Not all cars are created equal—certain vehicles on the road deserve extra scrutiny. The following is an illustrated guide to some of the characters you should be keeping an eye on while you’re navigating the mean streets. If you know what to look for, you can stay streets ahead of these bozos.
They’re driven by people like us, who don’t own cars and aren’t used to being behind the wheel. They almost certainly don’t have the benefit of a few thousand hours of road time sharing the streets with bikers.
Large Cadillacs (especially ones with Florida plates)
If you see a gigantic Cadillac (or any other huge American car), it’s probably being operated by an elderly driver. You’re dealing with poor eyesight, slow reflexes, and general unfamiliarity with the concept of “bicycle lanes.” Steer clear.
A vehicle so big that it should be driven by a professional, driven by a complete novice.
They are never not in a hurry. If they don’t rush, they don’t make money. If there’s a potential fare standing on the corner three lanes away, they have an economic incentive to cut you off. Their passengers throw open the vehicle’s doors at unpredictable intervals, and often while the cab is still in traffic (i.e., not parked). To top it all off, they ALWAYS have the worst possible insurance (seriously, I’ve never dealt with a cab that had more than the statutory minimum coverage). Protip: After a crash with a cab, make sure you get the passenger’s information too!
Anything with visible damage and/or rust
There’s no better proof that a driver isn’t paying attention than evidence of a previous crash. If you see rust, that means they opted not to get the damaged fixed, and that the crash was either their fault, or their insurance is lacking (or both).
Large pickup trucks with out of state plates
Any vehicle with foreign plates should be subjected to greater scrutiny—they probably don’t know their way around, and are prone to stopping short, sightseeing, and making last-minute blinker-less turns at the behest of their cell phone’s navigation voice. Even more care should be taken around large foreign pickup trucks, especially the ones with “lift kits.” In addition to their generally decreased visibility compared to a car, the driver of this vehicle is probably not used to operating it in the city. Think about it: who would buy one of thesefor city driving? They may have passed by plenty of roadies out in the sticks, but theres a good chance they don’t have much experience interacting with bikers in city traffic.
New Hampshire drivers
New Hampshire’s “Live Free or Die” attitude extends to their policies on insurance. That’s right: New Hampshire has no mandatory insurance law. People can (and do) drive around without any sort of coverage whatsoever. If you see an Old Man in the Mountain, use extra caution. (The same goes for Virginia, though they have to pay a $500 fee to go uninsured, so that’s at least something).
If you see a phone in their hand while you’re next to them at a red light, you’ve been warned—this driver is not paying attention to the road. Be extra cautious with upcoming right turns or driveways, as they’re unlikely to signal, and even less likely to check for you before turning. Remember: the best way to avoid a right hook is to anticipate it.
Don’t trust any vehicle with its hazard lights on. This goes double for cars. Unlike trucks, most car drivers aren’t entirely clear on how and when hazard lights should be used. (Hazards designate your vehicle isn’t just sitting there, but rather it’s sitting there and will be sitting there for a while.)
Widely considered the worst car ever created, the PT Cruiser is to be avoided at all costs. Marketed to the elderly, this car was actually designed to handle poorly, requiring extra room to turn and featuring steering that is deliberately unresponsive (you know, for nostalgia!). They’re basically boats, really ugly boats. Anyone who would elect to drive a car like this has no idea what they’re doing, and probably shouldn’t be on the road. Luckily, their “distinctive design” makes them fairly easy to spot.
Just so you know, this is by no means an exhaustive list—just a guide to the basics. Am I missing someone important? Feel free to weigh in in the comments.