10 Driver Fails To Watch Out For On Road Trips – Plus, How To Avoid Them

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Car Driver Fails

Well, I just finished a 1,600-mile weekend. While I made it home in one piece, there were a few close calls. If you’re planning a trip over the holidays, you’re going to face the same challenges. Here’s what you need to know to overcome car driver fails.

Photo: Alexandre

One: Tailgating In The Rain
Riding down CA-46 in a torrential downpour, I had to slow down below the speed limit in order to ride safely. That’s a four-lane, divided highway, but automotive drivers didn’t necessarily feel the same about safety. Braking distances increase drastically in inclement weather and following distances should increase proportionately.

What You Can Do About It: Slow down even further. Don’t do anything unsafe by slowing rapidly, unpredictably or to an unnecessary degree, but shedding more speed will decrease braking distances, building back in the safety being sacrificed by tailgating.

Two: Changing Lanes Without Looking
You’re riding along through traffic, minding your own business, when a car driver suddenly decides they want to be in your lane and doesn’t bother looking first.

What You Can Do About It: First, leave a “safety” bubble around you as you interact with traffic, always giving yourself at least one, if not two escape routes. Second, try and remain conscious of the blind spots of cars you’re riding around and try to spend as little time in them as possible. Also avoid riding directly next to cars. When it comes time to pass one, just pass it, don’t hang around.

Three: Rolling Road Blocks
So there’s a truck going 10 mph under in the slow lane and a car doing the exact same speed next to it in the passing lane, it can back up traffic for miles.

What You Can Do About It: Plan ahead. When you have the opportunity, look miles down the road and try and overtake packs of slow-moving traffic before two groups meet one another.

Four: Errant Highbeams
Or, mis-adjusted low beams blinding you from behind at night.

What You Can Do About It: Tweak your mirrors outwards to show what’s in the lanes next to you, not directly behind. Just be aware of your blind spot changing shape and size as you do so. Bonus points if you can direct the light straight back in the driver’s eyes.

Five: Passing, Then Slowing
There you are, riding along at a precisely constant speed, while the drivers around you speed up and slow down constantly, passing you, only to slow right in front.

What You Can Do About It: Over the weekend, I was able to take a few minutes off from my chosen cruising speed while the offending drivers were in a fast period, allowing some gap to generate from them. This cleared them from my road space pretty reliably. I’d use this as time to stand up or otherwise achieve a little extra comfort.

Read More, Page Two >>

Related Links:
Avoid Tickets: 8 Ways To Stay Under The Radar
Pay Attention: How To Stay Alert On Long Motorcycle Rides
Sore Butt? How To Stay Comfortable On Long Motorcycle Rides

  • Jack Meoph

    I thought CA driver were bad, and then I went to Nashville. Pouring rain, people were tailgating at 80+mph, cars were flying off the road, and no one was slowing down. And the guy who I was with kept turning around and talking to me while he was driving and I was in the back seat? “Dude, I can hear you, watch the fracking road!!”

    • http://www.nathanielsalzman.com/ Nathaniel Salzman

      So say we all.

    • David Gasser

      I was in Nashville a couple of weeks ago for work, every morning on the local news were reports of car crashes/fatalities…I was thinking, “Wow, they don’t know how to drive here!”

      • BigHank53

        I’m pretty sure the only way to get a ticket in Tennessee is to hit a cop car and make the cop spill coffee on himself. They sure don’t seem to hand them out for speeding or erratic driving. Also, no vehicle safety inspection of any sort. None.

  • Rowtag

    hope you don’t have to drive in México, all of the above times three.

    • runnermatt

      I’ve read that in Mexico City if you are at an intersection and you look to see if traffic is coming the others drivers assume this means you have given them the right-of-way regardless of whether they legally have right of way.

      • ticticticboom

        No, that’s NYC and environs. Never let them catch you looking…

  • grb

    “Bonus points if you can direct the light straight back in the driver’s eyes” I definitely would enjoy mastering this one

    • Streetlight BDG

      I would love to do so. Sweet revenge, isn’t it? LOL

    • Michael Howard

      Yeah, sounds like fun but I’m not so sure I want the driver behind me to be blind.

  • Lee Scuppers

    Another way to avoid rolling road blocks is never get behind anybody from Massachusetts. Illinoisans seemed like big offenders too, when I was out that way.

    Sometimes it’s better to play the stoic and drop back. Engaging with a mass-hole just ruins your day and gains you nothing.

    • appliance5000

      Hey – wait a second I’m from Massachusetts and… never mind.

  • Jason 1199

    Rolling road block AKA driving in vancouver every f****ing day

  • http://www.nathanielsalzman.com/ Nathaniel Salzman

    Another way to avoid #6 is to place yourself in the far opposite lane from the off ramp. If your exit isn’t coming up any time soon, that’s the best place to be on a crowded freeway. It avoids all sorts of hazards, including the domino effect of merging on-ramp traffic. Obviously if you’re not willing to go the cruising speed of the fast lane then you should move over, but I find it very handy to make it such that my car hazards are, in theory, only coming from three sides.

