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John Ducker: Steer your driving away from pet peeves

Tailgating, dazzling headlights and mufflers cause annoyance among motorists
This parking lot at Mayfair shopping centre in Victoria was busy in the run-up to Christmas last month. Just because you can zip behind someone who is backing out of a stall doesn’t mean that you should, John Ducker writes. ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST

There was a great response to my request for your pet peeves of 2023:

Michael, who has been accident-free for 60 years, is bothered by large pickup trucks which, in addition to having dazzle headlights, also have their fog lamps blazing away when there is no fog. That’s a fair complaint. Dazzle headlights remain a problem for many drivers and things don’t seem to be improving. I predict that a few high-profile lawsuits from blinded drivers will cause manufacturers to change their tune.

Melvin didn’t know where to start on this one, but drivers who tailgate are on the top of his list. He zeroed in on one important tailgating quirk. Why do people tailgate behind someone who is at the end of a long line of traffic with nowhere to go?

Claudia feels the same way, with particular bent for people in large pickup trucks who tailgate even when she’s driving at the speed limit.

Tailgating is one of the leading causes of crashes in this province and carries a fine of $109 plus three demerit points. Cause a crash in this situation and it’s basically guaranteed you’re 100% at fault, in which case the $109 will be the least of your worries.

Sue is frustrated by people who can’t conquer their headlight switches. She sees too many cars out there in the dark with only their daytime lights on. This means your taillights are completely off as well. Most cars now have 3 settings — “Off”, “On” or “Auto”. Auto is the best way to go as it never forgets.

Jamie had a long list of peeves but I liked his point about “performance” mufflers. They are generally a vice of the young male driver.

Low, throaty and annoying rumbles convey a sense of power and performance, but basically they’re attention-seeking devices. When I went through this stage eons ago, a master mechanic told me to forget about the cosmetic stuff. It’s what you don’t see under the hood which makes a car a true performer.

Burned out vehicle lights bug long-time ace mechanic Danny. His shop was easily able to repair a burnt-out bulb in less than an hour. As a motorcycle rider, Dan says that seeing other vehicles on dark and rainy streets is super-important. To him, vehicles with burned out head and taillights are a recipe for disaster. Most times it’s probably one of the cheapest repairs you can make. Often the biggest barrier to doing it is good old human laziness.

Edward feels that the majority of people don’t know how to park properly — the way they were taught to do it in order to pass their driving tests. It’s a simple process.

Think about if your car failed mechanically and rolled away after being parked. Where don’t you want it to roll? So, uphill with a curb turn your wheels to the left. Downhill with a curb turn your wheels to the right. Hill with no curb? Turn your wheels to the right — so it at least rolls away from the roadway.

Winston echoes concerns about tailgating, especially by heavy rigs on the highway. He’s also concerned about the lack of courtesy from others when you have to back out of a space in a parking lot. Just because you can zip behind someone who is backing out of a stall doesn’t mean that you should. Is an extra five seconds that crucial? I’ll bet that 75” flat-screen TV will still be there once you sprint into the store.

Angelle has a few peeves as well, particularly about people cruising through four-way stop signs, as well as pedestrians and cyclists who won’t wear visible clothing. If you cruise through a four-way stop you are betting that another driver won’t be doing the same thing — a bet I wouldn’t take. I’ve written about cyclist and pedestrian visibility a number of times but I’ll say it again. Regardless of who’s right or wrong in these crashes, the vehicle always wins.

Hunter likes the Barcelona method of pedestrian crossings — railings prevent people from crossing right at the corner. They are directed a little further down the block allowing better visibility for drivers. Michael wants others to signal well before changing lanes. Laura wants people to be better at zipper-merging, while Andrew says painted road markings are nearly invisible in wet weather.

Finally, another John is disturbed by drivers who travel in your blind spot. Agreed. Stay behind or get in front of that car in the other lane. Blind-spot travel is asking for it.

My best advice for 2024: We all make mistakes but keep challenging yourself to not be someone else’s pet peeve. Happy New Year.

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