Head out onto any South African freeway and the full spectrum of inconsiderate drivers — from the Lewis Hamilton channeler to the rabbit in the headlights — will be sure to cross your path.
When the freeway is his racetrack
You can’t drive far on any freeway in the country without meeting up with the Lewis Hamilton lookalike. He is the guy who is invariably driving a hot hatch and lying down behind the steering wheel so only the top of his head is visible.
His speciality is flipping from one lane to another, taking gaps that match his IQ as he tries to shave a minute or so off his personal best time to work.
His other talent is the thousand-yard stare which enables him to gaze into the distance while the motorist he has cut off or forced to brake viciously pulls up next to him at a traffic light.
His only way to redeem himself is to screech away from the light and get away from witnesses as soon as possible.
In terms of driving skills, his abilities extend to not being able to judge speed and distance simultaneously, or hit his brake pedal as fast as he should.
Although fairly prevalent on our highways and bye-ways, and voted most likely to win a free ride in an ambulance, the Lewis Hamilton does have other challengers to the sought-after title of being the most inconsiderate driver on South Africa’s roads. Here are a few of them.
The rabbit in the headlights
The giveaway sign here is the seat that is set at 90 degrees and virtually against the steering wheel while hands are clamped on the wheel at three and nine o’clock.
This driver’s rigid body stance is only matched by wide-open eyes that don’t blink and gaze hypnotically forward.
Top speed is about 40km/h while other cars zigzag around them.
Like a rabbit caught in headlights, this driver makes attempts to change lanes every now and then, but jerks convulsively back into his or her lane as other frustrated drivers under and overtake.
Rabbits will proudly proclaim that they have never been involved in an accident and have fantastic non-claim bonuses with their insurers. Yup, staying in first gear (even on a four-lane freeway) is a sure way of avoiding trouble but causing lots.
The voluntary traffic cop
Usually these drivers are the self-appointed guardians of law, order and righteousness, and so they stick to the speed limit come what may.
They also love occupying the fast lane. Their eyes continuously flash to the internal and external mirrors seemingly fascinated by the angry expressions and lights flashing behind them.
Feeling secure in their cars, many will display their confidence by flashing a zap at anyone hooting at them or overtaking. Put them on your Christmas list — the hot item this year is a sheriff’s badge they can hang from the rearview mirror.
The death-wish texter
This rapidly growing breed, besides always having a phone in hand, can usually be identified through their early adoption of semi-autonomous vehicle technology.
The problem is that the technology hasn’t been perfected yet, so their cars can suddenly change direction and meander across lanes at short notice.
When on foot they display their suicidal tendencies by stepping off pavements and on to roads confident the traffic will part before them. If they were animals they would be lemmings in search of a cliff.
Beauty queen behind the wheel
Beautifully coiffed, this driver has a cosmetics case strategically placed on the front passenger seat.
Following her for about 10km or so is education as warpaint is liberally applied, hair is lacquered, nails are painted and a remarkable transformation takes place.
The time to stop watching is when elbows grip the steering wheel and contact lenses are brought out to complete the process.
The farmer without indicators
The more developed of this species is usually overweight, wearing khaki, and has a cigarette either in his mouth or on its way to his mouth. A brown white arm (with smoke attached) often hangs outside the driver’s door of the (diesel) bakkie.
They are of interest to highway users because indicators are apparently not fitted to their vehicles.
If you are driving through a farming area and see a bakkie heading along a farm road that intersects with the highway, apply brakes immediately. This species, travelling at a steady 40km on the gravel road, will happily join traffic without looking left or right.
But, in a country where individuality is highly prized, rules and traffic signs are there to advise rather than to be obeyed, so at least life is always interesting!