A weekly look at what sucks in the world of automobiles, plus some good stuff
Driving in a temper is not a good thing to do. I apologise for stating the bloody obvious. That confrontation with another driver, that argument with your partner and the silence all the way home is a potential killer. The head throbs, reason goes awry, emotion is wasted. Mind elsewhere and you make a serious error of judgement. Your mind should be on the driving, the road ahead, not on who it is you wish to strangle.
The other day I found myself shouting at a driver in front for driving erratically. Too slow off the mark when the line of traffic moved off, running backwards when taking off the handbrake, drifting dreamily across lanes and switching back again. It made predicting her behaviour very unpredictable.
A while back my wife was driving home from Glasgow late on a dark evening. A small white van hogged the outside lane. (There is no such thing as the ‘fast lane’. We assume the overtaking lane means exactly that and that alone.) Stopping her from overtaking went on for a number of miles, no other vehicles around. Eventually my wife decided to pull into the inside lane and let the van driver do as he pleased. Instead he swung over in front of her, so she moved back into the outside lane.
This was repeated twice more. As she attempted to drive past him for the fourth time in the outside lane – she had the faster vehicle – a hammer shattered her windscreen. She careened over to the hard shoulder and screeched to a halt in shock. The van sped on, but not before she gave his registration number to the police. The police interviewed him at his house, but there being no witnesses to the incident, left him with a caution.
What was the driver thinking, the misogynist son-of-a-bitch? This was a classic example of road rage, short of murder.
We all curse at other drivers, cocooned in our wee personal bubble, the equivalent of a dog at the garden gate barking at passing dogs, saying, this space is mine. I have seen men getting out of their cars to have a punch-up at the lights. Tollcross it was, in Edinburgh, a place where once there stood a magnificent, ornate Victorian bandstand removed to rot in a field and replaced by an ugly streetscape of lights and signs and kerb islands. In that instance I don’t recall what profanity one screamed at the other, I remember a young police officer – in the days when they patrolled our streets by foot – appearing from nowhere shouting, “Gentlemen, gentleman! Please be civil!” Educated statesman was that young policeman.
In Los Angeles you allow any pedestrian crossing the road the freedom and right to complete their journey, no matter the circumstance, no matter if not using a proper pedestrian crossing. Back in Edinburgh from an LA business trip, I stopped to allow a little old lady to cross the road. Three cars back in the line, the driver’s fury at my kindness turned homicidal. He pulled out of the line to overtake across the junction at rubber ripping speed, almost wiping out said old biddy in the process.
That reminds me of one other incident, this time in Los Angeles, but one I see repeated in Edinburgh and Glasgow. I was second in line at the red traffic light, about ten other cars behind. The light changed to green but car number one was slow in moving off. Mad as hell, driver number seven hit the horn, and kept his fist planted firmly on the boss of the steering wheel. Unfortunately for him an LAPD car drew up alongside, the officer gesturing the driver to stay where he was.
As I drove off I heard the police officer say as he leant over the driver’s door, “Sir, what is the problem? You are number seven in the line. When the lights change there’s all the other cars to move before you can think of moving one inch!”
What do we have to do to stop being Angry Driver, especially if you know you have a short temper? Competitive in career should not translate to competitive on the road. Domini hat on, here’s my tips:
Move Over – If you notice someone tailgating you, don’t make them angrier by going slower or at the same speed. Don’t endanger yourself and others by speeding up. Instead, move over as soon as you can and let the driver pass.
Avoid Eye Contact – Sometimes making eye contact with the aggressive driver can increase their anger. Like the dog at the gate analogy, it can be interpreted as a form of a challenge. Ignore them as they pass by and make sure to give them plenty of room.
Stay Calm – Don’t let a driver’s poor behaviour get the best of you. Do your best to stay calm. You can do this by giving yourself plenty of time for delays on your trip and listening to your favourite music. Also, use your horn only if you absolutely must do.
Smile – Smile at other drivers if in the wrong, or give a ‘so sorry’ wave. You will be amazed how much more accommodating they become. Apologise if you’re in the wrong; defuse the moment. (Thanks to Hugh Wallace – see letter below.)
Report The Sod – If someone is driving erratically or too aggressively, call the police to report it before the incident gets any worse. (Hands free phone only, please!)
And finally, don’t do as I do, do as I say!
PS: The supernatural film of the same name, Driving Angry, starring the face of a startled sheep, Nicolas Cage, can be seen repeated on late night television a lot of the year.
GROUSEY’S FOOTWELL FINDS
New VW Golf dash
A spy shot of the new VW Golf’s dash shows a complete break away from the traditional wide centre console, facia with radio and a place to hold small items, and above a heavy duty dash full of analogue instrumentation. Instead, the new creation is two elegant parallel lines curving in the middle toward the driver, encompassing digital instruments behind the steering wheel, and an elongated computer screen to the right. Along the bottom line are a series of thin buttons. Sure has taken VW a long time to move into the modern world, what with recreations of the Beetle. A contemporary design is welcome.
Sturgeon visits car designers
It flashed by. Can’t remember where or when. I read a headline and saw a photograph of Nicola Sturgeon with some students who had designed a tubular framed experimental vehicle propelled by hydrogen power. Not a new idea by any means, with a couple of car manufacturers still trying their hand with the stuff. If the Scottish Government could see their way to encouraging clever, innovative companies to locate in Scotland, engineers and designers making cars more environmentally friendly, I welcome it.
City of Edinburgh Council has released pretty sketches of three proposed greatly enhanced areas for pedestrians. They are actually working on Rose Street now, ideas for that street of pubs littering the floor of council offices for generations. The new initiative has one outside Waverley station – I dislike the concrete expansion into the gardens, one for Victoria Street to the Grassmarket, and one at the traffic mess that is Tollcross. The sketch shows a cross road replaces the every which way existing now. On the left is a wide pavement and what looks like stalls, a large sculpture and the original clock. Surely that’s the spot to place a replica of the beautiful Victorian bandstand removed last century and left to rot. We have one of Scotland’s last foundries in Edinburgh that could make it and we see it used for debates, chilling out, and musical events. If you like the idea, tell the council.