Skip to content
Join our Newsletter
Join our Newsletter

John Ducker: Feeling smug behind the wheel? Time for a tough self test

We are quick to criticize other drivers but the occasional tough self test when you’re out there might show we all can be “that other guy” sometimes.
Traffic moves through downtown Victoria on Johnson Street. It's easy to judge other people's driving when you're behind the wheel but a tough self assessment will often uncover your own bad driving habits, writes John Ducker. ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST

Ask anyone who’s been in my passenger seat and you’ll quickly learn that I’m a cynical and sarcastic driver.

My most common travel commentaries are: “Nice light”, referring to those who haven’t learned what the colour red means; or, “Unbelievable”, usually applied to those who signal right but turn left or those who won’t turn left at green light even though there’s no opposing traffic.

“Oh my God”, is another catchall, used for pedestrians who keep on walking even though the little hand has been up for a good six to seven seconds or the cyclist who comes up on the right, swerves across the front of the car and goes left, just as you’re starting forward on a green.

“What the hell?” is rarely used but did apply to the guy who, at 10:30 p.m. on a Friday, was down on both knees in the middle of Douglas at View using his keys as a chisel and one shoe as a hammer trying to pry out a coin from the tar in the centre lane.

It’s easy to heap out these commentaries when you are pretty much a perfect driver like me.

So, to be fair to all I decided to give myself a self-administered driving test over the past few days and see, very objectively, how I’m doing on the road.

Backing out of the neighbour’s driveway to start off the trip would have merited a warning from a driver examiner for failing to shoulder check.

My stop at the first corner stop sign was lazy. I could have easily stopped if there had been cars approaching, but there weren’t any, so I slowed right down but didn’t come to a complete stop. Depending on the situation that could merit an immediate fail on a road test.

Next, down the road through a couple of 30 km/h playground zones. I do make extra effort to obey those ones but in the second zone I saw I was at 38 to 40 km/h, which would have been another big fat red mark on a driving test.

At the first intersection with a traffic light I made what I considered a complete stop, then a right turn. I forgot to right hand shoulder check before turning. This is the era of biking renaissance and driver examiners will be all over those who fail to account for cyclists on the starboard side.

Now on a main drag I have to monitor myself for following the guy in front too closely. I think I am mostly good at this one. My passengers often say otherwise. I do admit to a built-in impatience to people doing 10 or 15 k’s below the limit. With a driver examiner that excuse would land with a dull thud.

We have a basic traffic engineering problem around here. So this one is not my fault. Left turn lane signals never allow enough cars to make an advance turn — and the wait for the next light is an eternity. I may have been a tiny bit late for a couple of those lights on two occasions during this trip. Either one would probably have been a “road test over” event.

Finally, I was late deciding I wanted to turn left at another intersection. A quick zip over a solid white line to get into the left turn lane and all was well. That would certainly have led to the dreaded check mark on the road-test sheet.

If that journey was my actual road test 45 odd years ago, I’d have failed colossally.

We are quick to nail other drivers for their mistakes but the occasional tough self test when you’re out there might show we all can be “that other guy” sometimes.

Glove Box: Stephen wrote this week about a study from Switzerland showing some concerning data around the increased severity of injuries associated with the growing use of ebikes.

Researchers writing for the Patient Safety in Surgery journal found that in comparing trauma injuries between ebike and regular bike riders, the injuries for ebike riders were considerably worse, particularly in the areas of the thorax and the abdomen.

Even after the researchers controlled for the older age of this group, which would naturally be the type of person more interested in an ebike, the severity of their injuries remained worse than in conventional cyclists.

This certainly jives with what I see out there. I’ve cringed more than a few times watching ebikes whiz by parked cars at speed, often with children strapped in at the rear. Being struck by a car door opening is bad news for any cyclist. Being hit as you pass by at 30-40 km/h, would be worse, much worse.

>>> To comment on this article, write a letter to the editor:

push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks