Driving safety

How do I hate commuting? Let me count 10 ways

How do I hate commuting? Let me count 10 ways

For over 30 years I’ve commuted in and around several major metropolitan areas. While each place is different in some ways, some problems are universal. Here I’ll share some of the bad things I’ve experienced commuting and some tips to help you avoid them while driving.

Nationally commuters travel an average of 42 miles daily. With mixed local roads and highways, and including traffic, For many this means 45 to 90 minutes in a car, truck, or SUV every day.

Here are ten things I hate when driving.

  1. Roads that go due East or West - Most of the time you don’t notice but during “sun glare season” everyone gets blinded by the light during the morning and evening commute.
  2. Slow traffic on a highway - Sun blindness can be one reason, but there are many others.
    It’s most annoying when the reason is unknown, traffic’s going slow for a while and then suddenly everyone is able to speed up. It’s great to be moving but why was everyone going slow in the first place?!
  3. Bad drivers - There are a few recurring characters that are the worst:
    1. Racers - it’s not a slalom course and you don’t get places much faster (The Mythbusters tested it) but you do create danger for everyone.
    2. Left lane squatters - Just because you can do it doesn’t mean you should.
    3. Tailgaters - They’re only one other idiot away from causing a pile-up.
    4. Lane drifters - Why do drivers drift towards my lane when I’m about to pass?
    5. Not using turn signals - If drivers around you know what you’re about to do they can prepare and adjust to it.
  4. Distracted drivers - they’re also ‘bad drivers’ but there are so many now they get their own listing.
    2. For navigation get a phone holder that gives you good visibility. Like our LOUNGE-IT magnetic cell phone holder<shameless plug>.

In my humble opinion, most driver related problems happen because many people don’t realize we are all in this together. When drivers cooperate, everyone has a better ride. Traffic goes faster for all of us when we treat it as a collaborative activity not a competitive sport.

  1. Badly designed intersections - People often joke about Jersey jug handles where you have to turn right to swing around to the left. But what bothers me is why do they have traffic lights on highways!!
    I don’t mean to pick on New Jersey, other areas have their own special features.
  2. Bad signage - Signs that don’t match the lanes, signs hidden by trees and bushes, and streets that just don’t have a sign. Not everyone is a local and just knows that Acorn St is right after the deli!
  3. Badly timed traffic lights - There always seems to be two or three traffic lights in a row that are guaranteed to stop me, at least once, and often for each one!
    We have the technology to fix this by now!
  4. Bad road maintenance - Ruts, Potholes, and uneven joints damage our cars and  challenge a driver's control.
    According to SafeRoadsUSA thousands of drivers, passengers, and bystanders suffer injuries through no fault of their own because of these and other road maintenance failures. 
  5. Bad water drainage  - There’s nothing like having a puddle on the highway try to rip the steering wheel out of your hands to add a little excitement to driving in bad weather.
  6. Construction - It’s necessary for creating new lanes and for fixing old roads but when I’m driving past a coned off lane for 5 miles and there’s no crew in sight I start to wonder.

As a commuter it’s hard to avoid many of these challenges. We are forced into driving a particular direction within a narrow range of time so we have to share the road with many other vehicles. Some areas have more choice of routes than others but often there are chokepoints, like highway interchanges, where lots of cars come together and slow things down.

You kept reading this long so here are my best tips to commute with the least hassle:

  1. I always try to leave early in the morning and later in the day to miss as much traffic as possible. But I know not everyone has that option.
  2. Stay vigilant (be present) - You can’t control what other drivers do but you can see the signs and anticipate. Driving is like poker, pay attention and you’ll learn to read the ‘tells’. You can know what another driver is going to do even if they aren’t signaling.
  3. Look up the road - It’s easy to watch the car in front of you, it’s better to watch the cars a ways ahead. Bad drivers and bad situations are easier to avoid if you see them coming from far away.
  4. Maintain space - in front, behind, AND on a side if possible (a shoulder counts).
    Space means choices, no space means no choices. Often I see a line or cluster of cars on a highway with less than a single car length between them. If anyone hits the brakes they're going to pile-up because they have no room to react or move.
    Don’t bunch up.
  5. Drive assertively - Not aggressively, not cautiously, but just right.
    1. Be decisive - Often I see a car signal a lane change so I slow down to give them room, but they sit there for a while anyhow. Once you decide to move and have room don’t dither.
    2. Protect your space - Sometimes this means speeding up, sometimes slowing down. And don’t change lanes into another drivers space
    3. Be in the correct lane for the speed you want to drive - this is true whether you want to go fast or slow. 
    4. Keep the flow - work WITH others for the most efficient solution for all.
      Give a little, get a little, and everyone’s drive is better. Good zippering (alternating merge) is an example. Not racing to cut off another driver entering the highway is another.
    5. Don’t be polite, be predictable - (I heard this phrase elsewhere and love it)
      You don’t like surprises on the road, neither does anyone else. Being too polite breaks expectations the same as too aggressive. Take your proper turn at a 4-way stop. Don’t slow way down when someone is angling to enter the highway behind you. 
    6. Be honest with yourself about your vehicle - Don’t think you can drive a Yaris like a Porsche. AND keep your spacing in snow and ice, having 4-wheel drive means you have better traction to move but it doesn’t do any better than 2-wheel drive when you hit the brakes!
    7. Be honest with yourself about your abilities - Most of us think we have better reflexes than we really do. Give yourself space to be wrong.
  6. For your own safety, don’t change lanes right in front of trucks - they can’t stop as quickly as cars so give them the ‘right of weight’.

Feel free to share your own traffic hates in the comments or share something unique to your area. Please remember the salt belongs on icy roads so keep the language clean.

If you have tips to avoid or solve traffic challenges, share those too and help everyone have a better drive.

Drive safely and, like we say in my family, watch out for the other guy!

Reading next

How the sun makes pedestrians invisible

Leave a comment

All comments are moderated before being published.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.