Between simply living in Houston and wearing multiple job hats from day to day means I am on the road a lot. Thankfully, I am able to dodge the worst of Houston traffic but racking up 20,000 or miles a year of driving means I am not immune to the common driving mistakes of other drivers nor the allure of making some of them myself. However, I try to be a good driver as much as possible and have catalogued the worse of Houston’s driving mistakes:
Perhaps one of my parent’s pet peeves since my first memories of being in cars, tailgating gets on my nerves as well and is absolutely one of the most common driving mistakes in Houston. Everyone does it, it seems, from teen drivers to the little old lady who you would never expect to. Tailgating is part of the culture of driving here, with a car length between cars at speed typical. Drafting is not the normal motivation but keeping someone from being able to cut you off is one of the most common reasons why people tailgate. However, it also leads to wrecks, with rear-end collisions being the most common type of accident I hear about when the traffic report comes on the radio.
4. Talking on the Cellphone
Cellphones and driving has been shown to affect most people’s driving. It degrade’s everyone’s driving to some extent and can cause wrecks, makes people have road rage and more. I try not to talk on the phone and frankly if I am driving in traffic can’t because of my choice to drive a car with a clutch pedal and manual gears I must select. I also know to stop talking if traffic gets bad and won’t answer, regardless of who it is, if my attention is 100% needed.
I am also the one that has been known to yell at people in parking lots while they barrel through stop signs and cross walks, almost taking out my children, me and other families in the process. It surprises them and the normal response is one of shock. Shock because I said something or because they thought they were driving just fine, I don’t know.
Regardless, cell phones lead to distracted drivers and are one of Houston’s most common driving mistakes. I am too much of a personal liberties person to want to have their use in cars banned. However, at this point if you get in a wreck because of cell phone related distractions, it should be looked at as a negligent act to a certain degree.
3. Texting While Driving
Worse than talking on the cellphone for most people is texting while driving. With more and more people eschewing physical keys and keyboards, the problem is getting worse. While cellphones take one’s brain off of driving, texting often takes one’s brain and eyes off driving. Even if you have a phone where you can touch type, like I do, you still have to take your eyes off the road to read the messages. It’s those brief moments where an errant driver, dog or child that otherwise would be seen and reacted to won’t be.
It’s an incredibly common driving mistake in Houston and virtually everywhere else and people should wait until a red light (but still pay attention to the light cycle) or until they are safely off the freeway before texting. I am guilty of this sometimes as well but again, know when to put the phone down and make the world wait for my reply for when it is safe.
2. Speeding Excessively
In Houston, speeding is a way of life, with the farther out of our two loops affectionately (or not so much) known as the Houston Autobahn. There is a big difference though between rational, safe speeding in a car designed for higher than the speed limit travel and what happens frequently on many of Houston’s highways. I’ll admit that I am a “flow of traffic” kind of guy and typically that means the speed limit on a freeway plus 10; however, I have realized that there is a natural law somewhat similar to the Law of Gravity about Houston’s freeways: No matter how fast you go, someone else will be going faster and the corollary: If there is not someone going faster, they will be going the same speed in a vehicle inappropriate for those speeds.
You see, Houston is also the land of pickup trucks. They come in all shapes and sizes and with their big v-8, v-10 and diesel engines, they can go fast. Should they go fast? Absolutely not and I am sure that some of those same people complain about their incredibly poor fuel mileage not putting two and two together that near-light speed travel is not going to get them their EPA rating even for city driving.
Aside from tickets from the numerous law enforcement officers (there were four separate speed traps today in my 10 mile commute on this particular road) the excessive speeding is dangerous. If the road is clear and a tire blows at triple digit speeds, you are only taking out yourself. If this happens with other cars on the road, it could lead to a dangerous accident that could bring in multiple cars. Even without a disaster such as this, many of the vehicles excessively speeding are simply not designed to drive at those speeds and can be hard to control and will not stop quickly at all. There is speeding within reason and within the tolerances of the equipment being used and then there is outright insanity.
1. Going Under The Speed Limit In The Left Lane Of The Freeway
Coming up behind you, I see your hand glued to your cellphone which is glued to your ear; or, you are simply driving with no concept of space or situational awareness. Regardless, even though there is a bit of traffic the next lane over is free, yet you stay stoically in the farthest to the left lane, going 5, 10 or 15 miles under the speed limit. Why!? I pass you and honk and you look quizzically at me, not understanding why I would need to honk.
What you don’t realize is that you could cause an accident. Between the speed difference and the fact that everyone has to pass you on the right, rather than you moving over and being passed like you are supposed to, not to mention the speed difference of your below the speed limit driving and the propensity for others to speed, it is a bad combination. Combining the second most common driving mistake in Houston with this one is a recipe for even more disaster.