Steve Wallace: Professional tips for better, safer driving

Here are some examples of my own unique professional driving pattern, and why I use it.

I like one-way streets and travel on them whenever possible. They are safer than two-way streets for several reasons. The possibility of a head-on collision, the most deadly of crashes, is greatly reduced. Left turns can be made without the threat of oncoming vehicular traffic. Greater care can be given to pedestrians and other modes of transportation. Special attention should be given to passenger side doors opening unexpectedly. That is why I always try to stay away from travelling in the immediate left lane except for setting up a left turn, and opt for the middle or right lane in such a configuration.

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I do not teach driving on Friday afternoons, and very seldom drive personally on that day. After being rear-ended four times in 20 years on a Friday before a long weekend, it has become my habit to be off the road during these highest-crash-incident days.

I pay special attention to certain types of vehicles. I avoid driving in close proximity to rental moving vans. There are certain companies that have been criticized for the extremely poor mechanical condition of their fleet. The people who rent these types of vehicles only have to possess a regular class 5 licence and are seldom familiar with controlling such a big truck or trailer. I doubt very much whether many of them have driven anything bigger than a small sedan. They usually have a huge load to transport and are not fully appreciative of the braking time and distance necessary to stop safely. Tying down such a load in order to avoid it shifting while in transit is not something a novice rental driver would think of doing.

Drivers who do not drive with their headlights on inadvertently pose a threat to others. They are known to have a much higher crash rate than the average driver. I try to give them additional space. All new vehicles sold in Canada since 1990 must light up when operating. It is easy to spot older vehicles or visitors, usually from the U.S., because they do not have daytime running lights. When drivers look at oncoming vehicular traffic, they are apt to notice only those with front running lights. To make matters worse, the pre-1990s vehicles are seldom kept in top-notch mechanical condition, and are usually driven by a disproportionately high number of younger and older drivers, the highest crash demographic. I like to follow drivers who have their tail lights on. They are more noticeable and are generally professional drivers in their personal vehicles.

Parking lots are the most crash-prone locations in virtually every city in Canada. Most involve backing out. Whenever I am parking in a large urban lot, I try to pull through and do not use reverse gear. Backing into a space is a good practice if a drive-through space is unavailable.

Roughly 80 per cent of vehicles are occupied by a driver only. When parking, I like to position my car so as to be in a corner space where only the passenger door of the other vehicle will be a threat to damage mine.

I drive space, not speed. Wherever possible, I choose to drive in a lane that will allow for an escape route rather than a boxed-in panic-stop alternative. Most drivers do not have a clue as to how far it takes to stop in an emergency. A rear-end collision is the most common threat to drivers and their passengers. Having an escape plan makes sense when there is a rear-end threat.

Do you have a unique driving-pattern tip? Let me know.


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

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