Forget ‘distracted driving.’ How do we address crappy driving?

A couple of months ago, there was a hubbub about a federal agency’s proposal to ban all use of cell phones by motorists, even the use of hands-free devices. Although the chances that such a ban would be enacted appear to be low, I’ve thought about that story every time I saw people driving recklessly near me since then. The conclusion I’ve reached — based on my admittedly limited and anecdotal evidence — is that the danger of distracted driving pales in comparison to the danger of plain-old bad driving.

Two such incidents from just this morning:

  • A man ran a red light right in front of me at maybe 35 mph on Peachtree near the intersection with Piedmont. The light had been red — not just yellow, but full-on red — for at least five seconds, long enough for the car in front of me to have already made a right turn into his path. If I hadn’t noticed him coming — if, say, I’d been looking to my right to make sure there were no pedestrians crossing or cars stopped in the lane into which I was turning — he would have T-boned and perhaps killed me. It’s possible he had been texting earlier, but at the time he passed through the intersection his head was up and, actually, looking at me. Not at a phone.
  • About two minutes later, I was coming up to another intersection where I was going to make a right turn but the light was yellow. Now, I drive this route practically every day, and I knew from experience that I would be able to turn right on red almost immediately because the oncoming traffic would also have red lights. However, it’s right on red after stopping, and apparently the woman behind me didn’t think I would deign to stop before proceeding. Not only did she nearly read-end me, but I could see in my rear-view mirror that she had the gall to throw her hands up as if I had done something wrong. She did not appear to be using a cell phone in any way.
  • Also, while this was not a driving incident, it was another example of people acting stupidly in the vicinity of moving traffic: As I was stopped at a red light near my office, a woman in front of me wearing (my best estimate) 4-inch high heels ran all the way across Ashford-Dunwoody road in spite of fast oncoming traffic in both directions. Think Frogger on stilettos. Had she bothered to wait another five seconds, she would have gotten a walk signal to cross the road safely. I did not see a cell phone pressed to her ear; in fact, she couldn’t have held a phone to her ear because she had a great big purse in one hand and a shopping bag in the other while she scampered across (as best as I can recall) eight or nine lanes.

Folks, I could write an account like this at least once or twice a week, if not every day. Distracted drivers certainly are bad, but the greater danger is posed by people who just suck at driving, distracted or not. If the do-gooders simply must do something, I think I’d prefer that they focus on the latter problem.

I don’t know what that effort would entail, but I do think a tougher drivers license examination could be an element of it. My own exam, more than 17 years ago, not only didn’t involve any driving on an interstate or even a four-lane highway; I didn’t even have to make a left turn. (But I did have to parallel park!) The idea that I had proved my readiness to be turned loose in a car is an absolute joke.

I suspect many of you see similar things on the road wherever you live. Any other ideas for how to tackle the problem of crappy driving?

– By Kyle Wingfield

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66 comments Add your comment

carlosgvv

February 27th, 2012
10:51 am

As I understand it, many European countries have much harder drivers license examinations than us. This is the obvious answer. However, don’t look for our lawmakers to have anywhere the necessary courage to do this anytime soon. It might cost them votes and votes mean far more to them than people’s lives.

Aquagirl

February 27th, 2012
10:56 am

Think Frogger on stilettos.

I will never look at that video game the same way again.

George P. Burdell

February 27th, 2012
11:04 am

I agree with you Kyle and Atlanta is as bad as any place I’ve driven. The number of people who dart into turn lanes etc. with no regard for how that causes other drivers to react and put people in danger is amazing. While we are on the topic, many drivers do not seem to understand that when you are on a road with more than one lane going in your direction, the far left lane is a passing lane. You do not get in the left lane and cruise. Use it to pass and then get in the right lane. The only exception is when traffic is so heavy that all the lanes are clogged and moving the same speed. If everyone followed this simple rule, a lot of money and lives would be saved every day.

Jimmy62

February 27th, 2012
11:06 am

If you actually had to prove some skill with a car in order to get a drivers license, we could raise the speed limit. Our traffic rules are designed around the lowest common denominator, people who are totally incompetent and clueless drivers. It should perhaps be a privilege reserved for those who are both responsible enough and physically capable enough to handle it. If you’re the type who freaks out and can’t handle yourself when someone is tailgating you, then you should turn in your license right now because you are more dangerous than the speeders and tailgaters… You are incompetent and lacking skill.

