Steve Wallace: Strategies for reducing the crash rate

How can you reduce the crash rate?

This question was asked of me by a forest company mill manager. He wanted a site plan that would reduce the vehicle crash numbers on the industrial property. At first, this request seemed like a tall order. I had just returned from a driving-school convention that had addressed this very issue. Applying the general principles of the far-off convention presenter to the request of the manager was job one. Several space management techniques at low and high speed were part of the plan. Here are the parking plans:

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The suggestion to the mill initiated a security-circle emphasis, which involved all traffic moving in and out of the property in a one-way fashion. The parking spaces were reconfigured in such a way as to have the plug-in block heater electrical cords dropping from an arial position, eliminating the necessity for any driver at the mill to use reverse gear. It was a drive-through system. The capital cost was minimal since the wiring was already in place. This simple change made quite a difference in reducing the parking-lot crunch rate.

This behaviour has been mimicked by many private property homeowners. Half moon driveways are all the rage where space allows to eliminate the need to back up.

The same principle is at play when traffic engineers recommend roundabout, multi-lane construction. Traffic ends up going the same direction. The deadly head-on crash potential is reduced or in most cases eliminated. The same goes for a traffic circle, a one lane configuration. Any time traffic is moving in the same direction, crash statistics plummet. Have you ever heard of a head-on crash at the ferry terminal? Of course not! Everyone is going the same direction, whether to enter or exit.

Highway cloverleafs were a result of the same principle. The elimination of high speed left turns in front of oncoming high-speed traffic was not only a safety policy but also a freedom-to-move philosophy.

One-way streets were originally used to provide an unencumbered path of travel without the head-on crash risk. The elimination of the left turn in front of oncoming traffic was one of the risk-reducing policies of civic governments. Many professional drivers will make several right turns instead of one left turn, in order to reduce their crash potential.

When a PHD in driver education from Michigan was asked what he would do to radically reduce the number of crashes in the Unites States, he responded by jokingly suggesting the removal of all reverse gears in all passenger vehicles on the road. This, he maintained, would cut the rate by about 30%. He was indeed joking.

This 30% total is one of the reasons the B.C. driving test has a possible five reverse components. The dreaded parallel park, reverse stall, three-point, two-point and straight-back reverse drive can all be part of the test to receive a class 5 driving privilege.

One of the facts of aging is the reduction in neck flexibility. For this reason, many seniors avoid backing up. The relatively new technology of back-up cameras and beeping warnings is a great assist factor for not only seniors but also the rest of us.

Many late-model passenger vehicles now have a 360-degree camera vantage point. A senior driving test in B.C. does not involve the same number of reverse actions as must be demonstrated in the above-mentioned class 5 road test. Backing out of a parking space is still the most common reverse task on the senior’s road test.

The best thing about reversing is that it is optional. It is like walking backward downtown. Do it sparingly.

Steve Wallace is the owner of Wallace Driving School on Vancouver Island. He is a former V.P. of the Driving Schools Association of the Americas, a registered B.C. teacher and a U of Manitoba graduate.

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