about running into stupid, stupid jaywalking and otherwise non-attention-paying pedestrians. they jump out from everywhere! it’s like they have a death wish…”if i don’t get hit by a tram or car today, maybe some lucky cyclist will smash into me”.

melbourne has the worst jaywalkers in the world, in my experience!

As an Adelaidean now in Melbourne, I *hate hate HATE* driving here and was last month hit on the right hand side by a tram as I waited to turn right into my local shopping centre.

Yarra Trams admitted fault and paid to get my car repaired but even so, I get ‘beeped’ regardless of trying to turn right across a tram line but staying in the car lane, or sitting on the tram line waiting for the opposing traffic to let me in. Even though I’ve ‘got back on the horse’ and keep driving there, I’ll admit to sometimes taking a walk with my little shopper trolley as ‘exercise’ when really I just hate the ‘assume everyone’s out to get you. always’ attitude I have to take when in the car.

Re the loudspeakers, I know of at least one person who has sworn to obtain a Vlocity two-tone horn, and a suitable compressor, and attach those to his car :P

Given some of the other stuff he’s done, its quite likely he’ll succeed, too…

chugger = charity mugger.

“But the biggest lesson from it was to keep alert and assume that everyone else on the road is going to do something unexpected or stupid” — Totally agree, Chuggle. Stay out of people’s blind spots. Never assume you’ve been seen.

Laughing about the Vlocity horn. I’ve found the Air Zound is fantastic for the bike.

I wonder why trams still have the wussy little “ding ding” bell still. Maybe they should use their loudspeaker more often, and have it turned up to 11.

“You know, the courts may not be working any more, but as long as everyone is videotaping everyone else, justice will be done.”
-Marge Simpson

Got to the new (two week old) bus stop at Nunawading station this morning: there were *three* morons parked there.

Advice to morons: bus services on this route (902) aren’t the joke they once were.

AAMI through a free defensive driving course when I was 21 – it was great, and at an age where I can fully appreciate the benefits of it, and also where I know my car enough to have been useful. There’s been many near misses (of others fault) whereby I’ve had to use some of the rapid maneuvering skills.

Also – according to your survey of bad drivers, 75% are males. Yikes! :)

@Vas re: “Fitting a car with an air horn is illegal …” Stupid nanny state.

As Daniel would probably agree, we need to teach common-sense and/or practise a bit of Darwinism. Instead, this country seems to have a million nanny state rules, and worse, some of these vary by area.

Ironically speaking, it is far easier to get a licence to drive (which kills about 2000 people a year) than to get a Cabler’s Licence to run a +-2.5V cable (you’d be (un)lucky to see one death per year from such cabling).

In case you’re wondering, the +-2.5V cable I speak of is Ethernet cable. Yep, it’s illegal to install such cabling permanently.

In the last few years, I’ve seen a lot more cars running red lights. You can tell that some are completely oblivious, especially if it’s not at a major intersection, like a pedestrian crossing near a school.

I should have a rant about the parking on my street. Not having a driveway is a pain and people think that the space directly in front of their house is theirs alone, especially annoying if they have a driveway but choose to park their car on the street or have multiple cars and park one on the street. If anyone parks in front of a particular house (which has a driveway) they will receive a notice on their windscreen to the effect that the household is doing renovations and lots of trucks delivering concrete etc and need the space so please park somewhere else. Never seen one truck. The woman is deranged.

I have noticed that some of the newer trams also have a loud car like horn in addition to their bell. This horn really seems to get someone’s attention fast when they are about to be run over by something as big as a tram.

I’ll agree with most comments here, I’ve noticed driving habits and observance of the rules has been slipping for some years. I was crossing a street in Parramatta last week and a woman in a large van / people mover full of kids was arguing on her mobile and drove straight through a red light at a crossing.

I think it may be related to our hedonistic society, many people seem to think rules and consideration are for others? I have a pet hate for people who talk on mobiles while driving, they don’t seem to understand how distracting and dangerous it is.

Now and then you will see a courtesy wave when drivers help each other which gives me hope :-)

Re the lane marking…

I thought that that *lack* of road marking where two lanes merge into one indicates that neither lane has priority (zip merging). The car in front at the merge has right of way and the other must give way.

If there is a dashed line across one of the lanes it means that cars in that lane must give way to the other lane (e.g. at a freeway on ramp).

Although I don’t drive, I was up-front during a road-trip holiday around the South Island of NZ.

One of the things that annoyed/confused us was the utter lack of merging information… the lanes just end. No signage, you just find yourself running out of lane and trying to merge asap.

Stll, not as annoying as the stupid ‘give way to oncoming traffic turning in the same direction as you’ rule.

Donna, re: parking yes, I’ve encountered similar.

Andrew: but in this case there is a “Merge right” sign. (This is North Road, westbound approaching Warrigal Road.)

Even if neither of us had precendence, my car was in front of his. He just didn’t seem to notice there was a merge.

Andrew is correct but they go out of their way to make it confusing.

