Man shaking fist (© Corbis)Click to enlarge picture

Remember, patience is a virtue. Not every driver is as good as they think they are — including you!

It's been said that the only two ways of really insulting someone is to call the person a lousy lover or a poor driver. I don't know about the first, but motoring among the unwashed for just a few minutes uncovers a catalog of offenses, ranging from simple discourtesies to outright felonies.

Most bad driving habits can be traced back to selfish behavior. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association, nearly 80 percent of crashes and 65 percent of near-crashes involve some form of driver inattention in the three seconds prior to collision. Reaching for a moving object increases the accident risk by a staggering 9 times; reading, applying makeup or dialing a cell phone by 3 times. Clearly pandering to such odds is rude to anyone owning sheet metal within striking distance, not to mention the irritation a near miss from such boneheaded action engenders.

And while we often see who sits behind the wheel, the blame goes deeper than just the offending party. For as complex as driving a car can be, we receive precious little training in the science (almost always from overworked teachers), and there's no follow-up instruction unless we get a ticket and attend traffic school. With that in mind, poking fun at the collective driving skill of American motorists might prove instructive; thus, MSN Autos has called upon me, the staff curmudgeon, to growl publically. So put it in park while I cover my short list of peeves from the pavement.

1. Learn to Merge
Sauntering to the end of a really long freeway onramp at 52 mph, confirming that all those cars and trucks swerving in avoidance are going 75 mph as you pull into a traffic lane, then accelerating to 80 mph two minutes later torques everyone off for three miles behind you.

Most drivers have pet peeves about other drivers. What things do other drivers do (or fail to do) that annoy you?

Traffic already on the freeway has the right of way and it's your duty to merge seamlessly with it. If you're not going freeway speed by the bottom of the onramp then step on the gas. Most importantly of all, train yourself to look over your left shoulder while accelerating on the ramp so you can pick your target merge point. And don't blame me if I don't move over for you; I'm busy and fitting in is your job. I have the right of way, doofus!

2. The Gaping Fool
If you have a hankering to see a wrecked car, then take a beer and a lawn chair to a junkyard and pass a lazy afternoon contemplating the near-infinite combinations of wrinkled sheet metal. Revel in the mathematic complexities of shattered glass; compute the force vectors written irrevocably in all that carnage. But brother, don't balk me with your rube's need to stare during the morning commute.

Look, if you're going to pull over and assist, great. If you're picking your way through broken glass, we understand. But jamming traffic for five miles because of some dark need to gawk at a fender-bender is a hanging offense. Instead of rubbernecking at the wreck site, look for the escape route around and away from it. If you have passengers, they can stare for you and give a detailed report.

3. Get High on the Beams
Thanks to the near-total urbanization of most American's driving experience, we've come to a collective inability to use high beams properly. As a result, any rural native can spot the dark-night newbies; they're the ones groveling along blessedly uncongested county highways with their low beams on. Sniffing their way home from bingo night at 32 mph in a 55 zone, these incompetents are another unnecessary hazard to navigation.