The world would be a better place without the road-going fatberg. Here’s how to drive with consideration for others.

THE SEWERAGE SYSTEM is a thing of beauty. Consider the difficulty of designing and building a system that collects and directs the excreta of a sprawling city to just a few collection pools. Not for nothing did Brian and his friends list sewers as one of the things the Romans “have done for us”.
Yet the mighty sewerage system only works if everybody plays fair, or to put it another way, isn’t stupid and uses the system as designed with due consideration to others. Sewers are designed for material that dissolves, crumbles or otherwise breaks down. Such as toilet paper, and there’s a big hint in the name.
Sewers aren’t designed for tough stuff like wet wipes and toilet rolls. When enough of that junk builds up it forms what’s known as a “fatberg” which blocks the pipes, so some poor sod has to climb in and remove the problem. And you thought your job sucked.
I was reminded of the fatberg problem yesterday when driving on a relatively high speed but very twisty country road with plenty of blind corners and crests that made overtaking without consent impossible. There was ample time to consider fatbergs, and indeed anything else that came to mind because I was stuck behind a slow-moving car. Not just me, another 10 or 12 other vehicles soon joined the procession and probably more as time went on.
Yet corner after corner the lead car failed to move over, passing several laybys and signs saying something to the effect of letting faster vehicles past. Blocking the system. Not behaving by the rules. Being unsociable. The automotive equivalent of stuffing tampons down the toilet. So, I christen such drivers Fatbergs.
This led me to wonder what was going through the mind of the Fatberg, as it cruised slowly along the road, accelerating like treacle pouring out of a jar, but with no tasty payoff. After a while, I came to only two possible conclusions:
  1. The Fatberg does not realise there is a huge stream of traffic behind, and it is therefore an Oblivious Fatberg.
  2. The Fatberg does realise it is holding up a sports stadium’s worth of people, and is therefore a Dumb Fatberg.
I’m going to attempt to dissect the mind of both Oblivious Fatberg and Dumb Fatberg, but first a note to the nanny-state lovers. Yes, everybody has a right to drive at the speed they choose provided it is not so slow it is unsafe, and this wasn’t so slow it was unsafe. No, the problem with Fatbergs is not the speed, it’s not taking the opportunity to let others by as required by law, directed by the signs and provided for by the laybys. And the speed was clearly less than the average of the traffic, as evidenced by the convoy of cars.
Now we’ve finished with the potential objections let’s attempt to get inside the mind of the Fatbergs, starting with Oblivious Fatberg. First, I find it hard to believe that anyone could drive for many, many minutes without noticing ten or twenty cars stacked up behind them. But, strange things happen. We all make mistakes. It’s possible, and I have sympathy for the occasional lapse of judgement. But as time passes it seems scarcely credible that the Oblivious Fatberg has not in fact, turned into a Dumb Fatberg.
So, what’s going on with Dumb Fatbergs, who see all the cars behind them but decide not to pull over? Let’s speculate on the sub-species:
  • Safety Fatberg – is a passive-aggressive softcore vigilante who decided that the speed limit is too high, and they are providing a public service by slowing everyone down. “Nobody should be driving that fast, so it’s good that I, Frederick H Fatberg the Second, is here to save the day.”
  • Scared Fatberg – would like to pull over, but is genuinely scared to do so for reasons unknown. Maybe they are unable to spot the laybys in enough time because the on-the-limit pace of 40km/h around a bend marked as recommended 60 turns the roadside into a giddy blur. Who knows. I can’t really think of a reason, but let’s assume Scared Fatberg wants to pull over but can’t.
  • Late Fatberg – this is true irony right here. Late Fatberg is going as fast as they dare, but won’t pull over because they are worried about losing time on their journey. Or being stuck behind an even slower Fatberg.
  • Bloody Minded Fatberg – this one sees everybody behind and takes active pleasure in slowing the whole group up. Bloody Minded Fatbergs are the reasons society in general can’t have nice things. When not cluttering up the highway they can be found online trolling, making pointless and snide remarks with the intent of causing trouble.
  • Dragster Fatberg – usually driving cars that accelerate quite nicely, the Dragster Fatberg says simply “the other drivers will get by if they want to” as they crawl around a corner before unleashing the full power of their Aurion for the first quarter of the following straight, then slamming on the anchors as the next corner appears on the distant horizon. Dragster Fatbergs fail to appreciate how dangerous overtaking is, and that passing on typical fatberging roads require cooperation of the car in front. 
All of these Fatbergs are Dumb Fatbergs because their reasons for holding up traffic are varied, but stupid. And this is why.
First, it’s not up to individuals to enforce laws they invent at their whim. If the limit is 80, you’re doing a consistent 40-60, and there’s 10 cars behind then you my friend are driving much slower than the average so you should let people by. It’s called being sociable.
It’s also a form of dumbness to be wanting to pull over but unable to, unless there is some form of physical reason why not, but in that case you probably shouldn’t be on the road. And it is very dumb to think that “people can get by” when clearly, they can’t which is why they’ve been behind a Dragster Fatberg for the last half hour.
Then if you’re late but won’t pull over that’s just selfishness which is another form of dumbness. Note that I’m not suggesting Late Fatbergs drive faster because nobody should drive quicker than they feel able to.
And finally, Bloody Minded Fatberg is perhaps the worst of all because it’s these people are just indulging in plain old unsociable nastiness for the pleasure of it, anonymous cowards from inside a metal shell. 
Why is Fatberging a problem? First, it wastes lots of time – let’s say 20 cars by 5 minutes that’s one hour of collective time you have taken and that’s not yours. It’s not for you, Fatbergs, to say a two, five or ten minute delay doesn’t matter, you don’t get to sit in judgment over people and circumstances you know nothing about. And it is the case that fatberging encourages risky overtakes, pure and simple. You can argue that everyone should just sit tight and wait it out, and that’s certainly true, but the reality is the impatient will eventually take a risk they don’t need to.
So that’s as far as I got before our Fatberg finally moved over. What do you reckon? Has anyone actually been inside a car with a Fatberg and managed to understand how their brain works? Please comment below with your stories…

