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June 07, 2009

Impolite Drivers and the Cars They Drive

Donald Pittenger writes:

Dear Blowhards --

There are drivers who think they own the whole road. You've seen 'em, I've seen 'em.

I'm wondering if there are any patterns related to that selfish, impolite behavior.

There might be associations to geography, age, sex, condition of the automobile -- those sorts of things. But the one I'm interesting in right now is the make of car those people are driving.

My politically liberal sister, ostensibly inclined to be a Volvo customer, won't go near the things. That's because she thinks many Volvo drivers are, well, selfish and impolite.

Back in the 1950s and early 60s I had that the same impression regarding Cadillac drivers. No, not all Caddie drivers were piggish, but the piggish drivers I noticed tended to be behind the wheel of a Cadillac.

Today? I don't notice a strong pattern. [Thinks] Well, just maybe Mercedes and BMW drivers under age 65 might fill the bill.

Obviously it's trash-time here at 2Blowhards, so let's hear of your candidates.



posted by Donald at June 7, 2009


"Back in the 1950s and early 60s I had that the same impression regarding Cadillac drivers."

Damn you're old.

Posted by: darren on June 7, 2009 3:11 AM

Funny, that, but in Britain it's widely held that the drivers of Beamers and Mercs are of the piggish disposition.

re your sister: I once heard "Why should I buy a Volvo? I am neither Jewish nor a dentist."

Posted by: dearieme on June 7, 2009 6:42 AM

Those big honker pick-up trucks with the raised tires the size of a mining dump truck. They thrive on intimidation. Double that when they have gun racks.

Posted by: Charlton Griffin on June 7, 2009 8:32 AM

Completely agree about BWM drivers. I hadn't really noticed until I became one and started having to live with the bad expectations. Amazingly often when I try to leave a gap for another driver they won't take it; presumably they don't trust my intentions. Never had that problem with the Saab.
On the other hand, I wouldn't characterize Volvoists as impolite so much as smug and self-absorbed - which also speaks to their tendency to drive uncooperatively, but for different reasons.

Posted by: Kelly on June 7, 2009 9:30 AM

I was just thinking about this the other day and was wondering why, when I'm being tailgated or am dangerously cut off by another car it's almost always a BMW, usually black. I live in Westchester County, NY and drive a lot during the week for my work.

Posted by: John on June 7, 2009 9:31 AM

It ain't someone in a car, but I have to say those guys on expensive bicycles who wear all spandex and wrap-around shades take the cake in the general "I don't give a damn if my shifting across three lanes of traffic without a single hand sign then jumping onto a crowded pedestrian sidewalk endangers dozens of other people." attitude. You should see what they do when you have the temerity to honk or yell at 'em.

I say this as someone who does most of his commuting by bicycle.

Posted by: Spike Gomes on June 7, 2009 9:44 AM

There doesn't appear to be any pattern at all. But the most obnoxious drivers are always white. But then I live in the whitest city on earth.

If there's a class link or a make-and-model link, I'm not seeing.

Oh, and it's equal opportunity as far as gender. About half the time I'm surprised to see a woman behind the wheel of Crazy Car.

Posted by: Ray Butler on June 7, 2009 11:00 AM

We call them Suburban Assault Vehicles for a reason.

Posted by: Chris White on June 7, 2009 11:01 AM

I saw some sort of study recently that concluded that people
with bumper stickers tend to be the more aggressive drivers .

There sure are a lot of Obama stickers out there ..... on Volvos /
BMW / etc .... does anybody see a pattern or potential
correlation here ?

Posted by: al boyers on June 7, 2009 2:11 PM

Perhaps changes in driving habits come from changes in our vehicles' capabilities:

A friend whose family had just purchased a 3 Series told me he understood why Bimmer drivers were jerks: the cars' unbridled propensity to move forward, generous acceleration and low-end torque. I watched the guy struggle to park it in his father's garage as he was afraid he'd crash into the house itself.

"I just eased on the brake a little and the thing lurched!"


I've just moved back to Southern California after several years away and have noticed the driving is not more aggressive, but faster at low speeds, and it seems there are very few cars prior to 2000 on the road. People are very eager to get to 45-50 miles per hour as quickly as they can. Even 5 or 6 years ago, I never had such angry tailgaters rushing to pass me just to arrive at the red light in front of us.

Posted by: The Yellow Menace on June 7, 2009 3:58 PM

Drivers of Ford Expeditions win the prize for "I own the road" during my California Bay Area commute. Volvo drivers excel at unannounced lane changes.

Posted by: Cathryn on June 7, 2009 5:57 PM

I've done most of my driving in Alaska and Washington. In general, I've found that Prius drivers are most likely to be cautious to a fault while people who drive full-size pickups without any obvious reason to do so (i.e. anyone who doesn't have to haul around large/dirty cargo all day) are most likely to be aggressive and impolite.

A few years ago there was an Anchorage Daily News article about tow truck drivers, and one of the drivers mentioned that 75% of the vehicles he has to tow from the ditch are 4WD SUV's or pickups. If you live in an area that gets a lot of snow, live in fear of people who think that AWD/4WD means you don't have to use snow tires or exercise caution in the winter.

Posted by: Sean P. on June 7, 2009 6:32 PM

I haven't been able to match impoliteness to a make of car, but I agree about the rudeness of big pick-up truck drivers -- it's especially true here in Georgia. Forcing other drivers out of the way seems to be the whole point of getting behind the wheel, and I suspect that they don't signal lane changes because they think it would be like they were asking permission.

