Are you being driven mad?

By: John Mack

Good driving etiquette costs nothing, increases safety and generates goodwill towards caravans on the road. John Mack laments the increase in highway cowboys.

Are you being driven mad?
How's your driving etiquette?

How often does your blood pressure rise when towing your rig? It seems that obeying road rules, speed limits and common sense driving courtesy are things of the distant past. 

The national highways are the worst, cowboys abound who flout just about every rule in the book. Dangerous overtaking, crossing solid white lines, tail-gating, cutting and weaving through the traffic… and to achieve what? At best they may save a minute or two and in doing so put themselves and other road users at risk.  It’s a "Couldn’t care less – I’m all right, Jack" attitude and unfortunately it does not appear to be sufficiently policed.

Caravanners are not immune from these issues either; we have seen numerous examples of vans doggedly pottering along at well below the speed limit with a long stream of frustrated drivers behind them.  We frequently see caravanners travelling together, all bunched one behind the other like a mob of sheep afraid to get separated.

Out in the bush, particularly heading along the iconic routes such as the Gibb River Road or Cape York, the majority of drivers display a rude lack of what used to be called ‘common courtesy’ when driving on stony and corrugated roads. 

By this I mean not moving over to the left, slowing or at least lifting the right foot off when approaching on-coming traffic. This helps prevent damage from flying stones peppering the paintwork or shattering windscreens. We even had a jagged 70mm hole punched into the front cover of the air-conditioner on the roof of the van from a large flying rock.

Many people continue to hammer down their intended line come hell or high water.  Most are travelling well in excess of a safe speed under the road and load conditions and more than a few are just about flying, no doubt to ‘get on top’ of the corrugations.

It’s true! – It is much smoother up there! – why? Because there is no longer any good contact with the road surface and then you are at risk to yourself and others when presented with an unexpected hazard such as a wash-out or wandering stock. 

It takes little to be a smarter, more courteous driver. On narrow single track lanes we pull over for approaching traffic, we even get right off the road and call approaching truck drivers on the UHF to "Stay up and on the bitumen".  

Likewise, with trucks approaching from the rear on any road, we call them up on the UHF "North bound truck this is the caravan, overtake when you are ready – I will back off once you are out wide". Once past, a brief flash of your headlights lets him know it is clear to pull in. 

These simple courtesies cost nothing, increase safety and generate goodwill towards caravans on the road. A little bit of patience and good manners would make life on the road more pleasant and safer for everyone.