But the law says I can drive any speed I like!

No, it doesn’t. The law says fatberging is illegal, although the government is not cool enough to not use the term. Here’s the what is says you can’t do :

125         Unreasonably obstructing drivers or pedestrians

         (1)   A driver must not unreasonably obstruct the path of another driver or a pedestrian.

         (2)   For this rule, a driver does not unreasonably obstruct the path of another driver or a pedestrian only because:

                (a)    the driver is stopped in traffic; or

               (b)    the driver is driving more slowly than other vehicles (unless the driver is driving abnormally slowly in the circumstances).

Example of a driver driving abnormally slowly

A driver driving at a speed of 20 kilometres per hour on a length of road to which a speed-limit of 80 kilometres per hour applies when there is no reason for the driver to drive at that speed on the length of road.

The rule is open to interpretation, but we reckon that if you holding up a stream of cars and fail to move over when you can then that’s “unreasonably obstructing drivers” – in others words, fatberging.

How To Avoid Fatberging

  • If there is a layby made for slower vehicles, pull into it. Usually these are signposted in advance, maybe 200-300 metres so you’ve got maybe five minutes to think about pulling over; and
  • If there is no layby then wait for a bit of road that is safe to overtake. This would be a straight-ish stretch of road with good visibility. Now you have to indicate left, then slow down, and then pull your car as far off the road as possible. If that means slowing down almost to a crawl, or stopping, then do so.
Do not:
  • Suddenly stop. Indicate first, and only then slowly pull over. A nose-to-tail crash is even worse than fatberging;
  • Drive faster than you feel comfortable. You aren’t fatberging if you are a slow driver, you’re only fatberging if you fail to take safe opportunities to let faster cars by; and
  • Be pressured into anything uncomfortable. On some roads there are no opportunities to pull over for quite a while as the roads are so narrow and tight there’s no chance to overtake. So just keep going at the speed you feel comfortable with, and people will understand. It’s when you start to miss chances to let others by that you start fatberging.