TGT

February 27th, 2012
11:10 am

What about driving while farding? (Yes, the spelling is correct.)

Kyle Wingfield

February 27th, 2012
11:12 am

carlosgvv @ 10:51: I don’t know what the exam is like in Belgium, because I didn’t have to take it. The authorities there simply accepted my U.S. license — and promptly issued me a permanent license on paper with a photograph of me taped to it; no need even to check in with them again, much less to be re-examined. It also was the most easily falsifiable document I have ever seen. (That is is large part because a drivers license is not a de facto ID card in Belgium; they issue actual ID cards.)

Now, as I recall, you do have to be older (18, I think) to get a license in Belgium, and you do have to complete a driver training program. However, from what I heard from people who’d taken it, the training sounded no more rigorous than a course you might take in the U.S. It seemed mostly like a way for someone with connections to the government to run a nice, profitable little business.

So, given all that, I doubt that, in Belgium at least, the process is much more rigorous than it it here. But if someone has experience in other countries, please do share it.

Finn McCool

February 27th, 2012
11:15 am

Yeah, we should ban any drivers who don’t drive the exact same way as Kyle.

What’s next? Anyone with religious preferences other than Kyle’s? You bet.

Kyle Wingfield

February 27th, 2012
11:18 am

“Yeah, we should ban any drivers who don’t drive the exact same way as Kyle.”

Right, because stopping at red lights is such a controversial way to drive, Finn.

Thanks for proving once and for all you’re only here to be a pest.

Richard

February 27th, 2012
11:19 am

I’ll do you one better Kyle: my driving test (Florida) didn’t involve driving outside of a parking lot.

Tiberius - Your lightning rod of hate!

February 27th, 2012
11:28 am

“Think Frogger on stilettos.”

I don’t care who you are, that’s funny! :lol:

However, seriously, the answer has, and always will be serious, consistently enforced penalties for accidents caused by bad behavior – NOT the banning of what some government official thinks is bad behavior.

Am I capable of eating while driving? Yes. Do I do so in heavy traffic? No. Personal responsibility.

Am I capable of texting while driving? With new voice to text apps, I could. But the most I will do is LISTEN to an incoming text message. Personal responsibility in action again.

Talking while driving? No problem. How is that any different than singing along with your music? As long as you use a headset. Personal responsibility.

It’s the nut-jobs who think they can read a paper or apply their makeup while driving who need to be removed from the gene pool.

John from Gwinnett

February 27th, 2012
11:36 am

I encounter these people every day Kyle. Iregularly travel on Peachtree Industrial Boulevard, !-285, and I-75. On the surface streets the biggest danger is from red light runners, especially those turning right on red who ignore oncoming traffic as if it were their God gven right to go first. On the freeways the danger is two-fold: lane changers who cross in front of you with no signal and for no discernible reason and our friends in the tractor-trailer trucks who ride six inches off your bumper. You think they don’t do it? I invite you to travle on I-75 and “only” got ten or fifteen miles above the speed limit..I had a huge 16 wheeler pass me last week doing at least 80 mph (I was nearing Rome on I-75, where the apeed limit is 70, obviously not fast enouigh fot this knight of the road). Just plain stupidity.

1961_Xer

February 27th, 2012
11:36 am

An “I just don’t care” spot : Drivers on Riverside Dr turning left onto Johnson Ferry in the afternoon. At least three cars will run the light turning left AFTER it has turned red … every single light, all afternoon. Where are the police?

Northbound on GA 400: Drivers will sit in the far left hand lane at 60mph (the limit is 65) and talk on their cell phones all the way to their exit… and then get over 3/2/1 lanes in the last minute. I have NEVER seen a police officer pull someone over for driving 60 in the far left lane even though drivers doing the speed limit have to constantly go around them.

Jaywalkers… people are constantly crossing Roswell road ANYWHERE from Dalrymple to Northridge. Sometimes they cross dressed in black, at night, with kids in tow. I am really surprised that no one has been killed. This road is in desperate need of some pedestrian bridges over the roadway.

