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Saturday, 24 December 2011

Your pet hates about car drivers?

Enough said

Just before Xmas, a British motorcycle website ran a survey to determine what were the pet hates among its readers with respect to car drivers and their annoying and dangerous habits, plus being on the roads in general. Some of the habits listed and their ranking surprised me a bit and I got to thinking that maybe, there are bad traits which vary according to where you are in the world and even regional differences within a given country.

I'm curious with respect to what other people think - if you're a blogger, would you like to list your 5 least-liked specific traits in descending order of importance with an explanation and put a link to your post in your Comment?

Here are mine.

1.  Corner-cutting on narrow, twisty roads.
I live in a region of NZ which is a biker's paradise - hardly a straight bit of road anywhere.  On just about every ride I do in the area, there's at least one dozy knuckle-dragger on a blind or obscured bend partially on my side of the road coming towards me.  By the look of surprise on their faces, it's as if something coming the other way is the last thing they're expecting and I have no right to be there.  If there's time, I point them back to their side with an explicit gesture to demonstrate disapproval.  Laziness on their part? Failure to comprehend the potential consequences?  Generally public antipathy towards setting good standards?  Dunno, but it really makes my blood boil.  It's not just oncoming traffic either - if you're setting up for an overtake, traffic in front of you will often drift over the centreline on a shallow bend or even on a straight.  It's particularly noticeable at weekends and with the Coromandel Peninsula being a tourist area, I suspect that there's an element of people from other regions simply not knowing how to drive well on twisty roads.  Morons!

Something else I've noticed round this way which is both amusing and tragic at the same time.  Some of the worst corner-cutters are 4x4 drivers towing boats.  But wait - there's more!!!  If the driver is a solidly-built gentleman (oh all right, a fat bastard) wearing a baseball cap, a moustache and just a singlet or cutoff T shirt, you can bet your last cent he's going to be one of the worst offenders.  N.Z riders - just keep your eyes peeled and see if I'm right!!!   

To me, corner-cutting is the No 1 pet hate by an awfully large margin.


2.  Poor situational awareness. (Graphic: Using Data.wordpress.com)
Ok, whilst this is a perfectly true annoyance, it's not a single specific fault so I'll plump for failure to observe the rear.  By the number of dumb things people do when I'm closing on them from the rear, it's clear that on many occasions, they have no idea I'm there.  I suppose that mirrors are for checking out how they look wearing the latest Oakleys rather than the intended purpose.  However, with judicious positioning and having upgraded my headlight bulbs, I must admit that they see me a little earlier than they used to.  Probably don't like the dazzle in their mirrors, even in daytime.  Car drivers doing shoulder checks/lifesavers?  Don't make me laugh, the incidence of drivers actually swivelling their heads to take a good look is as rare as rocking horse poo!

Truck drivers as a group are excluded.  The ones round our way are extremely courteous and professional.

The other thing I've noticed is that I'm definitely spotted earlier when wearing a hi-viz jacket.  I've got a theory that there's a moment's uncertainty by a driver as to whether I'm a motorcycle cop so they go into best behaviour mode for a nanosecond.  Whatever the reason, I'm downright grateful!  At present, the biggest percentage of riders don't wear hi-viz and I worry that if it's mandated at any stage whether other road users will become blind to them through over-use.


3.  Failure to indicate intentions.
This might be more prevalent in the country areas than in major towns and cities where there would be utter carnage if people didn't stick to the rules most of the time.  However, out in the country, the locals seem to regard the use of indicators as a waste of energy and cut across your bows or turn off in front of you without warning.  The "relaxed" driving style is borne out by the number of country types who drive one-handed with the spare hand dangling out of the window or gripping the roof gutter. It's a fair bet that their thoughts aren't on driving well, more like looking forward to their next puff of weed or a cold beer at the pub.  Most of these idiots fall into the "slow driver" category but it's reassuring to read that the police are giving slow, discourteous drivers special attention too.


