“ROAD AIDER” by Nick Nicholson


The opposite of “Road Rage” is “Road Aid” We’ve talked about the “rage” aspect where a driver overreacts to his or her own sense of entitlement. Horrifying crashes have been the result. What if we all drove so as to aid other drivers instead of impeding them. Chances are that we’d be safer ourselves.

“Aiding” is just enabling other drivers to see or be aware.  I have made it a goal to avoid crashes and prevent others from ever experiencing tragedy. I try to be a “Road Aider” when I am on the highway, one of my favourite activities.

What is Old Uncle Nicky going on about this time? Well, it’s like this. I try to drive and pass on in my classrooms, that drivers should take action allowing others the best chance of avoiding collisions. That, automatically, leaves us safer. Those drivers do have to be sharp enough to spot it, though. Prepare for the ID-TEN-T factor. There’s always an ID10T!

The very first rule? Try never to allow yourself to get into a position where you need to “PANIC BRAKE”. We already know the world around us follows too closely, therefore, we need to adjust for them.

Part of the “Think Safety” statement that I promote regularly, pertains to using what I see to advise others. A big example is following the traffic ahead at a distance where I can still see things happening in advance. Following any type of large vehicle, for instance, you can’t see around it if you’re too close.  Being back at least three seconds (car) allows one to see around that vehicle for signs of change.  It might be a sudden movement, children playing, a dog chasing a ball, a dust cloud from somebody going off the road, a light flash or brake lights that warn me of danger. Back-off gradually so that traffic behind also has a chance to slow down safely. Using 4-way flashers provides an early warning for them.

If I’m driving a larger vehicle and can see over other traffic, I give an early warning the same way. Be ready to hit the 4-ways!

How about when you are following traffic on a 2-lane road and somebody ahead signals a left turn.  Automatically, I move to the right so drivers behind me can see that person’s left signal well in advance of stopping or turning. Now, they also know what’s going on ahead. The same applies if somebody is trying to see ahead to pass.  Move over so they can have a better view of what’s ahead. When they are beside me passing. I’ll back-off slightly to allow them space to get back in if they need it. Remember, a crash beside you will include you.

Car drivers in heavy traffic tend to look through the back and front Nick-2015windows of the car ahead to see developing situations. One problem –  they are all doing the same thing with the same solution in mind. If something happens ahead, because they already know they’re too close, their plan is to go off the road or lane to one side of the vehicle ahead.  They are surprised to find other drivers have filled in that vacant space. Now, they can’t stop in time and are forced to hit something. Creating a greater space allows both you and those following to stop.

Indications, away off in the distance can sometimes warn you of trouble. Smoke above trees ahead could warn you of a fire. You know traffic is going to slow even if it is just to gawk at the distraction. Start slowing down early. Remember, when around any distraction, ignore it and stay focused on your driving.

There are certain things you can predict on a highway and make space adjustments. A vehicle with a mattress sticking up tells you that it’s moving day. Expect them to make sudden, last-second, across your path, lane changes when the passenger announces that this is their exit.

Campers, boat/snowmobile trailers and RV’s predict that the driver may not be familiar with the area. The spouse in the front seat is searching along the side for a sign, gas station, restroom or a restaurant. Again, unsafe reactions to sudden instructions and you’re cut off. Allow space.

Expect a driver of a vehicle with a house trailer to cut short across in-front-of-you, forgetting that they have a trailer attached. That’s particularly bad when they are pulling out onto the roadway from an intersection. They forget that the tow vehicle reacts slower than normal and that the trailer will take longer to get out. Some only drive that vehicle configuration twice a year. To a vacation, and back.

Anything with 4-way flashers tells you, they are about to do something different. Be ready for them. Expect anything!

There are many more situations where you can help keep yourself, your family and other drivers safer by adjusting to situations around you.  Your biggest ally is allowing a 3-second space cushion (car – ideal conditions) so that you can react sooner for yourself AND the drivers AROUND you. All you have to do is THINK!

Keep your people safe.
The beauty of life is in your hands.

About the Author

Nick Nicholson, is a retired safety practitioner who spent many years researching the human behaviour factors of driver and pedestrian actions. Specifically, he spent 25 of those years devoted to highway crash investigations, regulatory compliance, the design, implementation and presentation of safety programs. Nick enjoyed many hours presenting professional driver enhancement training to adult participants.

As a long time Fleet Safety Council Member (1988) and the Founding Chair (1992-1995) of Council’s Hamilton-Niagara Chapter, he presents his opinions in hopes of improving the safety knowledge of readers. Nick is a firm believer in human advancement through positive attitudes, solution thinking and the understanding that the beauty of life is always in your hands.

Old Uncle Nicky’s Opinions are his own and in no way reflect the opinions of Fleet Safety Council.

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