Far and away, though, cell phones are the biggest problem.

Hillbilly D

February 27th, 2012
11:41 am

All this is the result of the increased narcissism by a sizeable number of our population. Every thing revolves aroung them, they’re more important than everybody else, and everybody needs to get out of their way because the rest don’t matter, anyway. A lot of people in today’s world are just plain selfish. There’s no legal remedy for that.

Tiberius - Your lightning rod of hate!

February 27th, 2012
11:43 am

“Every thing revolves aroung them, they’re more important than everybody else, and everybody needs to get out of their way because the rest don’t matter, anyway.”

I’m not seeing your point here, Hillbilly D . . . . ;)

Aquagirl

February 27th, 2012
11:45 am

Bad drivers are the logical end to our car-dependent society. Not only do idiots drive because they have to, all this time in the car makes even sane people bad drivers. They guy who almost T-boned Kyle might have decided he didn’t want to sit through the 6th light in a row. He may have been at the beginning or end of a long commute he hates. It doesn’t excuse running the light, but I can understand. Many of the lights, particularly ITP, seem randomly set. Even when someone works out a plan, the constant road construction (due to heavy road use) means they are re-set.

Suburbanites don’t want mass transit, they want their own personal roadway and because that’s not possible you have a bunch of tired, angry, and frustrated drivers. It’s a wonder there aren’t more wrecks.

Hillbilly D

February 27th, 2012
11:57 am

Tiberius

It reminds me of people who drive around a cross arm and get hit by a train. Was it really so important you couldn’t wait 5 minutes?

Interesting fact
The weight differential ratio between a train and a car is about the same as between a car and a Coke can. Just something to think about.

Tiberius - Your lightning rod of hate!

February 27th, 2012
12:05 pm

Never figured that whole drive around the cross arm thing, either, Hillbilly D.

All you have to do is watch one video on “Worlds Most Shocking . . .” that shows what happens when train hits big rig, and that should cure you of trying it with a car.

carlosgvv

February 27th, 2012
12:15 pm

Kyle – 11:12

I think we have agreements with a number of European countries that they will honor our driver’s licenses and we will honor theirs here in America. I still believe that, at least in Germany, tests for German citizens are much harder than ours.

scrappy

February 27th, 2012
12:16 pm

I think the drivers ed & license should happen earlier, but not many will probably agree with me.
There are so many restrictions, and permits, and “one person in a car” type laws that we now have a bunch of 18 yr olds that finally get an un-restricted license but can’t drive from here to there, much less on a freeway, because they haven’t ever done it before.

Michael

February 27th, 2012
12:19 pm

Have you ever driven for miles and wondered how you got there?

Dusty

February 27th, 2012
12:22 pm

Well, I tell you one thing. If the price of gasoline keeps rising, I may not be on the road. Why go to work and have the cost more than your pay check. Not that bad yet but it must be for many people.

Grocery prices are also zipping up in parallel with gasoline. Gotta get that stuff shipped to the store.

I’m gonnna miss my fun trips to the mountains. Are the trees blooming there, HillBilly? They are blooming in Atlanta and a cold spell will wipe them out. I hope not.

(Sorry, Kyle, I know some bad stories too. A speeder ran down a little dog in front of my house this weekend.. The pup didn’t have a chance. Somebody’s pet who had gotten out of the yard.)

Hillbilly D

February 27th, 2012
12:29 pm

Dusty

The trees are starting to bud here but I expect another hard freeze before it’s over.

Dusty

February 27th, 2012
12:33 pm

Michael @12:15

Have you ever driven for miles and wondered how you got there?
————————

NO, Michael. But I have driven for miles and wondered why I was not there.

(Never trust a directional gadget to guide you.)

Tiberius - Your lightning rod of hate!

February 27th, 2012
12:33 pm

All the stories aside, the question remains how to address this problem.

Actions have consequences.

If you take a life while demonstrably causing an accident driving, you should “lose” your life, as in be incarcerated for the rest of your life.

If you seriously injure someone while causing an accident while driving, you get one year in jail for every person seriously injured.

Minor offenses, your keys are taken away for a month. Each and every subsequent offense another month is added on.

None of these sentences can be reduced until 3/5ths of the sentence has been served.

Now, how many people are going to drive a lot better knowing these are the rules of the road?

MarkV

February 27th, 2012
12:35 pm

There is an interesting natural phenomenon, which might even be called a law. In any group of people, in which those people discuss driving, no matter how the people are chosen (in this case Kyle and those commenting his article today), there is never a single “crappy” driver among them The “crappy drivers” are always “the other people.”

Hillbilly D

February 27th, 2012
12:37 pm

Have you ever driven for miles and wondered how you got there?

Back in my younger days, I did once have to ask how to get home from a place I’d driven to. I’d been up for 2 days, though, and no substances were involved. It’s a wonder any of us live to be old.

Will the last Democrat in Georgia please turn off the lights?.....

February 27th, 2012
12:38 pm

“Forget ‘distracted driving.’ How do we address crappy driving?”

The best way to address crappy driving is to move to someplace that is very sparcely-populated because fewer drivers = fewer crappy drivers.

I’m sure that there are still crazy drivers in, lets say, the sparcely-populated Dakotas or Montana or what not that go through red lights during those wild and wacky rush hour commutes in Fargo and Grand Forks, but probably not nearly as many as there might be on 10 lanes of the Buckhead Loop or 20 lanes of I-85 during Atlanta rush hours.

Hillbilly D

February 27th, 2012
12:40 pm

Mark V

One of the funniest things I ever heard was when I was in Canada, once. I overheard some Canadians at the next table talking about how people in Cincinnati were idiots who couldn’t drive in the snow. :lol:

Aquagirl

February 27th, 2012
12:40 pm

Minor offenses, your keys are taken away for a month. Each and every subsequent offense another month is added on.

Am I the only one who keeps a spare key to my car? How are they supposed to collect all of them?

Dusty

February 27th, 2012
12:41 pm

Thanks, Hillbilly

I hope we don’t have a hard freeze. There’s a golf course near here with flowering trees planted on all hill tops. Each one of those trees is like a big pink cloud bouquet. They are so beautiful. Then the yellow ground shrubs are bursting out like gold. The flowering quince in my backyard has bright red blooms on its skinny stems. All of it so pretty.

Hillbilly D

February 27th, 2012
12:41 pm

move to someplace that is very sparcely-populated

Just don’t come here.

Hillbilly D

February 27th, 2012
12:42 pm

Dusty

The jonquils are in full bloom here.

Tiberius - Your lightning rod of hate!

February 27th, 2012
12:43 pm

“Am I the only one who keeps a spare key to my car? How are they supposed to collect all of them?”

Let’s just say if you’re caught violating the sentence, the spare is also confiscated and your next weekend is spent in the hoosegow.

Will the last Democrat in Georgia please turn off the lights?.....

February 27th, 2012
12:46 pm

Dusty

February 27th, 2012
12:22 pm

The best and probably only possible way to combat higher gas prices is to keep your gas tank topped off as much as possible as the less gas is in your tank, the faster your car burns gas which means that you spend less on gas by filling up your tank when you have more than three-forths of a tank of gas as opposed to having less than a quarter of a tank of gas.

Hillbilly D

February 27th, 2012
12:47 pm

last Dem @ 12:46

Say what? :lol:

ragnar danneskjold

February 27th, 2012
12:53 pm

I favor making a paint ball gun mandatory equipment for all vehicles, so we can shoot the idiots.

Jefferson

February 27th, 2012
12:53 pm

Let the “free market” sort it out, you don’t need regulations and gov’t intervention.

Dusty

February 27th, 2012
12:54 pm

Last Demo in GA 12:46

Sounds like good advice. Maybe I will rob the piggy bank, empty the secret money jar and check the hidden $$$upply under the mattress. Then I’ll be ready to fill the tank to the top!

I’ll be headed to the mountains!! (Sorry, Hillbillly. I won’t stay long.)

Hillbilly D

February 27th, 2012
12:54 pm

I favor making a paint ball gun mandatory equipment for all vehicles, so we can shoot the idiots.

What happens when you run into somebody because you got paint in your eyes?

Grasshopper

February 27th, 2012
12:55 pm

How come so many drivers are too lazy to use their turn signals? Is moving your arm 5 inches that strenuous?

