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


Bad drivers: incompetent or indifferent?

Evidently, there are drivers operating motor vehicles who lack the understanding to properly do so.  Based on behaviors I observe, if it’s not incompetence, then it’s simply indifference to afford due diligence to the task.

The only explanations for seemingly unexplainable driver actions are that those drivers either don’t possess necessary skills or don’t care to employ them.

For example, what makes one drive at a speed high enough to catch me, but not continue that speed so as to complete a pass?  Of course the pass may be delayed until there is safe clearance when only one lane is provided for travel in each direction, but this phenomenon regularly takes place on multi-laned roadways too.  And it occurs while my vehicle speed remains constant.

It seems to me that these drivers are generally oblivious to their vehicle speed, and are basically just accelerating from one “obstacle” to another.  As long the road is clear, they just keep going faster and faster until the presence of another vehicle requires them to slow down, refusing the pesky maneuver to change lanes and pass.

Such behavior also contributes to the many 15-20 vehicle “strings” I witnessed this week during a Spokane to Pullman round trip.  Along those 70 miles of U.S. 195, I saw over 20 of those unsafe “parades” consisting of vehicles too-closely following one another.  I doubt if those drivers all departed from the same starting point at the same time, so one-by-one, they must have caught the parade and refrained from passing.

An added danger to those groupings is that drivers caught at the tail end are forced to stay in line or face risky multi-vehicle passes.  If the lead car is travelling under the limit, it is incumbent upon them to pull over to the shoulder and let normal traffic pass.  If they don’t pull over, it is the responsibility of the second vehicle in line to make a pass, so the third, fourth or vehicle further back does not have to make a dangerous pass to continue near the posted limit.

Another driver conduct that indicates either incompetence or indifference happens when encountering temporary cutouts or lanes for passing on sections of two-lane roadways.  Too often, following vehicles remain behind me during the main duration of that extra lane.  Then, they pull out to pass just as the cutout disappears, forcing me to brake to allow their pass and get in line behind them.

Variance in speed is as responsible for accidents as excess speed.  That’s why there are posted limits, designed to be safe speeds to operate near.  Those who are not aware of their speed or unable to consistently maintain it are compromising safety for everyone.

Cruise control is a viable feature to assist awareness and consistency of speed, but it’s often not used.  I don’t mind following other vehicles even if they are going slightly under the speed limit if the speed is constant.  But often, a vehicle ahead, several times on the Pullman trip for example, varies its speed from 55 to 62 to 60 to 58, making it a chore to continually compensate, especially if trying to engage cruise control.

I maintain that basic driving skills are not that difficult to master.  Whether it’s incompetence or indifference dampening those skills, the ill-effect is the same. 

Readers may contact Bill Love via e-mail at