  • runnermatt

    The rolling road block is every where. I find it is usually because they are unable to actually maintain a speed by themselves, usually because they are distracted by their cell phone conversation, and the instinctual part of their brain takes over and object fixates on the driver near or in front of them.

    When I’m in my car and I catch a person on their cell phone following too closely I like to play a mini-game with the. They are object fixated on the back of my car and not paying attention to their speed. So, I accelerate really slowly to see how fast I can get them to go before they realize how fast they are going. I think the best I did was I got somebody to go 20 over in a 55.

    People who are texting will tend to not be a rolling road block because they are not looking at the road so they never object fixate. Texters will instead vary their speed widely. If they normally drive 5-10 over they will slow to 5-10 under the speed limit when they are reading/writing their text message.

  • Loren Andrews

    Im about to go home on Wednesday Night at like 9pm its a 4 hour drive to Bakersfield. Ive done the drive in a car in the daytime but never at night. Does anyone have any suggestions for riding at night for hours on end the day before/on a Holiday? And tips for stupid drivers?

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      Just bundle up, drink a coffee and you’ll be fine.

    • Michael Love

      I find drivers see me better at night. If you can wear an outer layer that breaks the wind you can keep the heat in. I even wear a pair of windproof mitts over my gloves.

    • appliance5000

      But glowy arm bands from a bike store and be aware of drunks – maybe ride when they’re less likely to be on the road.

  • Chris Cope

    Beware the eerie blue light of inattentiveness. Families like to watch DVDs on road trips and even though the driver *technically* isn’t watching that evening’s feature presentation, in actuality he or she most certainly is. That means the driver is effectively not there at all, and you should get away from that vehicle as soon as possible. Say a little prayer for the family as you pass, because they clearly have no idea how much they are risking a terrible tragedy.

  • eddi

    I have to say these are the reasons I stay off freeways and similar limited-access highways. My advice? Unless there are no alternate routes or you need freeway speeds to make a schedule, try the alternates. Until you get close to a city they are usually wide open with minimal traffic. Of course, they do present their own special challenges. Farm vehicles come right to mind. Might make a nice article; if I didn’t miss one that already done.

    • HammSammich

      That’s interesting. I wonder if there are statistics on where accidents occur? Intuitively, my guess would be that limited access highways and freeways would be safer (no, or limited cross traffic) than city streets or winding rural roads with hidden intersections. Obviously increased speed and volume of traffic would also have to be considered. I know that my hackles are always more raised on the freeway, than around town but I always assumed that was just another example of humans being terrible at risk assessment.

      • Michael Howard

        Totally agree. Limited-access definitely makes a highway safer than non-limited access. Most of the points in this article apply to “normal” highways as well ‒ limited-access pretty much takes side roads and vastly-different speeds (from cars entering the traffic flow from a stop sign, etc) out of the equation.

      • eddi

        I bet you’re right about where the accidents are. Mine was on a busy city street at an intersection. And an invisible rural intersection is just waiting to bite an incautious tukus. Freeways give me a headache, sometimes for real, because of the volume of traffic. It’s like being the Invisible Man in a buffalo stampede (on roller skates for that classic look). I think it comes down, as it often does, to what is easiest for the individual. The perception of risk rather than actual numbers. People ride the freeways all the time with care and smarts and get where they’re going with no problem.

  • Brian

    On the cars tailgating a bike in the rain, my way of dealing with it is less than ideal, but effective. I have had this happen in DC Metro area traffic rather frequently. I crack the throttle enough to break the rear wheel loose ( not to rev the nuts off the engine to make noise) to make sure the car sees the sliding sideways dance. A little rooster tail of water and a quick little shimmy seems to either scare or just make the car behind me instantly wary and they seem to always then immediately back off and give me room. I know this is not the ideal solution and this is usually in stop and go traffic or traffic slower than 40mph, but it has worked for me and might be worth considering if you have enough control and confidence.

  • HoldenL

    Eleven: How Slooooooow Can You Go?
    “Honey, drive our hulking SUV 20 mph so we can get a good view of the mountains on this winding, one-lane-in-each-direction road. Gosh-darn it, that annoying motorcycle behind us keeps flashing his brights every time we slowly drive past a scenic overlook. Oh, look: A dotted yellow line instead two solid yellow lines. Speed up, dear, so we can’t be passed by the motorcyclist and 42 cars that have been stuck behind us for 17 miles! Kids, are you enjoying the Disney movie? It’s so much more interesting than these mountains and trees, isn’t it?”

    What You Can Do About It: Visit the mountains during a time of year when school is in session (mid-September, for the Blue Ridge Parkway) but before the leaf-peepers arrive en masse. Stop at scenic overlooks to allow the slowpokes to get way ahead of you. Pass them in the double-yellow.

  • Justin McClintock

    What’s amusing about this is #5′s presence on the list. Just a few days ago you guys posted an article actually recommending doing just that to keep yourself awake on a road trip, something I was keen to call out as bad driving/riding and just plain rude. Now here you’re calling out drivers for doing the exact same thing you recommended motorcyclists do. You guys must be huge fans of irony.

  • Arriba

    I am always looking for the driver in a car. In a direct line of sight or through HIS mirror. If I can’t see him, he is not seeing me and might move into my lane unexpected. Happens weekly.