Here are some helpful hints, in random order, for all drivers wanting to avoid a crash within our varied traffic system.
Stay out of the dangerous blind spots associated with all types of travel. Motor vehicle drivers do not always look over their shoulder in the direction they wish to turn or change lanes. This is advice for not only other drivers, but also pedestrians and cyclists. The area roughly 45 degrees over each shoulder of the driver is a dangerous place to occupy in any traffic situation. It is best to stay out of it. This, hide-in-not-so-plain sight, is the cause of a great number of crashes. New vehicles with blind spot monitoring are a blessing.
Drivers should always pay special attention to pedestrians. We are often so intent on trying to get eye-to-eye contact that we forget to look at their feet. The way they are pointing is a strong indication of their intended path of travel. School children are all taught to walk facing traffic, especially in unorganised rural and neighbourhood traffic situations. A gentle tap of the horn for those pedestrians violating this simple survival behaviour is all that is needed to announce a driver’s presence. Emphasis on GENTLE!
SPACE is known as the final frontier. Space cushion driving is a survival technique. Positioning one’s vehicle for the best escape to a safe space is the best crash avoidance technique known to drivers. Advantageous lane choice is what makes steering to avoid a crash much easier than slamming on the brakes, accompanied by the hope of not being rear-ended. The right lane on a two-way, same direction, street is normally the safest lane. There are circumstances which alter this decision. Several pedestrians walking on the side of the road create a much greater hazard than lateral vehicular traffic. The left lane is often a better position when there is a middle lane left turn allowance, a five-lane configuration.
The most common crash is the rear-end collision. The likelihood can be avoided by making sure the vehicle lights are illuminated. It will create the illusion of closeness and have those following take more notice of traffic ahead. The head-on crash is the most fatal crash. The same principle applies. When the headlights of oncoming vehicles are illuminated, drivers are much less likely to attempt a pass on a two-lane road.
It does not matter which driving circumstance exists, all drivers are susceptible to the mistaken belief they can perform actions quicker. Time seems to pass more quickly when we are in the act of doing. It does not seem to matter which question is asked. How many hydro poles will it take to pass another vehicle on the highway? How many seconds will it take? How many seconds will it take to do an unobstructed left turn at a standard sized city intersection? In every situation a driver will be much more likely to estimate lower than the time needed. New drivers are much more susceptible to be guessing lower than higher. The result of this misjudgement can be disastrous on the road.
New drivers with no practical experience often ask this question. What makes it go? It is a genuine inquiry, but it should be a secondary question. What makes it stop, is the most important question. It is the most important task to master on any first driving attempt.
Covering the brake at the approach to any stale traffic light is the best way to warn traffic behind and execute a not-so-predictable stop at an intersection. A driver can communicate with others by various means and can even communicate with the traffic light switching mechanism, a magnetic sensor. Who knew?
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.