Teenage girl drivers (identifiable here not by car make but by the enormous wad of beads and toys and other crap they have hanging from the rear view mirror) tend to terrify me most of all with a combination of breathtakingly carefree driving style mixed with lack of vehicle handling skills.

It felt good to bitch about that a little.

Posted by: Flutist on June 7, 2009 10:53 PM

Oh yeah:

In order of PIA:
Those big pickup trucks with two rear wheels on each side, and in general, the longer the truck, the bigger the jerk. If he's wearing a gimme hat (baseball cap), kick it up a notch. If he's wearing a cowboy hat, kick it down a notch or two.

And, it's not related to the brand of car, but anyone with a Christian fish I've noted are trouble. This does NOT count the parodies of the fish, like the darwin fish, or the flying spaghetti monster, the shark, etc.

Bringing the rear are folks in Fords.

Posted by: yahmdallah on June 8, 2009 12:11 PM

Beige Toyotas in the passing lane going the same speed as the car beside them.

Go as slow as you like. Just keep to the right.

(Mercedes driver)

Posted by: Johnny Knuckles on June 8, 2009 2:44 PM

I remember my father telling me that in his younger days, Studebaker drivers had a reputation for incompetence.

Posted by: Peter on June 8, 2009 11:47 PM

Speaking of compromised weenies, heard this one?

Lead singer of Three Dog Night, Chuck Negron, penis exploded:

(I think I might have heard about it first on this blog, but can't find the post.)

Posted by: yahmdallah on June 9, 2009 11:18 AM

Just got back from France where I drove a rental car for 2 weeks. There, it's definitely the BMW drivers you have to watch out for.

Posted by: Donald Pittenger on June 9, 2009 11:50 AM

Back when there was the Highway 17 blog, the phrase "Ultimate Rudeness Machine" for BMWs was coined. With reason.

Posted by: Chrees on June 9, 2009 2:08 PM

BMW drivers are annoying, but by far the worst (at least out here in the Central Valley of California) are the drivers of modified trucks. They'll come roaring up right behind you and tailgate your ass, they'll make crazy lane changes. Hell, even their parking is annoying, because the vehicles are so ridiculously large and God forbid, another car parks next to them and scratches the $5000 dollar paint job, that they decide to park diagonally and take up 2 spots. When I had a beater '72 VW wagon, I'd shimmy in as close as possible to a diagonally parked truck (or Porsche, etc.) just to piss them off.

So yeah, drivers of lifted trucks. Assholes.

Posted by: JV on June 9, 2009 3:22 PM

Forgot to mention: Because the clearance on lifted trucks is so high, their drivers will hop curbs and meridians, and will suddenly, while halfway down an exit or onramp, decide it was the wrong decision and swerve into the dirt separating the exit/on-ramp and highway to get back on the highway. I've seen that countless times. Fucking annoying and potentially dangerous.

Posted by: JV on June 9, 2009 3:28 PM

I read on another website (can't remember where) that the more safety devices cars have the worse people drive so someone who feels safe in his or her car might not have any regard for other drivers and just do whatever they please. Volvo is considered a very safe car so if Volvo drivers are more thoughtless that maybe that has something to do with it. Maybe. Just a wild thought.

Posted by: Lynn on June 9, 2009 5:19 PM

I'm a full-time motorcycle commuter, so I see more than my fair share of really offensive driving behavior. I have noticed a pattern of drivers who display dangerous behavior and habits on the road owning particular makes and models of vehicle. The three worst offenders in my experience:

1. Toyota Prius: poor visibility, driver sanctimony, and a grossly underpowered vehicle combine to create the perfect storm of stupid driving behavior. Particularly lulz-worthy are the many times I've witnessed Prius drivers and idiot bicycle commuters (who don't seem to think traffic laws apply to them) tangle up in intersections. Not so lulz-worthy are the even more numerous times I've seen Prius drivers cause other accidents. Strangely, though often the proximate cause of accidents, Prius drivers often manage to escape from harm, leaving the destruction on others' doorsteps.

2. Pickup Trucks (all makes): C'mon people...just because you drive a farm vehicle doesn't mean you have to drive like you're out in the middle of a pasture with nobody around you.

3. Minivans (all makes, older models): Formerly number one on this list, the wheezing econobox minivan has recently gotten substantial upgrades. They still have terrible visibility and handling characteristics, are still operated by inattentive drivers and full of screaming children, but only the older models still seem to be the focus of outright dangerous driving behavior. Either that, or soccer moms have been taking driving lessons.

Posted by: GW on June 9, 2009 6:48 PM

Here in Chicago, the most inconsiderate, careless drivers with the highest sense of self-entitlement, are Beamer drivers hands down.

Mercedes drivers under 65 are a distant second, but they're a rare breed at least around these parts.

Posted by: Jim on June 10, 2009 12:01 PM

1) Little Old Ladies driving Caddies, Lincolns, or older big Buicks. Wander and wiggle over those lane lines, ladies--especially when you're driving 5-10 mph under the speed limit.

2) Prius-folk. Bad drivers flock to these like flies to rotting meat.

3) Pick-up drivers pulling trailers.

Posted by: thaprof on June 10, 2009 6:04 PM

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