Hillbilly D

February 27th, 2012
1:01 pm

I never use turn signals. I use my blinkers, instead. ;-)

Besides, where I live, everybody knows where everybody else is going, anyway.

Will the last Democrat in Georgia please turn off the lights?.....

February 27th, 2012
1:09 pm

Hillbilly D

February 27th, 2012
12:47 pm

Basically, gas burns faster as it decreases in your gas tank, which means that you will spend more to filling up your tank when its closer to empty than you will by keeping it topped-off as much as is possible when it is closer to full. Its one of the reasons (but not necessarily the primary reason) that many companies or government agencies with fleets of vehicles have the drivers of the vehicles top off the gas tanks of those vehicles at the end of each shift everyday.

Basically, you’ll spend less on gas by filling your tank when it is three-fourths full than you will by filling it when it is closer to empty.

Its a practice than sort of runs counter to most people’s fueling behaviors because understandably, most people instinctively want to stay away from the gas station and their high prices whenever gas prices increase. Have no doubt that big oil is aware that gas burns faster as it decreases in your tank and that it cost more to fill up when you less in tank which that they make even more money by raising the prices and making motorists even more reluctant to fill up.

Will the last Democrat in Georgia please turn off the lights?.....

February 27th, 2012
1:12 pm

Sorry, in that last paragraph I meant “Have no doubt that big oil is aware that gas burns faster as it decreases in your tank and that it costs more to fill up when you have less gas in your tank, which means that they (big oil) makes even more money by raising the prices and making motorists even more reluctant to fill up.”

Wes

February 27th, 2012
1:19 pm

Kyle,

A tougher driver’s exam is probably irrelevant. You might instead want to have a more frequent exam. To the best of my knowledge after you’ve passed the exam you don’t have to prove that you can do it ever again. My grandmother who didn’t drive for the last 30 years of her life had a valid driver’s license even after her stroke. A frequent test would require that people are at least aware of the rules and might even weed out those who have suffered a change that limits their abilities.

Unfortunately it also would also require an expansion of the government’s responsibility and might require greater taxes (read testing fees).

Linda

February 27th, 2012
1:20 pm

I learned to drive in my hometown that was so small that no one used turn signals. Everyone knew where everyone was going.
By the time I entered college, I had not only mastered turn signals but also hands-free driving. I commuted my first year & learned how to drive with my left knee. That way, I could eat breakfast, apply makeup, remove rollers & style my hair & study for my tests. My class notebooks fit perfectly in my steering wheel. They don’t make steering wheels like they used to.
BTW, everyone knows that women in stilettos have the right of way, whether they are walking or driving.

Aquagirl

February 27th, 2012
1:22 pm

I never use turn signals. I use my blinkers, instead.

In this city, using turn signals is a sign of weakness.

Hillbilly D

February 27th, 2012
1:24 pm

last Dem

I spent 20 years in the car business and I’d have to disagree with you on that. The time you fill up can have a bearing on the density of the gas due to temperature, therefore you might get a smidge more when the gas is more dense but a car is going to burn the same amount of gas under the same driving conditions at the same time, no matter how much or how little is in the tank.

Especially with electronic fuel injection, the gas is metered into the intake by the conditions.

Dearie

February 27th, 2012
1:28 pm

I am thankful that you are an observant driver. I never venture into an intersection when the light initially turns green. That’s taking your life in your hands.

The Anti-Wooten

February 27th, 2012
1:43 pm

End the silly War On Drugs and have police officers posted to watch traffic. My wife and I both long ago were trained to drive in places where Ya’ll is not a word. We both do something that’s apparently infuriating to other drivers in that we leave adequate space between us and the vehicle in front of us. If you leave more than 4.5 feet someone invariable has to attempt to fill that space.

Have officers available to cite offenders for many of the offenses that we all see each time we’re out in a car. Run a stop sign, get a ticket. Make a turn without a signal, get a ticket. Change five lanes without looking, get a ticket. Many of our local municipalities could close revenue gaps in a matter of months if the existing laws were simply enforced.

Glad you didn’t get flattened Kyle.

St Simons - we're on Island time

February 27th, 2012
1:46 pm

same ting on de island mon, since dey raised the speed limit to 25,

crazy, mon