If you drive a car that is easily capable of keeping up with average traffic speed and yet you don’t feel comfortable driving it at that speed then you should seriously consider post-license driver training.

How to deal with a fatberg

  • Be patient. There’s not much else you can do;
  • Pass when given the chance, and pass quickly. It is only courteous, the car in front has gone out of their way for you;
  • Think about stopping if you were planning to soon anyway;
  • Let others cars through. Sounds odd, but a few times I have been directly behind a fatberg but unable to overtake as my car was too slow. So I let the more powerful third car pass me, and that then car was able to pass the fatberg who then woke up and followed the example, letting everyone else past; and
  • Try UHF radio if it’s one of those caravans with UHF17 stickers on the back. But do be nice…
Do not:
  • Hassle the fatberg by tailgating, flashing lights, horns. Chances are you’ll make the situation worse, or get them to speed up and then make an error…potentially fatal. How would you like that on your conscience? Oh, and that behaviour isn’t legal either;
  • Take risks. It is just not worth it. Overtaking accidents are deadly;
  • Assume you know what’s happening. In the same way that the fatberg knows nothing about you and your situation, you know nothing about them, their car, or why they are driving slowly;
  • Stop just after you are let by. Do any stopping before you pass; and
  • Forget to come back here and write a comment!

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  1. Fatbergs also think that merge is a type of cheese and roundabouts should be approached as if it is a spitting cobra.

  2. The one Fatberg you missed, the caravan-towing fatberg! I’m comfortable in my Fatberg Combo, so I ignore what’s behind me. I will, however, speed up whenever there’s a passing lane, just to make sure that I don’t let anyone else get ahead of me! By the way, I do tow a van but, hopefully, allow others to pass whenever I can.
    The other one missing is the speed demon- he’s five cars back but as soon as a passing situation develops he’s flat out ensuring no-one else gets the opportunity to pass!

  3. I’m not sure dumb is the word I would choose to use. Dumb is too much like oblivious, inconsiderate fatberg maybe..? Worst is when two fatbergs combine to form a fatberg convoy – and then nobody is going anywhere.

    1. I use the terms ignorant and arrogant to describe inconsiderate and/or bad drivers….either you don’t know its wrong and you do it out of ignorance, or you know its wrong and you do it anyway….

  4. Dragster fatbergs can be a real pain on roads with occasional overtaking lanes…..20 kays under when there isn’t one, 20 over when there is….

      1. You’ve described my vehicle almost perfectly Robert….the only thing you forgot to put in were the words “naturally aspirated” :)…I generally start planning my overtaking moves about a 1km in advance…usually by increasing my gap from 2-3 secs to 5-6 secs to the slower car in front, so I can start accelerating sooner when I see the overtaking lane ahead….and hoping they aren’t a dragster fatberg lol…..

        Even in my wife’s Mazda 3 though, I really don’t want to have to do 120+ on most of the 100 posted highways I drive to get around someone who speeds up for overtaking lanes….

    1. I’d love to be a passenger in one of these vehicles when they do it and ask why?

      I suspect its potentially some failed logic about not wanting to hold anyone up!

    2. I don’t like that either, but have a theory on it. The roads tend to be narrower when single lane and they’re not comfortable travelling at speed in a confined space with trees, poles etc. so close. But when the overtaking lane comes up, the road is wider and safer, so they do feel more comfortable going faster. They shouldn’t do it, but they’re more oblivious fatbergs I think.

      1. On a narrow windy mountain road with an overtaking lane, I agree with you….

        On a busy fairly straight highway I think they are more dragster fatbergs….

      2. Yes. I’ve thought this. They are too scared to do the limit in the narrow sections but more confident when the road widens. They should be aware of the queue behind them though and actively allow others to pass when they can. The ones that turn into Mario Andretti when the second lane appears are bloody minded arseholes trying desperately to maintain their position as leader of the pack.

