What's the dumbest thing you've seen another driver do lately? Now, confess the dumbest driving move you've made recently. Since this is supposed to be a fun story, stay away from driver's ed lectures about driving under the influence, going 50 mph in a school zone and having unrestrained kids bouncing around in the back of an SUV. All of our Top 10 Dumb Driving Moves could end tragically—that possibility exists every time a vehicle is moving. However, today we're trying to be humorous-dumb, not heartbreaking-dumb.
Old-time southern hospitality doesn't mix well modern traffic. Picture this: You're trying to turn left at a stop sign onto a busy four-lane surface street in a medium-sized southern town. The driver in the lane closest to you stops and motions for you to pull out. His pickup (of course) blocks your view of the lane to his left. To your right, traffic is clear. You hesitate because of that hidden lane. His motions grow stronger. He glances in the rearview mirror, as if making sure it's safe. You pull out—just as a car stopped behind the pickup drives around him and begins to accelerate—right smack into your front fender. There's no way to tell whether the pickup driver was inappropriately polite, or still sore about 1864.
9. Turn-Lane Chatting.
Still on a four-lane surface street, this one has a center turning lane separating the two traffic lanes. You're planning to turn left. Ahead, there's a car stopped in the center lane. It's not quite at your intended left turn and there are no turn signal or hazard flashers. If you drive around it, there's a chance the car will accelerate into your door as you slow to turn. If you pull in behind, there's a better chance the driver has stopped to chat on the phone. The great thing: He thinks he's being safe by not driving while on the phone.
8. The Chicago Dive.
It was almost midnight on Saturday and I was a passenger in a Freightliner headed toward Wisconsin. Traffic was light, so we steered right through the middle of Chicago. From the left, a driver darted across the big rig's bow to take the Interstate off-ramp. The car came so close that it disappeared under the giant hood. DUI? Kamikaze? Gang initiation? Then several more drivers repeated the move. I reckoned they all do that up here. Since we weren't in the best part of town, I asked the truck driver, "If one of them clips us, let's wait until we get to Kenosha to report it." Trust me, the Freightliner would have hardly noticed.
7. Truck Races.
Don't you hate it when big rigs run side by side, blocking a two-lane rural Interstate highway? At least one truck driver probably isn't having fun either. I was driving a Freightliner when I stumbled into one of those situations. A big rig was pulling onto the Interstate, so I moved into the left lane to let him in. Just as I was about to clear him and return to the right lane, he accelerated and moved slightly ahead. As I signaled to pull in behind him, a string of cars pulled up behind the other truck. Yet another big rig came up right behind me. Then my truck-racing opponent slowed slightly. Maybe, I thought, I can get ahead. However, my truck was electronically limited to 66 mph. Soon, we had I-75 jammed for miles with our back and forth jockeying. Then I noticed big chunks of rubber in the right lane. In Florida, that often means limping along ahead is a motorhome with a blown tire. The highway had just sprouted a third lane, so I illegally pulled into the far-left lane to let the other trucker in. Almost immediately afterward, the other truck accelerated away. Maybe he enjoyed the competition.
6. "We're Ready For The Restart!"
On rural two-lanes, it appears that many drivers don't want to exceed the speed limit until you pull out to pass. Then it's like a NASCAR spotter shouted in their ear: "Green, green, green!" And the race is underway! A car that had been traveling 54 mph will accelerate to 75 or more. That makes what should have been an easy pass dangerous. I'm not sure what—or if—they were thinking. If oncoming traffic or a double-yellow line approaches, I become my own spotter: "Clear high!" and slide right. Perhaps shocked awake, the other driver usually returns to his 54-mph pace.
5. The Memphis Merge.
If you think your city has the worst drivers, it means you haven't driven in Memphis. It's fun to watch Memphians make a left turn onto a four- or six-lane surface street. (All destinations in Memphis require a left turn onto a major surface street.) Memphians don't need a polite driver to stop for them, they just creep out and make other drivers stop for—or hit—them. A skilled Memphis driver can block three lanes.
4. I'm A Hazard.
When driving conditions are at the absolute worst—thick fog, heavy rain, blinding snow—some will turn on their hazard warning flashers. They continue to drive, often 10 or more mph over the speed limit. Have they been told the hazards activate a magic force field that'll prevent them from crashing into unseen obstacles? Maybe they're just saying: "I'm a hazard!" You can switch them off: We already know.
3. But I Missed My Exit.
Backing up on the freeway shoulder is not only illegal and dangerous, it's just plain dumb. Back-up lights tell a cop a mile behind there's a numbskull ahead. "Give ME a ticket," say those lights. Besides, almost always there's another exit just ahead. (The previous sentence does not apply in parts of Utah, Nebraska, Texas and other western states.)
2. I'm Turning, Or Maybe Not.
A flashing turn signal means, "I'm turning this way." Or it might mean, "I'm turning the other way." Or, possibly, "I'm going straight." One of the favorite things around here: Drivers use their turn signal to indicate they're not going to turn right at the street you're attempting to turn left from. Instead, they're turning into the driveway just past. Ordinarily, these drivers would never consider using a signal until at least halfway through a turn.
1. Fifi, the Canine Airbag.
Many years ago when I worked for a car magazine, I was driving across a freeway overpass. The on-ramp was notably below highway level. I looked down to see a brand-new, bright-yellow, '94 Mazda RX-7 Turbo coming up the ramp. The driver's window was down. A little dog, its feet on the driver's lap, had its nose in the air. I pointed the scene out to my passengers. "Look at the dumb--- in the RX-7 with a dog in his lap," said I. Then I saw the driver's face: It was my boss. To make sure everyone knew my error, I said, "Oh, the dumb--- is (my boss)." The story got back to him. When you think someone else is being dumb, watch out.