18 annoying habits of chronically bad drivers

Here are the drivers car critic Bill Griffith says should end up on the naughty list. –Carlos A. Oliveras

It appears Santa didn’t grant my wish and do away with all those stupid drivers on our roadways. Who are they? That would be everyone out there behind the wheel except you and me, dear reader.

This column has been circling in the back of my mind for a few years now and each time I’d think about writing it, I’d wish there was a GoPro camera on the windshield of our test vehicles.

For years, Mrs. G has wondered what makes me say, “Watch this guy (or lady) in front. They’re about to do something stupid.’’

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Maybe it’s the way their car does a subtle wobble as the driver backs off the accelerator that sends a signal to me to be wary.

Over the past year, I have forgotten as many of these stupid maneuvers as I’ve jotted down here. But let’s start in my backyard.

1. The Newburyport Turn, Part 1: I’m sure this happens in many towns with narrow side streets, but my town’s residents have this move down pat. First they slow quickly for no apparent reason. Only then do they put on the blinker, most often for a right turn.

2. The Newburyport Turn, Part 2: After executing Part 1, you’d think they’d actually complete the turn. Nope, the locals get halfway around the corner and practically stop, leaving the rear of their car out in the driving lane as if they’re saying, “Hit me. I want to submit an insurance claim.’’

3. The Missed Highway Exit. This used to be the rollover move before SUVs were equipped with stability and cornering assistance controls. We’ve all seen this trick: A driver almost misses an off ramp, then cuts sharply across two highway lanes to exit going at least 25 miles per hour over the posted speed.

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4. The right lane speeder. Those are the drivers doing 80 mph in the far right line, thinking that makes them invisible to speed traps.

5. The tailgater who won’t pass. When you finally pull over so this irritating fool goes by you, he (or she) then zooms up to the next car in line and again settles in a few feet behind that driver’s rear bumper.

6. Left lane pokeys. You know, the old guy out there with his left blinker on for miles. Oops. That might be me. Memo to self: Write column about making flashers emit a louder click.

7. The constant lane changer in heavy traffic. He (or she) is always forcing their car into the moving lane only to see it stop.

8. This is my least favorite driver. You are the only car coming down the road and this person pulls out in front of you, cutting you off. They compound the sin by then slowing to take an immediate left.

9. The driver, especially of an SUV, who doesn’t clean the snow off the roof so it flies everywhere at highway speeds, or, when they stop quickly, slides down their windshield.

10. Folks who don’t think a signal is required for taking a right turn.

11. The drivers who think the best way out of a traffic jam is to tailgate an emergency vehicle—a cruiser, tow truck, ambulance, or fire engine—one of those vehicles with a sign saying “Stay 500 feet back.’’

12. The speed-up, slow-down driver. You’ve got your cruise control set at highway speed. This is the car that blasts by you, then pulls over and slows down, then zips by again…repeatedly.

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13. The rolling roadblock. Three cars going the same speed almost side by side on the interstate, holding up a cluster of vehicles behind them.

14. The swerve left-to-turn-right move. Heading east through downtown Newburyport, the main drag (Merrimac Street) is two lanes. The left lane bears left to head towards Plum Island, the right lane bends around to the right. A surprising number of drivers in that right lane drift into the left lane so they can make their right turn, threatening to sideswipe other cars.

15. The two-footed driver. You know, the one driving on a highway with their left foot resting on the brake pedal so the brake lights flick on and off at 65 mph. You wonder which will wear out first, the taillight bulbs or the brake pads.

16. Anyone who doesn’t understand that the car already in a rotary has the right of way.

17. You’re following a car at 65 mph when the driver gradually slows. You swing left to pass and notice, yup, it’s a case of cellphone-to-the-ear syndrome.

18. And, perhaps my favorite. I saw this by the Agawam diner in Rowley. An SUV took a left turn from Rte. 133 onto Rte. 1 North. The driver had a cigarette dangling from her lips, a small dog in her left arm leaning out the window, and a cellphone tucked between her shoulder and ear. Steering with her knees?

Safe travels to all in the New Year.

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