4. People who pull out of side turnings in front of you.
I'm hyper-aware of the risk to bikers by this kind of retard and am usually ready for them.  However, have you noticed that people who pull out normally proceed to dawdle along? Why is that??  Jennie also has a theory that people who pull out on you normally turn off soon afterwards and I'm beginning to think she's right now that she mentions it!


5. Angry drivers.
Actually, I'm thinking about one particular circumstance and I lied, it's a love, not a pet hate but it does involve angry drivers!  We all know that bikes are great at filtering past queues of traffic.  It seems that more drivers are objecting to bikes coming past when they're stuck in traffic jams, even though the practice is perfectly legal with certain parameters.  Several times in the last year, I've been gently filtering past a queue of stationary vehicles and some clown in a car has displayed colourful mastery of the English language by yelling out "Wait your f*****g turn" or a variation thereof.   Ignoring the abuse probably upsets them more than acknowledging it!

Don't let it influence your personal views, but here are the top 5 from Visordown, the British website:

  1. Motorists not using their indicators correctly (53%)
  2. Drivers flicking cigarette butts out of their window (21%)
  3. Potholes or uneven road surfaces (11%)
  4. Drivers overtaking unnecessarily in unsafe weather conditions (9%)
  5. Ineffective use of mirrors, poor observations and general awareness by others on the road (6%)

Let's hear what gets up your nose!!



31 comments:

  1. Geoff, a couple that I would add to the list that really get to me are: Drivers passing on the right where there is no actual lane; and, cars speeding up to a stop sign. Are they going to stop or aren't they?
    ~k

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  2. Thanks very much for those Keith - it's going to be really interesting summing up all the responses.

    All the best for the festive season - it's stiflingly hot here today!

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  3. Failure to indicate.....annoys the crap out of me, and people talking on there cell phones, seen a lot of that lately to.

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  4. Marcus Argentus [of MV]26 December 2011 at 17:27

    Geoff, different driving/riding scenarios for me - urban and motorway traffic. Things I find annoying are [in no particular order - being lazy not ordering] 1. Drivers who believe that indicating and turning the wheel at the same time is sensible - whether on the scoot or in the car, I want to know where am I supposed to go to get out of THEIR WAY? Amazing the surprised looks they give when a sudden blast of the horn awakens them! Happens on all roads and motorways. 2. Drivers who have no ability to maintain a steady speed - cruise control is wonderful but is also a pain in the behind as you catch up to the driver in front who accelerates away and then drops back and this continues. If you overtake they then tailgate you until they can overtake you and begin their speed up and down performance again. 3. Drivers who have no idea how to merge onto a motorway or other roads or deliberately block you from merging - that's what the long merge lane is for leading onto the motorway 4. A bit of a combined one - those who go from merge lane to fast lane at a sharp angle with no idea what is bearing down on them - the look of fright as they are almost run over by a truck and trailer unit is not conducive to others' well-being and the other part of this one are those who drive in the middle lane of a three lane motorway at 80km/h [OK, I know that there are a couple of places where you need to be in that lane because the left lane only exits or that lane leads to your exit - several places where that happens on Auckland's motorway system] but please either go a little faster or use the left lane. 5. Drivers who can not place their vehicle on the road - they totally lack any spatial awareness and drive over the centre line as if they are driving an AEC Matador not some 1000cc "pedal car". Might have a few more for you after our trip away - if the weather-gods co-operate we will be heading off to Wellington [Upper Hutt actually] on the scooters :-)
    Cheers and all the best for 2012
    Mark

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  5. Marcus Argentus [of MV]26 December 2011 at 17:38

    Sorry Geoff, forgot one - drivers who deliberately block intersections and then sit and smurk at you, especially on T-intersections. Oh for a Sherman tank.
    Cheers, Mark

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  6. Rog:
    Yup re: indicating. Don't notice a lot of cell phone misuse up this way. Maybe it's because negotiating the twisty roads AND breathing taxes the two working brain cells to their limit!