  5. At 100kph on the highway you get cars catching up and sitting 2 car lengths off the back bumper which is my fav. hate, you see it every day. Do you think some fatbergs think “Bugger it, if they are going to follow so close no matter how fast I go then it will be much safer at slower speeds” ?

    A lot of drivers are rushing, tooting horns, gesticulating because they are unable to understand that other drivers drive different to them. A lot of these highly excitable drivers are rushing to do what – get home and sit in front of the TV, I bet they are.

    Your interpretation of the Road Rules is quite inaccurate, if it were as you say Robert then Police would be booking motorists for “allegedly” travelling 80 in 100 zones as an example.

    If I get held up by a slow moving vehicle 9 times out of 10 I just think back to our forebears who went everywhere by horse power, rode a bike or just plain walked; it makes you realise you are still making good time by comparison and should have left 10 minutes earlier.

    To many rushing impatient people on the roads, chill out !!

    1. Hello Pete

      I think you are our first Fatberg!

      Have you ever asked yourself why you find lots of cars sitting on your back bumper two car lengths off? That’s the wrong behaviour by the way, but if it happens to you a lot then maybe you might consider moving into a left lane on the freeway?

      Other drivers – how do you know “a lot” of them are rushing to get home to the TV? I am always fascinated to understand how drivers magically get such insights, because I certainly can’t work out the circumstances of any given driver just by looking at their car. Yes, it could be they’re just impatient, but it could also be a bloke on his way to the birth of their first child, someone running late for a job interview..who knows. I don’t, and I’m amazed you do. Please share your secret.

      Road rules. Read it again, and it’s not my words, it’s a direct quote off Commlaw. It says driving at 20 in an 80, not driving 20 under the limit.

      Forebears – well, I wish I had your life so I always have a spare 10 minutes to leave earlier. Even if I did, well sometimes that time gets eaten up by unforeseen circumstances (fatbergs for example).

      And finally:

      “Too many people making assumptions about others on the roads, drive with consideration!!”

      To all: we welcome comments on our articles, whether you agree with us or not. But that doesn’t mean to say we’ll agree with you.

      PS: Here is another example of a reader with the same gift as Pete, someone who can tell all about a driver from a mere glance at the vehicle.

      1. LOL Robert, living in the country is just great !

        We can spot the 4WD clubs when they visit Gippsland, they always drive in the dense dust of the car in front as they fell isolated if their invisible umbilical cord of support gets more than 75m away..LOL

        Back to the subject – Time management comes naturally to some but is a work in progress for others, don’t give up.

        My ESP secrets are indeed amazing and gained with a driving history in sedans, 4WD’s, articulated 22 wheelers, motor bikes -road&trail and Emergency vehicles over the last 45++ years, all with a clean licence … hows yours looking ?

        Trust me when I say I am not a fatberg and can understand your frustration with the extreme examples of slow drivers who fail to make headway, however to reiterate, time management, analysing why you’re getting impatient (threshold road rage perhaps ?) and some understanding that YOU are not the ENTITLED car on the road that day may assist your mental equilibrium.

        A simple blue tooth call to the destination may be the answer, amongst others, when someone has the temerity to travel at a speed they feel safe at and slow you down, you could even stop and smell the flowers………………

        1. True about driving in the dust of others. A common sin.

          Still can’t see how your ESP works.

          Yes, totally agree there are needlessly impatient drivers, and that bad attitude cannot be helped. But there are other situations where surely you’d admit people are in a hurry, and making a phonecall isn’t always possible. Yes, another 2-3 minutes might make no difference to the end result, but it might..and then there’s the psychological comfort of knowing you’re going as fast as you reasonably can be.

