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Toronto, Ontario, Canada
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Thursday, February 14, 2013

Collision free driving – is it possible? Part III: Be predictable to other traffic

Of course not. There are situations when you can’t possibly avoid a collision. But you can limit the chances of a collision by your behaviour behind the wheel. As the all-knowing Car Guru, I’m going to be kind enough to share some tips with you, dear reader, on how to best avoid accidents. Just kidding, of course. What I’m going to do is offer my observations and comments about the errors we all make while driving. After 33 years of driving in a variety of conditions all over the world I have a few.

After keeping a safe distance and being aware of what’s going on around you, being predictable to other drivers as to what you’re about to do with your car next, is probably the most important general collision avoidance practice. Being predictable to others is all about feeding other drivers information about your driving plan. The idea is that if they know what you’re going to do next, they should be able to avoid hitting you. It’s such a simple thing, yet it escapes many, many drivers.

Let’s talk about speed here first. As you’re probably aware, I don’t pray to the “Speed Kills” gods, but being reasonably predictable to others overrides anyone’s wish to maintain a speed that’s much higher than what it usually is on a given stretch of the road. I mean if you’re driving a Lamborghini Gallardo (that’s a Gallardo model I’m holding in the picture), you can probably go faster by 30 – 60 km/h on a average road and still be safe. Or you can even drive well over 200 km/h on some stretches of the 401 outside the city zones in 0 traffic and away from on-ramps.

But blasting down a school zone at 30 or 40 km/h over the limit is just plain stupid and no other users of the road can reasonably anticipate such behaviour. Even if they see you in time, they will likely assume you’re driving much slower and might still do something to cause a collision. So maintaining a safe speed is not just about the speed limit and keeping a safe distance but also about giving others around you a chance to properly assess your velocity.

And this is not necessarily limited to other human users of the road. If you’re familiar with Highway 60 near Algonquin Park, you know that driving fast at night during moose mating season is suicide. And the road there is very tempting for enthusiastic driving, with fast curves and excellent surfaces. If you’re not familiar with the road, don’t go driving there at more than 20 km/h over the limit. If a moose doesn’t kill you, the OPP will make sure you slow down. The last time I drove the 155 km stretch from Barry’s Bay to Huntsville, I counted seven black & white Crown Vic’s hunting for city fools on the way to their cottages.

One much underused communication tool we have in our cars is a turn signal. For some reason, in our “slow down” driving culture, we decided that signaling turns and lane changes is an unnecessary bother. Even when we use our signals, we tend to turn them on while we’re turning not well ahead of time to give others a warning.

Generally speaking, we should start our turning maneuver by turning the signal on first before we even begin slowing down. What do most of us do? Well, we slam on the brakes first and we flip the signal on while we’re turning the steering wheel. It’s just that much more convenient, you know…

So check those turn signals and other lights on your car to see if they function properly on regular basis. No, I’m not asking you to “inspect” your car all the time, but turning your lights and four way flashers on and walking around your car may be a good idea every once in a while. You can even kick your tires at the same time. One technique I use is; if I park somewhere where I can see a reflection of my car’s front or rear (like in a store front’s glass or another car), I will check the car’s lights and signals.

Another very common error I see drivers make is pulling up parallel to the car next to them when they try to change lanes. They pull up, turn the signal on, and expect to driver next to them to slow down or speed up to let them in. Not a smart plan, since the driver text to them can’t see their turn signal and can’t possibly guess their intentions! You have to make sure the driver next to you knows what you’re doing. Better yet, just try to get behind that driver instead of if front of him as most of us for some reason do. I see it all the time. I may have more that 200 meters of empty lane behind me, yet some driver will always try to get in front of me when changing lanes and they are surprised and/or angry when I don’t let them in. Why do they do it? Simple: they don’t know what’s behind them, only what’s in front of them.

So keep your distance, be aware of what’s around you and be predictable! Stay safe my friends!

1 comment:

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