Readers pick up the story lines… bad driver tales

An earlier Auto Notes column on the annoying habits of chronically bad habits struck a nerve and earned a sequal.
An earlier Auto Notes column on the annoying habits of chronically bad habits struck a nerve and earned a sequal.

Who knew? Two weeks ago, we had fun pointing out some of our fellow motorists’ driving foibles. It appears that column hit a nerve with you, dear readers.

Enough so that for a week, the collective you sent almost as many emails to my inbox as America’s retailers do. That’s no mean feat.

Your responses were angry, funny, confessional, educational, and certainly the fodder for a sequel. It’s another illustration that many readers know more than the author when it comes to all things automotive.

The collective we, of course, are exemplary drivers on our highways as opposed to “they,’’ the heathens of whom we write.


Sometimes writing is work. Not this time. This is fun.

Story continues after gallery

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Joe Kelleher of Newburyport good-naturedly took me to task for being too impatient with my fellow drivers in describing what I called “The Newburyport Turn.’’ He included a true “I wish I’d written that’’ line: “Directional signals indicate only if the lights work. They have no connection to which direction a vehicle will go.’’

Sam Stone described what he calls “The Quincy Left’’: “You’re on a road with two travel lanes going in your direction. You pull up to a red light in the left lane behind another car that appears to be going straight through the intersection. As soon as the light turns green, that car turns on its left turn signal and tries to make the turn, only to be thwarted by oncoming traffic. Meanwhile, the right-hand lane flows by easily as you are stuck behind lefty, a spot you’d have avoided if he had his blinker on in the first place.’’

For years, I’d lost contact with high school friend Larry Carr. He emailed from Ft. Myers, FL, to take exception to my annoying driving habit No. 11 (tailgating an emergency vehicle to get through heavy traffic) “because that one hit a little too close to home,’’ he wrote.


“To this day,’’ he continued, “I take great pride in having pulled out of a very long line awaiting entry into the Sumner-Callahan Tunnel (I can’t remember which one is inbound) in order to tailgate an ambulance to the toll booth. Without exaggeration, based on how slowly we were moving and how long we’d already waited, I think this ploy could have saved us as much as 45 minutes. My excuse: We’d just gotten home from a long trip, and we were tired and cranky to boot.’’

Tony Velardo of Foxboro wrote, “I really enjoyed the article. I do a lot of driving and have seen almost all of your 18 favorites. How about this one: The driver who misses a highway exit and then decides to BACK UP in the breakdown lane instead of going to the next exit. I always lean on my horn when driving past to try to emphasize their stupidity.’’

Stuart Deane, a friend and retired educator who is a regular op-ed contributor in the Newburyport News, wrote to complain that I’d stolen his story idea.

To which I say, “Drive around town a few days, starting with that anachronism of a rotary in the middle of Rte. 1 as you enter the city.’’

Oops. Mr. Kelleher, above, had already addressed that in his email. A “true traffic engineering abomination,’’ he called it and then went on. “You wrote about those inside the rotary having the right of way to exit the rotary, a la the elevator etiquette of letting passengers out before entering, so please revisit Rte. 1. Ancient US Route 1 never again will see sledges, dreys, coach-and-fours, etc., needing to cross a four-lane modern highway to get to their fields. With two US Rte. 1 lanes going each way at 45 mph, it’s distressing to see a yield sign suddenly appear to accommodate someone wanting to make the equivalent of a left turn.’’


Jeff Furber writes, “I still see a lot of texting, mostly people 35 or younger. I usually honk. I think the worst, besides texters, is someone going 55 to 60 in the high-speed lane when everyone else is traveling 75 mph.’’

Wes Elwell of the Cape wrote, “When I taught my kids to drive, I told them that 90 percent of good driving was avoiding the bad drivers, and they should assume all other drivers are drunk, stoned, crazy, or some combination of those. You missed two biggies, though: One, the weekend drivers who clog the passing lane driving at the speed limit two car lengths apart, and two, the NASCAR wannabes who zigzag through heavy traffic, clearing other cars by mere inches.

“The worst I’ve seen, though,’’ Elwell added, “was the apparently driverless car coming at me on Main Street in Falmouth. I pulled over and saw the driver was leaning between the seats trying to grab something from the back seat. Plus, I immediately related to the Newburyport Turn. I thought that was a Cape Cod phenomenon. I suspect these are the same people you see standing in the middle of a supermarket aisle staring blankly into space.’’

Did you say supermarket?

Sara Mitchell emailed, “May I add this to your column? Those who are incapable of returning a shopping cart to the store entrance or cart corral, even when they have the closest space to either.’’

Many times when I hit the brakes as someone cuts me off, I wonder what would happen if I were driving a rusted-out ’78 Chevy ¾-ton pickup truck with flapping fenders and the brakes failed. I guess I’m not alone. Joe Ahearn wrote, “I live in Ipswich. Seen it all. Wish I had a rocket launcher.’’

All of which means it’s probably time to blast off on this one.

However, trust me, we’ll have re-entry (making this a trilogy?) because I haven’t touched upon even half of your responses.

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