Houston is enormous, and has a vast road and highway system to get everyone from point A to B. We've also never really embraced public transit systems in the Houston area. Sure, we have the buses and a rail system that doesn't really do much as of yet, but Houston is definitely a city where most people are driving their own vehicles to get around.
This puts a lot of cars on the road, and Houston has the dubious honor of being one of the most dangerous cities in America for driving. All of us come across certain types of drivers who make commuting around town risky, and we'd probably collectively applaud if they were magically banished from Houston's roads.
I'm not even going to touch on drunk drivers or people that text or jabber away on their cell phones while driving. We all know that drunk driving is completely selfish and irresponsible, and apparently texting and talking on a phone can be even more dangerous. People that indulge in any of those activities shouldn't be allowed to drive. But there are others who cause a lot of trouble on our roadways.
9. The Speed King and Captain Slow Ride
Here are probably two of the most common types of terrible drivers the average person encounters on the roads around town - idiots that drive way too fast, or crawl along on the highway at a snail's pace.
George Carlin famously said asked "Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac?" and there's something to that. Most people will find themselves in situations occasionally where they're driving slower or faster than everyone else, then wonder why everyone else is crazy.
But seriously, we have speed limits for a reason. They're not "suggestions," but the legal guidelines for safe driving in a specific area. Going a few miles over or under is probably fine, but routinely driving 10 or more miles around that limit need to either back off or learn to be comfortable driving a little differently.
8. The Teenager with a Sports car
The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention writes that drivers between the ages of 16 and 19 are three times more likely than older drivers to be in a fatal crash. Teens as a whole are pretty bad drivers, according to the current data. Lack of experience, and a lack of better risk assessment skills are a couple of reasons this is true, but there are others. Society accepts that the risks involved in allowing teens to drive are somehow OK, but every time I see a teenager behind the wheel of a sports car, I have to wonder what idiot of a parent allowed that to happen?
Let's be serious. There are no really good reasons for a 16 year old to be driving a Challenger RT around town, unless a parent is holding down the front seat passenger spot. I have friends in the funeral business, and trust me, they see the end result of that kind of idiocy a LOT. Many teens end up driving recklessly no matter what kind of car they have access to, but there's no reason to make dangerous driving easier for them.
7. The "Punisher" Rage Driver It's a sad bit of human nature, but plenty of people have short fuses and bad tempers. We all have seen or know folks who fly off the handle whenever they think someone in another vehicle has slighted them in some way. Yes, we all encounter crappy drivers, but doing brilliant stunts like driving up on them really fast, or pulling up to them at a stop light to yell at them? That's a really stupid thing to do. Escalation doesn't help, all it does is make matters worse, and raise the rager's blood pressure. Most of us have cell phones these days, if someone else is truly driving like an idiot, call the cops.
6. The Angry Traffic-Rule-Breaking Bicyclist Getting around Houston on a bicycle, whether by choice or necessity, can be dangerous. There are plenty of automobile drivers that are either overly aggressive creeps, thinking bikes don't belong on "their" roads, or who are barely aware of what's going around them. Houston doesn't have enough bike lanes or other measures to keep a little distance between those pedaling their way around town on two wheels and those of us in cars.
But there are also a lot of bike riders that just plain suck at following any sort of reasonable road sharing rules. I see them fly through intersections without stopping routinely, and weave in and out of traffic like it's just their right to do so. When it comes down to it, a bicyclist who expects to be treated with the same respect as cars do on the road should also follow the same driving rules - stopping at stop signs and lights in particular. I can't think of any valid reason to behave otherwise.
5. The Rolling Living Room Driver
The trend towards bigger and bigger SUVs seems to have at least slowed a little in recent years, but is still here. A lot of the time it seems like the bigger the vehicle, the more likely it's going to be driven like a fool. I have no idea why that's the case, but my theory is that, at some point the size and isolation effect of sitting in an enormous vehicle with air conditioning, radio, televisions for the kids, and a whole bunch of family members sitting there too makes the experience feel like the driver is sitting in his or her own living room instead of piloting a huge SUV down the road.
In any case, they should knock it off and reduce the distractions if they're going to choose to drive those things.
4. The Turn Signal Rejector
Houston, we have a problem. And that problem is that so many drivers have decided that using things like their turn signals are unnecessary. I don't understand that at all. It's not as if flicking a turn signal switch requires any great strength or dexterity, I learned to do it every time I plan on changing lanes, and don't even think about it anymore. I see so many adults who never use their signals that I'm forced to think that they just don't care. In related news, Houston was near the top of a national study ranking city's for their level of discourteous driving.
People who avoid using their signals seem to be saying "I don't care enough about anyone else on the road to bother communicating what I'm doing." It's lame and can be dangerous, I don't get why people don't signal.
3. The Moron Motorcyclist
I ride motorcycles. I currently own two, a custom chopper and a heavily modified Harley. There are plenty of bad car drivers out there without us motorcyclists adding to dangerous conditions on our roads. But I see a lot of bad riding out there; idiots weaving in and out of traffic, or going way too fast. We get it, you want to be a bad ass. Going 120 mph on the 610 Loop during rush hour doesn't make you one, it might make you a statistic, and worse still you might hurt someone else. Knock it off.
An added tip - people riding motorcycles while wearing flip flops and shorts or other stupid clothing not designed for the ride? There are photos on the Internet of what can happen to you. I'm not posting them, but go take a look and reconsider the khaki shorts and slip on shoes. It looks dumb anyway, just saying.
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2. Bass Bums While not necessarily "dangerous" to the rest of us, we'd probably be better off if people realized that having an incredibly loud stereo system with huge sub-woofers in their vehicle isn't cool. It's stupid. Yep, I said it, it's dumb. The only people impressed when a loser cruiser loaded with a bellowing bass system pulls up farting distorted low end that seems to be rattling their car apart are other people with similar systems. The rest of us just think the person driving that abomination is an obnoxious tool.
1. The Too Old to Drive, But Still Driving Anyway Driver Elderly drivers are second only to teenagers in the likely to cause an accident category. It's sad, but the effects of aging don't make people better drivers, they erode the abilities that person once possessed. Still, getting an older loved one to voluntarily give up his or her keys, which many equate with their freedom, can be nearly impossible. The sad fact is that it often takes a wreck for elderly citizens to finally be forced from driving. Well-meaning family members can enter into a lengthy battle with aging relatives, where the older person never willingly gives up.
It's also an uncomfortable subject that is addressed differently in different states. In Texas, we have Katie's Law, named after a young woman who was killed when a 90-year-old ran a red light. Katie's Law makes Texas drivers 79 or older get their driver's license renewed in person, and forces them to pass a vision test. It also shortened the license renewal period for people 85 years and older.
That's great, but 79 and 85 seem to be pushing those conditions pretty far down the road, when it think it's probably clear to a lot of us that some people significantly younger than that are no longer fit to drive. We've all seen a car being driven way to slow (usually) or weaving over the traffic line, and then passed it seeing an older person straining to see what's happening in front of him. I'm sorry, but we don't need people who can't see driving multi-ton vehicles.