Are you a courteous driver? - go to top

Are you a courteous driver?

Mobile phone fines courteous

We hear a lot about being a safe driver but not much about being a courteous driver. Perhaps the word “courteous” sounds too old fashioned, something to do with knights and ladies. But courtesy in driving may well be underrated on our roads.

Best kinds of courteous driving

An NRMA survey earlier in 2021 asked over 2,000 members about courteous driving behaviour. It asked them what kinds of courtesies they considered very important while driving:

  1. Using an indicator when merging or changing lanes (97%)
  2. Not using a mobile phone illegally (95%)
  3. Maintaining a safe gap from the car ahead (91%)
  4. Using an indicator when parking (86%)
  5. Only driving in the fast/right lane when necessary (74%)
  6. Allowing other drivers in when merging or changing lanes (74%)
  7. Giving a courtesy wave to say thank you (72%)
  8. Giving a courtesy wave to apologise for a driving error (69%)
  9. Using the horn as a warning only, not to vent frustration (65%)

These results are interesting for a few reasons. Merging or changing lanes features twice in the top 9, which suggests it’s a very important driving skill. The idea of a courtesy wave also features twice, once to say thank you and once to apologise. This is not always easy to see through tinted windows. Third, most of these behaviours are law. However, few people seem to know it is illegal to use the horn to vent frustration rather than as a warning only.

Of course, people had different opinions depending on whether they regularly drove in the city or in regional/rural areas. For example, regional and rural members thought it was more important to drive only in the fast/right lane than members in metro areas (77-78% compared to 71%). Metro drivers were also more tolerant of mobile phones while driving.

The worst kinds of driving

Naturally, the worst kinds of driving are the opposites of the best courteous kinds listed above. Still, there are some notable others.

1. Tailgating

Nobody likes tailgating yet we still do it. Queensland University of Technology’s (QUT) Centre for Accident Research and Road Safety found:

  • 15% of drivers say they tailgate because the people in front are too slow
  • Over 10% tailgate because they are running late
  • 25 to 40% leave less than 2 seconds between cars
  • 15% of drivers leave only a one-second gap.

Perhaps there should be a legal definition of a safe distance. See Nobody likes tailgating but we still do it.

2. Getting carried away by emotion

For some reason, people become more carried away by emotions in the confines of their vehicle. This is dangerous for everyone.

3. Speeding up when someone tries to overtake

The one being overtaken just cannot bear to be overtaken.

4. Hogging the right lane

Cars travelling in the right lane of motorways when not overtaking are doing so illegally, resulting in impatient drivers overtaking on the left. This makes everybody unsafe.

5. Not moving away promptly at green lights

Many intersections in cities offer motorists about 2 seconds to pull out on a green light. So nobody likes the driver who keeps everybody waiting for 3 or 4 sets of red lights.

6. Making bad turns

There are drivers who turn left from the right lane and drivers who fail to creep out when turning right, so they sit too long at the intersection.

7. Parking badly

Bad parking is as bad as bad driving, especially in congested streets when someone parks across two spaces or leaves a useless gap where nobody fits.

No doubt there’s a very long list of bad behaviours!

It seems there are three kinds of driver: courteous drivers, safe drivers and bad drivers. Safe drivers keep to the rules but courteous drivers go a little bit further to make driving more pleasant for everyone.

Courteous and safe drivers also get cheaper greenslips.

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Corrina Baird

Writer and expert

Corrina used to lend her car to her kids and discovered first hand what Ls, Ps and demerits mean for greenslips. After 20 years of writing and research in financial services, she’s an expert in the NSW CTP scheme. Read more about Corrina

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