      2. I think there are a number of people who think that if you are not doing the speed they are doing, you are going to slow, and it doesn’t matter if you are doing the speed limit, 10 kays under or 10 kays over, or whether you are minding your own business in the left lane on a multi lane road, overtaking in the right lane, or being a fatberg of some description, they’ll still sit on your ass like some kind of haemorrhoid….as you say, we don’t know why they rush, but you have to wonder how many of these people have a genuine need to, and how many don’t…..

        1. Andrew – spot on, I always took time to tell my kids that speed limits are maximums allowed and “not compulsory”.

    2. Your right about tailgating. Give me space and I’ll set a good pace. Get tooclose to my number plate and well both be late.

      I trust your keeping left?

      I regard it as discourteous if one is in heavy traffic on a multi lane road with a increasing multi vehicle gap in front and a train of cars banking up behind it. Its your civic duty to go with the flow.

      1. The highways I’m referring to here are single lane each direction trackdaze, I agree with your sentiments on this subject.

  6. We all retained some modicum of decorum, right up to when an aresehole like you comes along 458, actually I think you missed a decimal point, should be 45.8, your IQ.
    Now go back to the playpit and work on your manners with the rest of grade three !

  7. What about the overtaking Fatbergs , you know the ones . You’re in a line of 30 cars,vans,trucks or whatever and you see a sign ” Overtaking Lane 5km ” Experience doesn’t let you get too excited but then ” Overtaking Lane 2km ” . You sense a difference in the atmosphere at 1 km to go . You can now see the double lanes as the 2nd driver in queue way up ahead veers into the overtaking lane just as 1st driver speeds up just a fraction . Second driver insisting on his right to continue to overtake at 1km an hour faster than 1st driver . Sometimes lane ends and no one has been overtaken . Trucks are common perpetrators of this but by no means are alone . Happy Christmas everyone .

  8. two points missed in the article;-

    1) Inconsiderate fatbergs. They know they are causing a problem but couldn’t care less. No ones more important than themselves. Although this falls under some of the other categories.

    2)And our over zealous enforcement of speed laws. People aren’t prepared to overtake, even when it is perfectly safe and legal to do so, if it means they would need to momentarily exceed the speed limit in fear of being pinged. Law enforcement must do so with the appropriate latitude. Unfortunately the laws technically don’t provide that. And therein lies the problem that has created a generation of zombie fatberg drivers.

    But I’d rather do that, get out ahead of the pack and drive my own piece of road. I have no desire to get tangled up in someone else’s bingle. So much less stressful too.

  9. Any chance someone could do a write-up on the inaccuracies of speedos? I know for a fact my car is 9-under the limit at 100kph. A lot of people are oblivious and could be easily educated with a GPS based speed app on their phone.

  10. My favourite kind of Fatberg?
    Here they go whizzing along a country road, not another vehicle for miles, and tail-end Charlie is so close to the Lead Dog that you would swear that there is a tow rope betwixt, but no…
    Always looks to me like a dog runnin’ along sniffin’ a bitch’s ass…
    Why doesn’t Charlie just overtake? A quick flash of headlights, Lead Dog will hold speed, even slow a tad, and Charlie can get on his way at whatever speed.
    But no, he sits there, mile after mile, annoying Lead Dog, until Dog decides to pull over and let Charlie pass (after having had to slow a lot cos he was too close to avoid Dog when Dog’s left blinker lit up)
    I had one this evening, right up my ginger, bug 4WD pushing, intimidating, so I blinked, pulled over, let Charlie pass, and then, suddenly, Charlie did the same!
    Glad I don’t tailgate
    By the way, tailgating, most folks haven’t a clue how to work the 3-second rule (or however many), but, on a main road, look at the street-light poles, and the distance between. There’s your following distance.

    1. Nor do they have any idea about reaction times, corrective action times, latent and non-latent inertia, brake effectiveness, and just how much distance their several-ton behemoth takes to actually stop, while the little Asian Shopping Trolley in front is almost on its’ nose avoiding some urban obstacle

  11. The link for the National Transport Commission (Road Transport Legislation – Australian Road Rules) Regulations 2006 indicates that the document has been superceded. Is there an update?

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