Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who’s the rudest of us all? That’s a hard question to answer, but at least thanks to a study published in Xjenza, the Journal of the Malta Chamber of Scientists, we can narrow it down to ‘who’s the rudest on the road’.

A six-month study in which the researchers drove a car round a congested roundabout and took note of the profile of drivers who were happy to give way, has revealed that the most polite drivers were men aged over 40 driving a family saloon car.

For car unconnoisseurs, saloons are those which have the boot in a separate compartment, so they’re a bit more stretched than the compact hatchbacks. Hatchback owners are those who want to cram two bikes, the dog and a new water boiler in their car, and after several attempts manage to shut the boot. Saloon cars, to my mind, belong to accountants, auditors and people who play golf; disciplined people with their lives in order who follow the rules. 

The bad news of this scientific study is that the rudest drivers are those driving luxury cars. Time after time, these drivers ignored the researchers’ right of way and pressed on like they were the only ones on the road. The luxury car owners smirk, as do their cars, and drive past thinking, “You little insignificant you, in your little hardworking insignificant Corsa or Toyota, move out of our way.”

I would have thought that if you’re driving a luxury car you would almost pray for there to be traffic on the way home, so you get to enjoy the full potential of your erm, opulence. But no, the world over, luxury car drivers are constantly ranked as the worst offenders for parking violations and disregarding traffic laws. Why?

I would understand being a bit irritable and wanting to get home as soon as possible if you’re driving a car with chipped paint on the bonnet, worrying veins of rust on the sides of the door and a heating system that only offers two options: sauna or ice bucket.

You’re probably thinking, God I must get home to clear this car of all the food wrappers and tissues  on the floor, because I have to give a lift to so-and-so this evening, and so you sort of twist your face in a pleading manner, lift an apologetic hand to the little hardworking Corsa or Toyota and speed on.

But consider getting into a car with a surround system of music that reads your mood and matches the appropriate songs; a heater which automatically adjusts to your body temperature; a back-and-thigh massage emitting from those soft leather seats as you drive; a soothing voice connected to one of your many BOV accounts which pauses the music to reassure you that your money has not been hacked; your favourite organic-flavoured macaroons at the press of a button; I mean, why on earth would you not want to drive slowly and give way to make the journey last?

Those driving luxury cars ignored the researchers’ right of way

In any case, they are not the only road bullies. Joining them in their impoliteness on the road are the drivers of trucks and vans. They are the elephants next to the ants – who would dare honk at them for not observing the highway code?

And what about the women, you’re probably asking yourself? Well, we don’t know where we stand in the scale of driving politeness because the research­ers did not come across enough women drivers to be able to assess the gender factor in road courtesy. Probably women tend to avoid congested roundabouts and the battle of the mightiest and the wealthiest on the tarmac.

Meanwhile, what’s the conclusion of the researchers after these hair-raising six months of testing our road courtesy? When it comes to road manners, “in contrast to Malta’s general reputation for friendliness and hospitality,” they noted tongue-in-cheek, “there appears to be room for improvement”.

Maybe only family saloons should be sold on this island.

Just an aside really: what car does Yorgen Fenech drive?

Yorgen who? Him, the CEO of Tumas Group and director of Electrogas – the €450 million power station that we never really needed and from which you and I are buying its electricity at double the price of the market (although we’re made to think that our utility bills are cheap).

Does Yorgen Fenech drive a hatchback, a truck, a van, a saloon or a car of indulgence?

I’d bet my casino chips that he drives a black luxury car, with a number plate which simply reads ‘17’. That he’s one of those who drives ahead ignoring everyone and everything at the roundabout, munching black truffle macaroons and thinking how best to pretend that it’s fine to be pumped with kickback money from Azerbaijanis of which he then gives €5,000 a day to a top minister in Cabinet and the Prime Minister’s own chief of staff.

He’s just thinking that if he stays in his luxury car the police won’t get him.

Mr Fenech, we may drive a little hardworking insignificant Corsa or Toyota, we may be ignored at the roundabouts, but we still know what you did six summers ago.

Twitter: @krischetcuti

This is a Times of Malta print opinion piece


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