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  7. Geoff

    ALL OF THE ABOVE +

    on 3 lane motorways:


    middle lane hogging combined with any inability to drive at a near constant speed apart from positioning slap banf behind the car in front...

    fast lane hogging

    Most of this stems from the old crawler-slow-fast lane mentality of driving.

    I could go on....

    Best wishes from € zone, N

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  8. Hi Geoff
    I blogged about this earlier this month and it seems to be universally the same everywhere. Drivers are just poorly skilled.

    You can read my top 10 list of things that piss me off here...

    http://chillerteksr1page.blogspot.com/2011/12/you-pissed-me-off-you-bastard.html

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  9. Geoff,

    This post got my dander up - I wanted to start raging about drivers and what blood boiling does to me... but I think you understand it. Anyone on a motorcycle who has their right-of-way forcibly revoked or space infringed upon understands, it's not just impolite, it can mean your life.

    Brady
    Behind Bars - Motorcycles and Life

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  10. Mark:
    Not being a motorway commuter, I only see occasional examples of the stupidity you mention, specifically swapping lanes with either no indication or indicating at the very instant they barge in. I guess it's still part of the failing to indicate syndrome though. Since undertaking my IAM training, I feel much happier about spotting potential idiots and dealing with the situation.

    Have a fantasic trip down south and travel safely.

    Chillertek:
    Sorry to have missed your post - don't know how that happened but it was simply brilliant! It's pretty frightening to see this sort of behaviour round most of the world but if the Germans can drive well, especially on motorways; why can't the rest of the human race? I see you also mention 4x4's specifically. Why are a lot of their drivers such dicks??? I drive one but I'm sure I don't drive like most of them. Maybe it's the Volvo driver syndrome!

    Brady:
    Sorry to bring you to the boil! It's a sad commentary, isn't it? Who'd have thought that those wacky computer games with car crashes etc exactly mirroe real life??

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  11. Nikos:
    It seems to me that all our multitude of complaints about cage drivers simply boils down to LACK OF AWARENESS (about anything). Get in your little cocoon, put your brain in neutral and away you go. But why are German drivers so much better, or is that simply a misconception?

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  12. Geoff it seems that most 4x4 drivers simply dont use their brain once they get in their big tanks, and they simply don't care. One thing I notice though is how much better a motorcyclist drives a car than a car only driver drives a car. I see it in my motorcyclist friends driving. They generally look out for bikes and stay on the correct side of the road.

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  13. Marcus Argentus [of MV]27 December 2011 at 10:33

    Geoff, you ask "are German drivers so much better?" - I have been told that in Germany you can get a licence, after passing the necessary tests, to ride a scooter [believe 50cc] about 18 months before you can apply to begin learning for a car licence. If this is so, perhaps this might contribute to a greater awareness of others on the road and the awareness and riding/driving to the conditions. Maybe a reader can confirm or correct this information.
    Cheers,
    Mark

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  14. Chillertek:
    I think you're pretty much right on the money. One of my riding partners who is a motorcycle cop had a woman in a 4x4 pull directly out in front of him when he was on the police bike when he was lit up like a Xmas tree. Careless driving, $800 and lots of points on her license.

    I always acknowledge courteous driving by cars when on the bike as hopefully positive reinforcement!

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  15. Where to start? The challenge here is narrowing it down to five and I have learned that complaining accomplishes nothing but put me in a foul mood. However, you seem to be doing research of some sort so here are my five without going into detail as I am sure we can all relate:

    - Tailgating and crowding me at a stop. Back off!
    - Clusterfecking and the herd mentality.
    - Slowing in the turns and speeding up on the straights, just let me by.
    - It's signal first then turn, not the other way around.
    - Diesel trucks, really? Is dumping black smoke out your exhaust for a 1/2 mile worth the $8 in fuel you just spent doing it prove anything?