On this page here, rule 148 says the driver changing lanes must give way, and shows a diagram where the left lane ends and the driver in the left lane has to merge into the right lane and give way to any car in the right lane.

And then rule 148b says this doesnt apply when merging.

And then rule 149 for merging says that when merging, the car in front has right of way, even if it is in the left lane.

You have to read it about ten times to figure it out. No wonder the NESBs can’t do it properly.

Jed, I’ve found the horn on trams is actually not that helpful (as a road user, but not a tram driver). Many times I’ve heard the tram using a horn, and pedestrians and drivers assume it’s a car they can’t see and behave appropriately—which tends to mean getting more in the way of the tram because usually it happens when you know the tram can see you, and just wants you to get out of the way. People expect trams to have bells. (Maybe a horn that sounds distinct from car horns would also be appropriate.)

Kiwi Nick complains about nanny-statism and about different regulations in different states. He says distinct nanny-statism is worse than universal nanny-statism. Actually, if it’s anything, it’s better. People still need to have responsibility because they can’t assume that just because they’re safe in Victoria, then they’re safe in NSW. Of course, all this push towards homogeneity all over Australia, a country so large and with such great discontinuities of settlement that it’s impossible to have a real and true understanding of the whole country, is breeding precisely the lack of a civic/community sense that a nanny state seeks to substitute. It is a downward spiral that won’t end as long as its critics insist on using the rhetoric that we are now accustomed to, as it is framed to make it only natural.

Many people have criticised lack of understanding of road rules, or lack of observation of events in this post. I live in Germany at the moment. It seems much scarier as a pedestrian or cyclist because people ignore road rules like “don’t drive on the footpath” or “indicate before you turn”. They are forever leaving their cars in the way of pedestrians and cyclists. However, German drivers are almost scarily observant of other road users, and I’ve slowly begun to feel safer on the roads here, because people treat me as a person, not as an irritant. They do the same for car drivers (i.e. they treat them as people, not as hunks of metal getting in your way). I wonder if the strict road rule enforcement in Australia has reduced Australian drivers to a certain apathy, or if the road rule enforcement in Australia has been necessary because of the apathy. I wonder what the accident rates are like, and how much they’ve changed, and how you can compare rates between countries with such different settlement patterns.

I also think that public transport and sustainable transport advocates probably need to insist a little more on good driving and strict licensing conditions. The cost of driving on life is clear, unarguable and paid today, not at some vague and undefined date in the future. It is emotive. Governments and people spend huge amounts of money on road safety, from road engineering and car safety features to red light and speed cameras and booze buses. Drivers licences already expire. Why don’t you have to demonstrate an improving level of awareness of road users and the road rules each time you get it renewed? Why do Monash university students think its easier to get a licence and pay thousands of dollars on a car then it is to spend half that time lobbying for better buses?

Public transport is a road safety issue, not just a livability issue, or a climate change issue, or a New York/Paris/London/Tokyo-envy issue.

I did a defensive driving course not long after I got my licence – my mum insisted on it. I actually think it probably made for overconfident young men on their P’s being sent away with the message that they’re highly skilled drivers because they’d done the course – in that sense a little knowledge could be a dangerous thing.

I did learn a bit about capabilities of a car including how much difference an extra few kph in speed makes (first hand, by having to brake from 70kph instead of 60kph and barrelling right into the cardboard truck that has pulled out in front of you).

The motorbike classes actually taught me more about defensive driving – essentially, you have less margin for error on two wheels and you have no protection if things go wrong, so just work on the assumption that everyone on the road is trying to kill you.

I noticed the comments about tram bells – I have to say they need something much louder to give a warning. I’ve lost count of the number of times some prick speeds past the High Street tram when stopped and you nearly get run over, and all the driver can respond with is that quaintly-Melbourne bell. As ‘nice’ as they sound around the city they are completely useless as a warning device!

The best one I’ve seen was a bloke in a ute loaded with aluminium L-sections -slammed on the brakes at the last minute on the corner of St Kilda Road as we leave the tram and the contents catapulted onto the road in front!!

Why do Monash university students think its easier to get a licence and pay thousands of dollars on a car then it is to spend half that time lobbying for better buses?

Well the obvious answer to this question, is that buying a car produces a known outcome. “Lobbying” produces an uncertain outcome, and most probably no outcome at all.

Cassowary, we’ve got thousands of business people who get on a plane every day between Melbourne and Sydney (and hundreds between all the other cities), who really couldn’t give two hoots about “settlement patterns”.

Except for trams in Melbourne, and o-bahns in Adelade, having different road rules is not necessary.

Unless you’d like to explain, as a specific example: why we have U-turns at traffic lights in Melbourne, but not in Sydney/Brisbane (unless there’s a sign).

Or if you think settlement patterns are important: why is it that we have the same road rules in Sydney and the south-eastern part of Cameron Corner – even though they are totally different …

Now I’ll resume my illegal gun^h^h^h ethernet cable running.

Comments are closed.