The menace of ill-mannered motorists

road_rage_is_bad copy“Mom, is that guy a redneck?” Colin asks me while I’m driving and some jerkwad is following so close I could easily elbow him in the throat from where I’m sitting.

I swear to God, I have nothing against rednecks and I don’t believe I’ve ever called someone a redneck. I don’t know where Colin may have picked up the term.

Probably from some hillbilly at school.

Ever since the kids were little, I’ve worked really hard to control what comes out of my mouth when we’re in the car, lest I start a long, unproductive conversation about the driving habits of others. People might view kvetching about other drivers as therapeutic, but it serves only to raise my blood pressure and teach people around here how to swear.

Plus it sets a bad example with regard to managing emotional responses to situations out of our control. I’m already getting the blame for the swearing thing. I don’t want to be saddled with every tantrum they throw as adults when somebody, say, puts nacho cheese sauce instead of hollandaise on their eggs benedict.

There’s no escaping that kids in cars are about as much tension as I need – thoughtless, self-centered poo-heads they are, with no sense of the distraction they pose whilst you’re supposed to be paying attention to keeping the whole family alive.

Look at how I can shoot apple juice straight from the box, mommy. Mommy, look NOW!

I drew a pretty picture for you mommy, it’s on the back of your seat, so it’ll be here for you always.

Mom, he’s touching/poking/looking at me (the best argument for minivans, or any vehicle which has more than one row of passenger seats, I have ever heard).

Mommy, I feel hot (what Colin used to say a nanosecond before we were all treated to a special episode of Guess what my lunch looks like two hours after I ate it?).

Recently, a friend posted something on Facebook about our state having the country’s rudest drivers. I was of a mind to object, but I had to leave to pick Jack up from school. My afternoon commute can take anywhere from 25 minutes to an hour one way depending upon how people are coping with the gobs of freeway construction happening right now.

Here’s the deal: we’re Idahoans. We like big, open spaces and watching gorgeous scenery whiz by while we’re driving really fast. We like cars big enough you can see them from outer space. They keep our families safe at those high speeds.

We like public transportation only to the extent it keeps other cars off the roads.

So, yeah, I’m coming to grips with the fact that maybe we aren’t the most polite people behind the wheel. I’m still not one to vent while driving, but I have to admit, we have issues.

Let me introduce you to a few of my fellow motorists:

Big Hair Betsy – The woman I saw today whose big, curly mess o’hair didn’t move a smidge even at freeway speeds in a convertible. Her inability to employ her turn signal as she weaved back and forth between lanes in the extremely congested traffic probably had to do with the tight grip she had to keep on her cigarette in the wind.

The same cigarette instantly hit the pavement, however, the moment Betsy needed to flip a pudgy middle finger at someone who presumably failed to signal before making their own lane change without proper notification.

So you know, Betsy’s got skill, attitude, and a little, black chihuahua on her lap.

The Off Road Warrior (ORW) – Where we live, there are a disproportionate number of people with vehicles they can and do take off road, either on rutty, dirt lanes or else where there are no roads at all.

This doesn’t mean that they have any idea how to drive off road, or that they are aware of the havoc they may be wreaking on the countryside. When you live with so much open space, sometimes it’s hard to get a grip on the fact that you and your Chevy Behemoth have as much impact as you actually do.

Take this family, who recorded this “eye-witless” video of a range fire on BLM land. I later talked to members of the crew fighting this fire. Part of their job was to not only to contain the conflagration, but to ensure the safety of humans and property in its range, plus preserve their own skins while they were working. To that end, firemen were directing traffic on the adjacent freeway toward the safest and most efficient means of getting out of danger possible. Imagine their surprise when this video surfaced of ORW and his family taking matters into their own hands (presumably because they have something like a Chevy Behemoth, or maybe it’s the new Dodge Gargantuan), because of course ORW knows more than firefighting professionals about how to safely get out of the path of fire.

As evidenced by his kid screaming “we’re all gonna die!” I’m not so sure everyone in the car agreed he had any right to so much chutzpa, but whatever. Stupidity can be entertaining.

Aggressive Andy, otherwise known as The Guy in the Hummer who resents the fact that my little car just merged in front of him from the freeway entrance ramp. He is going to teach me a lesson, following my car at a distance close enough to be attached to my back bumper by a paper clip.

I deserve it for having the audacity to drive my little car on his road.

Clueless Cletus – This is the guy in the pick-up with the lift kit and two huge exhaust pipes spewing foul, black smoke from the top of his rig every time he accelerates. Cletus has adorned his back window with an applique: “Prius Repellant,” assuming people like me will find the black smoke he spews so repugnant, we’ll keep our distance.