    I have learned that people lack control in their lives. They don't have control over their boss at work, they don't have control over their spouse at home, they don't have control over their kids, their bills, their debt, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Put them behind the wheel of a car and all of a sudden they now have control. Control over you on the motorcycle, control over the guy in the car behind them, control over the lady in the SUV beside them, the radio, the temperature in the car, control of their small little world inside that little sanctuary of a car. Although only for a short time during his commute or running errands, but control nonetheless.

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  16. Geoff

    My view of German driving on Autobahns is that on the "no speed limit" sections the outside lane is a scary place to be! Therefore one only uses it for overtaking. Even on 2 lane sections HGVs are not allowed to use the outside lane except on certain sections - bunching is minimised. Germans also tend to follow rules and speed limits and there are "blitzers" everwhere as Mrs N has just found out to her cost..(points totted up and 1 month ban, at a time of her choosing!)

    All the best, N

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  17. Put on a full face lid and jump into the car.....can't hear the radio or cd player so no need to fiddle with the knobs, can't hear the wife or kids or dog so no distractions can't use the phone hands free or otherwise, can't eat drink or smoke, can't study a map or read a newspaper or book, nothing to do but drive the car!.......thought's ?

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  18. Trobadour:
    Thanks so much for your considered opinions! That speeding up on the straights and slowing on the bends seems to be a universal trait. Normally on a bike, it doesn't annoy me to much as there's normally a place to slip by but in a car, it's darned annoying.

    Not quite research (yet), just curiosity at the moment. I don't know whether you're starting to notice it yet with your instructor training, but since I've been raising my game, it's become pretty noticeable that a lot of motorcyclists put themselves in positions where the poor skills of car drivers have a greater influence on the rider due to a lack of anticipation on the rider's part. Just a part-formed thought.

    Your thoughts about a lack of control in other parts of their lives is an absolute gem and something which didn't even occur to me - outstanding! Perhaps you could stretch things a bit and say that's why some people use their autos as a weapon!

    Thank you for those insights.

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  19. Nikos:
    Your comments regarding following rules (and by extension taking their responsibilities seriously)tends to support my relatively uninformed view. However, your comments about Mrs N tends to oppose that view. Couldn't be that her sensibilities have been eroded by someone near and dear to her, could it? ;-)

    Dylan:
    There's a lot of truth in what you say. I don't listen to music on the bike but I do in the car and don't think I drive like a dork as a result. Maybe the difference is the conditioning by riding a bike?

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  20. Mark:
    Yes, it's my understanding that acquiring a license in Germany is far more rigorous (and expensive)than most other countries. Certainly in NZ, it's far too simple for both cars and motorcycles. I know they're raising the bar for bikes but I don't see any significant movement for cars.

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  21. Geoff, I agree with all of the above, lack of awareness or ignorance of surroundings being a major cause. But I also believe what Trob said about 'being in control and power' is a main contributor.

    Here in the Vancouver lower mainland I notice mostly the fail to indicate, switch lanes without checking, and lots of stupid pick-up truck activity (I guess there must be a special course for those drivers, because I have barely noticed a considerate 4x4 cager ever).

    As for German vehicle endorsement... It is a while ago but I remember it was hard work, involved actual studying, needed minimum hours of supervised driving/riding under different road conditions, and was quite expensive. Plus, they make do it all over again if you fail. It is a serious exam, and road awareness is a big chunk of it.

    Also, if you fail to obey the traffic rules... it is expensive again, and you can lose your license. Hence most drivers/riders will chose to stay within limits, not to hurt their wallet.

    I wouldn't say Germans are the best drivers, but I am convinced that the driver/rider education is one of the best, and accident rates are lower and less deadly than in other countries with fewer driver training.

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  22. Sonja:
    Thanks so much for your contribution! Trobador's comment about control was a completely refreshing insight and I like it very much. Must ask our daughter as she's a qualified psych now!

    The American columnist PJ O'Rourke reckoned it was obligatory for US pick-up drivers to have a gun rack in the back window and have a can of Coors firmly clasped between the knees whilst driving. Gun laws prevent that scenario in NZ, but the same redneck tendencies are definitely there!

