What bugs you most behind the wheel?

Gina Roberts-Grey

Driving does more than just get you from A to B -- it can cause a whole host of annoyances as well. A survey of 1,000 American drivers by Braun Research found that tailgating is the most annoying action by fellow drivers, with being cut off by other drivers ranking second.

The top four irritations for drivers are:

  1. Tailgating - 94 percent of respondents.
  2. Being cut off by another driver - 91 percent of respondents.
  3. Not using blinkers - 85 percent of respondents.
  4. Driving too slowly in the passing lane/on highways - 78 percent of respondents.

These actions and their potential consequences can be deadly for drivers -- and could jeopardize your auto insurance rates.


"Following a vehicle too closely does not allow enough time to assess a potential hazard in front of you and react to it in time," says Maria Wojtczak, owner of DrivingMBA and president of the Red Means Stop Traffic Safety Alliance. A potential result? A crash that could require you to file a car insurance claim.

What will it cost? At-fault accidents can result in car insurance carriers increasing rates at least 15 percent, says Charlie Schein, owner of Star-Schein, an insurance agency in Connecticut. The rate hike can happen automatically, Schein says, and generally is based on how much was paid out for the claim, Schein says. Drivers in this situation also lose any accident-free discounts.

Avoid the annoyance: Wojtczak says you need to leave a minimum of 2 to 3 seconds between you and a vehicle in front of you. "The more space, the better," she says.

And if you're being tailgated, the best way to avoid being rear-ended is to safely get out of the way. If it's safe, change lanes or pull over to let the impatient driver pass by.

Budging in between two cars

Being cut off can cause a person to swerve off the road -- possibly hitting a tree or utility pole, for instance -- and cause a crash.

What will it cost? If you cause a crash by cutting someone off or trying to squeeze into a space that's too small for your car, expect your car insurance rates to rev up by 15 percent or more, Schein says.

Avoid the annoyance: Misjudging the distance between you and other cars could be caused by being unable to see other cars in your car's blind spot. Lauren Pearce, a driving instructor at the nonprofit Driving Concepts Foundation in California, says adjusting your mirrors could prevent an accident.

"Most drivers adjust side mirrors to see part of their car. But what you really need is the ability to see things before they make contact with your car," Pearce says.

Blanking out on blinkers

Using your blinkers sends a clear signal about your driving intentions. Not turning on the blinker to signal turning, merging or changing lanes can cause confusion and not give other drivers the information they need to avoid getting in your way, Wojtczak says. If you don't use your blinkers, drivers behind your car could rear-end you.

"Changing lanes on freeways without signaling is especially dangerous because multiple lanes mean two cars could move into the same center lane and collide. At high speeds, that can be very dangerous and trigger a deadly chain of events," says Anne Marie Hayes, president of the Teens Learn to Drive Foundation.

You also could get a traffic ticket or trigger another driver's road rage, Pearce says.

What will it cost? A ticket for failing to signal can drive up your rates by 10 percent to 20 percent, Schein says. An accident could boost rates by at least 15 percent.

Avoid the annoyance: Pearce says this fix is simple: Use your blinker! And pay attention to what other drivers are doing so you'll spot them if they're merging into your lane.

Puttering on the road

Excessive speed isn't the only way to irritate other drivers -- hogging the left lane and driving slower than the flow of traffic can be equally annoying. The left lane in most states is known as the passing lane. You should be in that lane only if you're passing, Pearce says.

Assuming there are no weather or road conditions that require traffic to slow, Hayes says, driving significantly slower than the rest of the traffic (45 in a 65 mph zone) can be as dangerous as speeding.

"Slow-moving vehicles can cause collisions because other drivers expect traffic to flow at a standard speed and may need to brake hard or swerve when they encounter the slow vehicle," Hayes says. "You can be also be ticketed for impeding the flow of traffic."

What will it cost? A 10 percent to 20 percent hike in your auto insurance premiums, depending on whether you receive a moving violation or are involved in an accident because you were driving too slowly.

Avoid the annoyance: If you're driving in the left lane and someone wants to pass you (whether you're going under the speed limit or not), get out of the way - safely, of course! Pearce says a good general rule is to stay right except when you're passing.

If you're uncomfortable driving at the posted speed in ideal conditions, or have car problems that require you to drive very slowly, Hayes suggests taking a route that doesn't include high-speed roadways.