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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883


Drivers annoying drivers

Every topic regarding driving gets coverage here, but the discussion often reverts to the things drivers do that annoy fellow drivers:  pet peeves.  Some of those behaviors seem to irritate everyone (except the perpetrators) and others bug just a few.

As an aside, I suspect that the same person who hates tailgaters probably follows too closely at times him/herself.  It’s human nature to criticize others’ mistakes and forgive our own.  Nevertheless, as victims of other drivers’ shortcomings, we all get annoyed.

For example, reader H.I. pronounced his irritation over those drivers who become “rolling roadblocks” when he wrote, “You often talk about pet peeves and usually they are the same ones that bother me.  One of my most annoying peeves is the driver who insists on holding up a line of traffic on two lane highways.  It’s a daily occurrence on Highway 195.  Sometimes you’ll see a mile-long train of cars behind some oblivious driver.  Maybe not even oblivious, but just deliberately annoying.  It’s illegal to do that and leads to dangerous passing situations.  But I wonder why I’ve never seen a police officer enforce that law.  Is it just too hard to accomplish?  Have you ever discussed this with your contacts in law enforcement?  I would really like to hear an explanation why they don’t seem to take notice.”

I make about 15 round trips to Pullman from Spokane each year and feel his pain. Those lengthy strings are so prevalent and prominent that I can’t help but count the unfortunate participants as I pass by them in the opposite direction.  “Parades” of 9 cars are quite common.  I believe the longest I’ve seen included 25 “entrants” in these parades, with the average falling around 13.  Any of those scenarios violates RCW 46.61.427, which requires drivers holding up 5 or more vehicles (3 in Idaho) to pull over on two-lane roads to allow following vehicles to pass safely.

I’m not sure how much enforcement emphasis is afforded this violation, but I suspect not enough.  Amazingly, through enforcement and education, seat belt compliance has soared and drunken driving has diminished.  I wish a similar effort could be placed on blocking by vehicles operating slowly on two-laners and hogging the left side of four-laners.

I will ask a WSP officer about enforcement levels directed to these driver errors next time I ride with one.  I believe that they are looking to cite such offenses, but officers are simply too outnumbered to have an effect at current emphasis levels.  I’ve witnessed ticket-issuing for cell phone use while riding with WSP Troopers, yet the number of drivers with phone-to-ear is rampant.  Emphasis is warranted!

Even worse than the long string itself is the leader’s inability to maintain a constant speed.  I might be willing to settle in at 55 mph, maintaining my position in the parade, IF that 55 mph were steady.  Instead, however, constant attention and adaptation is necessary to maintain position while lead-car speeds vary from 49 to 69 (slower on curves and uphill; faster on straights and downhill).  Wouldn't it be nice if these drivers knew how to use cruise control?

Speaking of driver awareness, reader B.W. told me of a driver who received her driver education in 1969.  Paula Thiewes was so serious about getting her license that she wrote 30 pages of notes from her classes, which her son recently posted on the Reddit Website.

What impressed me is that her notes contained detailed text and images covering engine components, gauges, tire pressure/wear characteristics and tire changing.  Her “diary” even had an explanation of the four stages of a four-stroke engine:  intake, compression, power and exhaust! 

Drivers benefit from such comprehensive education.  I encourage better standards for driver education, training and testing.  Thiewe’s early education catalyzed a lifelong appreciation of motor vehicles, along with a successful operational record.

She had a great driver instructor.  I’ve always maintained that knowing how one’s vehicle works is nearly as important as knowing how to operate it.  An awareness of exactly what is happening when you accelerate, brake, or turn the wheel can help you make proper inputs to those controls.

Readers may contact Bill Love via e-mail at