    Thanks for more info on the German training system. I really can't see why that degree of rigour can't be transported to other countries. It comes down to political will I suppose and politicians doing the right thing is an oxymoron in most parts of the world.

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  23. Geoff I posted my bad driver peeves on my blog. Http://scootermayhem.blogspot.com

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  24. Dar:
    Thanks so much for your thoughtful post - have commented directly on your blog.

    We'd be complete hypocrites if we didn't acknowledge the truth of your comments about motorcyclists.

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  25. Not enough space to add all my comments here Geoff.

    If I was a police biker..would have the record "booked" in local area..lol

    How about texting..with no eyes on the road
    Then the mobile phone itself
    No indicators when turning , and as for knowledge of roundabouts..dearie me !!

    How about on motorway , when lanes about to be reduced and idiot speeding to cut in..so as not to have to travel at limited speed through roads works

    Even in the local retail parks.. too lazy to walk a few yards , they go round and round waiting for spaces next to shop entrance

    Aye... I must becoming a grumpy old motorcyclist , but hopefully a safe one .

    Have a great New Year..best wishes to all the family


    Andrew X11

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  26. Geoff, I am going to come at this thought-provoking post from a slightly different point of view. It was the comparison between different countries in your post that made me think.

    Having ridden bikes over many miles in many different countries, I have seen a completely different approach to driving in general and in the attitude of car drivers towards motorcyclists in different countries. I can categorically confirm that car drivers from different countries have completely different bad habits, so given that these bad habits are geographical, they must be learned. The interesting point is, that it follows therefore that good car driving habits can also be learned. It therefore is incumbent on all of us motorcyclists to keep on trying to educate car drivers, or more relevantly, we must keep educating the authorities that can influence driving standards, and attitudes towards motorcyclists.

    My observations on three car driving nations would be....

    The best car drivers (in respect to attitude and care towards motorcyclists) are the French. They see you coming in their mirrors and get out of your way by giving you more room and even moving over slightly to enable you to pass. They just seem to see bikes better than anywhere else I have ridden.

    Next would come the Brits. This seems to be reflected in the considerable differences between the Visor Down results and your own NZ views. I would agree with VD’s number one, the poor use of indicator use by car drivers, but look at the percentage – a whopping 53%! The next two on VD’s list are not really bad driver related and the percentages for the last two are quite low. I would have added car drivers pulling out in front of bikes, but that is from listening to other British bikers, as I haven’t experienced it myself. I would also add lack of lane discipline when on roundabouts – some car drivers don’t seem to realise that abruptly changing lanes on a roundabout can cause a lot of problems for bikes, but thankfully the speeds tend to be low, so the consequences reduced accordingly.

    In third place are the American car drivers I am afraid, but I will qualify this. My experience is that in towns, they are generally careful and polite and very respectful to bikes, but on the freeways and interstates, the lack of awareness of their surroundings and a dreadful lack of lane discipline is simple awful. There are many reasons for this – the use cell phones being one of the worst. Quite why the law makers haven’t imposed an outright ban on their use while driving is beyond me. It is also legal to overtake to either side in most (all?) US states and this is the craziest thing of all, as this causes many side-swipes to motorcyclists. It is either legal or the law is not enforced. I have tried to work out why the lack of recognition of bikes in the US is so prevalent. I am not sure about this, but in many places in the world, you can legally rides bikes at an earlier age than cars, so many young people get a bike first for a year or so and this teaches them a lot that they will remember about bikes for life. In the USA, most teenagers get a car first, so those early lessons are not learnt. Maybe this is the reason.

    I cannot comment about how car drivers behave in NZ as I haven't ridden there. At least, not yet.

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  27. I just read some of the other comments and I have to agree with Mark about being able to ride a bike earlier than a car, which is certainly the case in Europe and makes a huge difference.