The thing is, the lift kit has hoisted the whole vehicle a full sixteen feet above the road. I could probably just drive right under him. Had he left the tail pipes in their original location, he would be blowing exhaust right in my face. Their location now, however, would be more likely to bother people on the overpass. Poor planning, that.

This list is, of course, in no way meant to be exhaustive. Add to it the folks who may have driven for a long while but managed to avoid learning the actual rules of the road:

The Conscientious Obstacle – This guy gives the bike in the bike lane a wide berth, which itself is a good thing. Unfortunately, he also tends to forget he’s supposed to yield to oncoming traffic at the same time.

Mary Manners – I always meet this woman at intersections where the cross traffic does not stop. She pulls up and stops across from me. I have my left turn signal on. She’s going straight. At the first freaking break in probably five minutes, she politely waves at me to proceed through the intersection.

… Or else she’s waving at a fly. Or maybe she’s gesturing to a kid in the back seat to stop singing the Barney song because mommy’s driving, sweetheart, and that tune is about to make mama lose her freaking mind.

In any case, Miss Manners has the right of way. If I go and she rams my car, it’ll be my fault.

It will take Miss Manners at least three missed windows in cross traffic to realize that I’m yielding to her. She’ll zoom across the intersection with a well, BE that way gesture.

I’ll admit to having my own moments of driving while stupid. I may have been guilty of traveling well under the speed limit once or twice while looking for an address, singing along with the radio, or thinking about something like math. I’m embarrassed about the number of times I’ve realized my turn signal has been blinking for who knows how long when I never intended to turn.

I’m just adding to the problem, I guess.

I should also mention that our state has a fairly high number, per capita, of Friendly Wavers. These are generally folks who live in towns with populations of fewer than 1,000 in which each one must greet his neighbor with a wave upon passing (I think it’s a statute or something).

Considering the number of bucolic villages that pepper our landscape, you’d think we would get special recompense in the rude driver contest.

So, who gets under your skin while you’re driving? You can vent with me, I won’t ask you to define any of the colorful language you use. I promise.


And please vote, it makes the roads safer. Not really. It just helps me get more readers. One click on the banner below and you’re done. Thank you.


photo by: MPD01605


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  1. Some of these drivers exist in both California, and Minnesota.

    I especially love the guy who\’s lived in Minnesota his *whole life* and yet still can\’t figure out that black ice doesn\’t give a crap whether or not you have 4 wheel drive. /eye roll

  2. Oh, yes, thank you so much for the invitation to vent!
    But first I have to say how much I enjoyed this post. Hilarious as usual!

    Every morning I drive to work on a two-lane highway with 45 miles per hour posted. I usually drive this stretch of highway going about 50 mph. Every morning, multiple vehicles pass me (or should I say fly past me!) using the oncoming traffic lane to pass. Average real driving speed is probably about 60-65 mph. Some are faster, of course. I myself have NEVER passed another vehicle on this highway. I just stay a respectful distance behind.

    I have been pulled over and gotten speeding tickets twice in five years on this highway! For going 50 in a 45 zone, with faster cars whizzing past. I have never seen another vehicle get a speeding ticket in this area.

    This morning four cars passed me on my way to work.
    That\’s my biggest driving pet peeve.
    I feel so much better now!

    1. I hear you. People need to mellow out.

      We live off a road that used to be \”out in the country\” when I was a kid. Now it\’s much more developed. It\’s always been 30 mph because it\’s fairly curvy. I drive it at a couple mph faster and constantly have people tailgating me and gesturing that I\’m going too slow.

      I also run along it and the kids bike to school on it. There are a few blind corners where I catch people on every run cutting over into the bike lane, going at least 45. I never see cops over here and it makes me crazy.

      My strategy is to stop running and point at them. I threw my water bottle at one car. That\’ll teach \’em. What it will teach, I don\’t know.

  3. LOL!! omg this write-up made my morning. In Massachusetts we have signs that say \”use yah blinkah\” because drivers around here can only read phonetically, evidently. I also hate drivers who are so lost they spend most of their time starring at the map on their phone rather than the road (this may or may not describe me, but i hate it when other people do it 🙂 )

    1. \”use yah blinkah.\” That\’s hilarious!

      I\’ve been guilty of looking at maps on my phone, or driving slowly to find addresses that seem to be impossible to spot.

      The kids call me on it, thankfully, so I draft them to be my navigators.