Over the years, and miles, during my career as a professional driver, I’ve learned a great deal in regard to safe driving, all of which boils down to this:DRIVING IS A FULL-TIME JOB!The sooner one realizes this simple concept; the sooner one becomes a much safer driver.
See and be seen.Plan ahead for emergencies.Communicate by signaling your intentions.Use warning devices if you must stop on or near the roadway.Control your speed and adjust it to accommodate varying road and weather conditions.Never tailgate.Don’t “over-drive” your lights.ALL bits of good advice?Absolutely, but how many of us are truly aware of these things…ALL the time?
Let’s take ‘em one at a time…
Watch for hills, curves –anything you might have to slow down or change lanes for.Pay attention to traffic signs and signals.That green light which has been on for so long will more than likely turn red soon, so start slowing and be ready to come to a stop.Don’t just speed up in order to get through the light, for doing so is a deadly practice.
Know what’s going on behind and to the sides, as well.Check your mirrors regularly.In an emergency, you may need to change lanes and those mirrors are going to help you…if you use them.You’ll be able to spot overtaking vehicles, see open spots into which you could move, and see things which may help you avoid danger.Use those mirrors effectively (See my article on “Mirrors”) .
Warn other drivers behind you when you see that you will need to slow down.A few light taps on the brake pedal should be sufficient.If you must stop, or travel very slowly, consider using the hazard flashers.But be sure it’s legal.Some states don’t allow the use of hazard flashers in this instance, so check with the local DMV to be sure.Many folks don’t realize how slow you may have to go to complete a turn, so give them plenty of warning by braking early and slowing gradually.
Don’t direct traffic.If you try to help others by signaling when it’s safe to pass, you could cause an accident and find yourself to blame.Want an expensive lawsuit?Then, direct traffic.
If you have to park on the side of the road, be sure to turn on those hazard flashers…especially at night.Other drivers have crashed into the rear of a parked vehicle because they thought it was moving normally, so don’t trust the only tail-lights to give adequate warning.
Your warning devices (triangles, lanterns, reflectors, and/or flares) must also be put in place within ten (10) minutes, so you should know how to set them up and place them properly.By the way, when setting up your warning devices, hold them between yourself and the oncoming traffic so other drivers can see you.
Perception Distance:The distance you travel until your brain registers a hazard.
Reaction Distance:The distance traveled until you actually begin to brake.
Braking Distance:The distance it takes to come to a complete stop.
Total Stopping Distance:Add all three above together.
At 55 MPH, your rig takes about six seconds to stop and your vehicle will have traveled about the length of a football field.Perception distance = about 60 feet.Reaction distance, with an average reaction time of .75 of a second = another 60 feet.Braking Distance at 55 MPH can take another 170 +/- feet.The total distance covered from the time you recognize a hazard until you come to a complete stop adds up to approximately 290 feet.
Weather and road conditions can be unpredictable, so you must adjust your speed for these varying situations.You must have traction in order to steer or brake, and there are scenarios which will drastically reduce it.When driving on slippery surfaces, slow down!On a wet road, reduce your speed by about one-third; on packed snow – by one-half or more; on ice – reduce your speed to a crawl and stop driving as soon as you can safely do so.
On wet highways, be on guard against “hydroplaning”.This phenomenon may occur at speeds as low as 30 MPH, and is more likely to occur if your tire pressure is low or the tread is worn.Remember, it doesn’t take much water on the surface of the road to cause your rig to begin hydroplaning.If it happens, don’t use the brake.Reduce your speed by taking your foot off the throttle and try to keep things going in a straight line.Once you’ve regained traction, keep your speed down.
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