    I also agree with what you said Geoff about acknowledging courteous driving – this is very important and reinforces a good bond between riders and bikers. This is especially the case when lane splitting when car drivers move their cars out of you way, so you can thread through stationary traffic. Can you lane split in NZ?

    I cannot comment on German driving per Sonja’s comment as I have only ridden there briefly. It would be interesting to know what Sonja thinks about the differences between nations riding, so I would ask her to comment on US / Canadian / German / NZ / others(?) differences if she has time.

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  28. Andrew:
    Thanks for your contribution. I think that Trobadour's comments with respect to underlying causes have great universal relevance, but we mustn't get too holier than thou about it all either - Dar's comments about motorcyclists are well-founded in my own personal experience.

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  29. Gary,

    Many thanks indeed for that extremely thoughtful and insightful piece. You probably have more international riding experience than anyone to base your observations on.

    I'm not sure what makes the French so considerate but it would be really interesting to find out! In the case of NZ, there aren't many motorway-type roads at all and I think urban types simply don't know how to drive properly on rural roads, or are too impatient to care about consequences. There has never been a bigger truism than "driving to the conditions".

    Your comment about people riding a motorcycle before driving a car to raise their awareness is absolutely correct. In fact, I've seen that raised in the local press twice over the holiday period in response to some of the car accidents which have occurred.

    Thanks so much for such a thought-provoking post!

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  30. Gary:
    Yes, you can lane split (well, filter if you want to split hairs). There are some guidelines regarding relative speeds and positions but they're quite sensible. By and large on crawling traffic on urban motorways, I find car drivers pretty courteous towards bikes but there are a few around who are quite abusive and close the gap if they see you coming. That's just life.

    The worst case I came across happened to a close friend a few months ago. He'd filtered into a gap at some traffic lights and the young woman in the car behind him partially ran over his foot and nearly knocked him off whilst he was stationary. He actually stopped her and asked her what the deal was and she said it was because he "pushed in" and was quite unrepentant. As he pointed out to her, it was a good thing it was him she did it to and not to someone with a shorter fuse.

    Personally, I'd have got the law involved.

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  31. Geoff - In Canada, in the Province of BC I think most car drivers are oblivious to motorcycles and scooters. I find in my daily commute which I do year round people are in a hurry all the time and disregard the basic driving fundamentals, ie. shoulder checking and using turn signals. More often than not when I am in traffic I am usually tailgated and some cars are almost crawling up my tailpipe, lane changes are routinely done without turn signals and you wouldn't even know they are standard equipment in a car. Some drivers are very discourteous and look at motorcyclists with suspicion and have have an 'I don't care that you are sharing the road attitude'. This is very prevalent on the highways and freeways, it truly is a free for all and people seem to treat driving as a 'right' and not a privilege.

    Personally I think that driving privileges should be reviewed and people should be retested routinely at least every 5 years. ALL drivers if they have had numerous offenses should be reviewed more frequently and if the bad driving behaviour continues then their license should be revoked. For those using hand held cell phones or devices (which is illegal here) they should be heavily fined and it should be an offense considered under the impaired driving section, because at that moment in time the driver is impaired and not paying attention. I know this sounds harsh, but something needs to change. We had the cell phone/handheld device law imposed 3 years ago and it worked for awhile, but people have let their guard down. So it leaves us in the state of more and more drivers engaging in distracted driving. Car drivers especially nowadays have to re-learn that a car is a car, not a mobile office, dining room or anything resembling home, it is a lethal weapon when misused. Conversely as I pointed outon my blog it is my humble opinion that motorcycle novice training courses & traffic safety courses should be a condition of driving a motorcycle and part of the insurance requirement for motorcycles. Again we are dealing with the lethalty of vehicles with some untrained or inattentive riders who may not be completely aware what their bad habits are doing in the driving environment around them. It seems I am all about safety as I get older. I know most of my fellow cyclists strive to be the very best they can be by upgrading skills and training regularly. I think when a motorcyclist decides that they don't need further training or routinely practice the basics, then it might be time to hang up the keys.

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