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How to drive like a Gentleman, part 3

Steve Whitaker 5th June 2013
by Steve Whitaker

How to drive like a Gentleman, part 3, in which Quentin Cholmondley_Silverstone takes a look at gentlemanly conduct on the road, granted, it's been fun. And although the saying goes, “all good things must come to an end,” this is not by any means the final instalment of the drive like a Gentleman feature.

Chivalry on the road, (and on Kahn News) will live on, so look out for the next 'How to drive like a gentleman' feature, courtesy of Quentin Cholmondley_Silverstone.

At a mini roundabout

As much as the gentleman driver dislikes the abomination that is the mini roundabout, there are no excuses for disobeying the rules of the road. No matter how thick the paint, a mini roundabout should not be used as a launch ramp for your motor vehicle. You are not a character in the popular 1980’s televisual entertainment The Dukes of Hazzard (it was broadcast on the BBC, so you may have partaken), and that’s how you prang your pride and joy.

Even if it was installed by a car-hating maniacal jobsworth, the mini roundabout should be treated like any other road junction. You should give way to traffic approaching from your right, remember to use your indicators, and move through the junction as safely as possible. If you have hands free (for example, if your chauffeur is driving), a polite wave to other road users always hits the spot. Do try not to spill your Pimms if driving during the summer.

Unfortunately, the mini-roundabout has one fatal flaw: The Three-Way Approach. If three drivers reach a mini-roundabout at the same time, with the intention of turning right, there develops a type of stand-off that is unique to Britishness, where everybody is too polite to pull out first. In the most extreme cases, this stand-off can go on for quite some time, so one must be prepared to break the deadlock.


Don’t take up more than one space.

This is the absolute height of ungentlemanly conduct. Perpetrators of this particular transgression should be given a damned good thrashing and have their driving licences forcibly removed. This is something a gentleman should absolutely not do.

Leave ample space between you and the cars next to you.

Nobody wishes to return to their conveyance to discover that they’ll have to perform an elaborate vertical limbo-style dance to get back inside it. Even if you have to reverse out and move in again to get the ratio of space on each side right, take the extra time to do so.

Don’t park in parent and child spaces.

If your child is old enough not to be in a specialised car seat, or you are a confirmed bachelor without offspring, taking up one of these spaces is just damned rude and usually a sign of idleness. Neither are qualities that should be displayed by a gentleman of any stripe.

Keep Calm and Carry On!

Road rage can frighten your more faint-hearted passengers, cause you to make dangerous driving decisions, lead to a personal confrontation with another driver, and raise your blood pressure. It can also lead to awkward face-to-face encounters later! Here are some suggestions that may help:

Dealing with passengers

It seems likely that your motor vehicle will serve as carriage for passengers at some point; it is important to understand that the passenger may not appreciate the difficulties associated with driving, therefore you should be tolerant of the banality of their conversation and desire to change the radio station or volume.

Passengers (especially those who have elected to take the front passenger seat in preference to the true gentleman, who will always take the rear) feel they have supreme authority over every knob and dial on your dashboard – if you find them reaching over and changing from your beloved Radio 4 to such an aural assault as KISS or Real Radio, then remind them who is in charge of the car and ask them not to change the station.

Offer others the same compassion you lavish on yourself.

Almost all of us have had to indulge in some ungentlemanly conduct in an emergency, such as getting to a wedding, the birth of our children or a job interview. When we did it, we excused it as absolutely necessary. We attribute our infractions to the circumstances. Yet, when we see other people doing the same thing, we chalk it up to their clear character defect! Yet perhaps they are a gentleman in dire straits, in which case a true gentleman should give them a bye, just this once.

Don’t try to “punish” people yourself.

If a driver does something that deserves a damned good thrashing, you may be tempted to tailgate, flash your lights, or prevent them from getting over to your lane to show your displeasure. But just like launching a witty, rhetorical skewering of some lower-class buffoon on the internet, all this does is raise their ire and assume, despite all evidence to the contrary, that you are the blackguard. But unlike on the internet, there is real physical safety at risk when you stick up for your pride on the road. Showing an individual that he or she was able to get under your skin and affect your mood just means that he wins, and a gentleman never does anything to disgrace himself within the public domain.

If someone really is driving dangerously, allow discretion to be the better part of valour and consult the constabulary. Then, you can console yourself by giving them a jaunty wave as you drive past.

Offer the “I’m sorry” wave.

The gentleman driver isn’t perfect. When you do something unintentionally to inconvenience or endanger someone else, own up to it and give the old “I’m sorry” wave.

Click here to read part 2 of this feature.

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