Steve Wallace: A seasonal ode to being a better driver

This Christmas will be like no other in the last 70 years, thanks to Covid-19. Despite our new holiday reality, here are some thoughts about predictability behind the wheel.

Cars sales, passenger cars specifically, are on the decline. Other types of vehicles are selling well. Many manufacturers have made the financial and practical decision to discontinue making cars in favor of trucks and utility vehicles. Ford is leading the way among North American companies, leaving passenger vehicle production to others in the marketplace. This change is related to people feeling they can get better visibility, while sitting higher. Seniors like the ease of access and egress. Increased cargo space is a bonus. There are bound to be fewer passenger cars on the road compared to in past decades.

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Highway travel is likely to be more popular. People are not flying in the same numbers. They are shying away from communal public travel. The family or bubble unit is now the emphasis on trips. For years there were many single occupant vehicles on the road. Nowadays, it is more likely to see multiple family members, or bubble units in vehicles during daily travel.

Reverse gear is overrepresented in crash statistics. Many drivers could reduce their crash potential by avoiding backing out, in favor of a drive-through or back-in choice. Industrial audible reverse beepers and internal beepers in passenger vehicles, emphasis the less than obvious danger in all reverse moves. Vehicle insurance companies have always been mystified by the fact that collisions while backing make up a disproportionately high number of claims, while the kilometers driven in reverse are negligible, when one considers the total distances traveled.

Intersections are the most dangerous places in our traffic system. There is so much to consider. Drivers must check for pedestrians, cyclists, traffic signs and signals, other vehicles and any unexpected alternate form of travel. The T-bone crash is the second most life-threatening collision after the head-on collision.

“Speed Kills” is an emphatic statement by safe driving advocates. The square proportion stopping distance fact of life, is the most misunderstood by novice driver candidates. Double the speed, four times as far to skid to a stop, triple=9 times, quadruple=16times and so on.

Time is difficult to estimate when behind the wheel. Ask the average driver how many seconds it takes to do a safe pass on the highway, and they will most often underestimate the safe time frame. When people are occupied with a task, such as driving, time seems to pass faster. For this reason, it often takes longer to pass, park and partake in any time related activity.

Mixing with other vehicles is an art. Staying out of the blind spots of other drivers announces your presence and makes other drivers notice the proximity of your vehicle. Driving with lights on gets greater notice and has the advantage of making others perceive your vehicle being closer.

Attitude behind the wheel is demonstrated by several actions, whether positive or negative. Self-centered drivers are likely to confound any traffic system. They often take the right-of-way as opposed to give necessary space to others. Field-centered drivers are more likely to accommodate others in the transportation system. They see the space around them as a buffer rather than a territory to occupy.

Space cushion driving is a technique employed by all sorts of educated drivers. Drivers will never hit a space, kill a space or fear a space. Spaces are a driver’s best friend. Whether on the highway or in a parking lot, spaces give everyone a margin of error and or an escape route.

Merry Christmas to all, at this stressful time of Covid-19, and let us hope for a safe start to 2021.

Steve Wallace is the owner of Wallace Driving School on Vancouver Island. He is a former vice-president of the Driving Schools Association of the Americas, a registered B.C. teacher and a University of Manitoba graduate.

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