How many of you would go years without updating your Smartphone, tablet or laptop? I think, not very many. Commodore 64, anyone? And yet, most drivers will go from age 16 to 80 without ever updating their driving skills or knowledge and they don’t give it a second thought. Driving is probably the most dangerous thing you do in your whole life (bungee jumpers excepted) and you don’t need an update? Come on! Are you still driving your first car?
Unless forced to attend by the courts or an employer, most will never take a driving course of any kind throughout their driving years. Many, never have a problem and that’s great. Perhaps, they don’t drive far either.
Many never realize that they ARE the problem and many never realize that (according to crash risk statistics) they are about to have a really big problem. (Often involves statements like “death” or “maimed for life”.) That’s not so great!
Apparently, from some of the responses I’ve been getting, the general public are reading my stuff. I want to spread as much of this as I can, to as many as I can, in hopes of keeping all people safe on our roads. I have assembled a few tips that might just help those of you who have no intention of ever taking that refresher course. My best recommendation, if you can? Go to “SKID SCHOOL”!
DEFENSIVE DRIVING is driving to avoid collisions: “driving to save lives, time, and money, IN SPITE OF the conditions around you and the actions of others.” -National Safety Council
SPACE CUSHION: Maintaining a safe reaction and stopping distance behind the vehicle ahead. Nicky’s recommendation in a car under ideal circumstances – 3 seconds.
When the back bumper of the vehicle ahead passes a stationary object on the side of the road, begin counting “one-thousand and one”, “one-thousand and two”, “one-thousand and three”. If your front bumper passes that same stationary object before the word “three”, you are too close. Back-off and begin your counting again. Do that for 33 days in a row and it’ll become a habit.
KEEP YOUR EYES MOVING. Make a habit of moving your eyes to see things far off in the distance, up close in front, from side to side and alternate to your mirrors every 5 to 8 seconds. Knowing what’s all around you can provide you with that correct evasive maneuver in the proper direction when it’s needed.
FORCED INTO A NARROW SPACE? When you think you are being forced into a space that is too narrow to fit, and can’t stop, look up at tree level and keep going. You may be surprised to find that you drive precisely into the middle of the opening, in many cases getting through unscathed. Your peripheral vision will keep you centered. No peeking down at anything at ground level, though! Keep looking up until you are clear.
ALWAYS LOOK TOWARD WHERE YOU WANT TO GO! For whatever reason your vehicle begins to lose control swaying to one side or the other, always keep looking at where you want to go. You’ll automatically steer towards it and chances are that you will end up there. No matter how tired your arms get from fast steering changes, NEVER GIVE UP!
IF YOU CRASH!
ALWAYS stay put in your seat, buckled up until you are sure everything else around you has completely stopped. Resist the urge to get out of your vehicle until you KNOW it’s safe.
BRIGHT LIGHTS IN YOUR EYES? Intentionally look down along the right edge of the roadway until the lights pass. It will momentarily blind you but, will keep you safely within your lane. Your eyes will readjust to the darkness quicker again once the lights have passed.
DRUNK DRIVERS OFTEN DON’T GET HURT! The reason is that they remain loose before the crash. If you see that a crash is inevitable, loosen up before the impact. You’ll have less severe injuries. By the way, the same thing applies if you fall while walking. Loosen up on the way down and roll. You’ll be less likely to hurt yourself.
NEVER CROSS YOUR LEGS AS A PASSENGER! A frontal impact will hit the crossed leg first and snap your pelvis instantly. The same goes for resting your FEET ON THE DASH. An activated airbag will drive your knees into your chest breaking your sternum or severely smashing your face.
FORCED INTO A GUARDRAIL – STICK WITH IT. If you are sideswiped and driven into a metal guard rail, try to steer slightly in, to stay along the guardrail. Your vehicle is already smashed and you are likely unhurt. You don’t want to be spun out into traffic to be “T-boned” by those behind who will try to avoid you.
A second type of guardrail (known as a “Jersey Barrier”) is usually made of concrete, has a lip along the bottom edge, and sits beside a wide shoulder lane. This lip is designed to keep you traveling in the same direction on your own side of the highway rather than fly over the barrier. If you catch that lip. it will cause your vehicle to roll over to the right. Your snugged up seatbelt is now your best friend.
COUNTRY INTERSECTIONS – 2-LANE ROADS. People often use country roads to avoid traffic. As well, drunks and thieves, in particular, use them to avoid the cops.
There are certain hazards you need to be cautious about:
Stopping on a gravel road can take a much longer distance than on pavement.
A yellow diamond-shaped sign indicating an intersection ahead is telling you not to pass.
Many drivers making a right turn from a country road will only look to their left and then pull out onto a main road without stopping. If you’re passing someone on the intersecting road, you are now in the direct path of a “head-on” collision.
Never expect large farm equipment to stop, signal or share the road. Stay away and let them clear. If you’re following slowly behind any piece of equipment, make sure your 4-way flashers are on.
RAILROAD CROSSINGS CLOSE TO HOME – DANGER! It seems that the closer railroad crossings are to our home, the more dangerous they become. We become so accustomed to not seeing a train on local crossings that we become blasé about them. We are more likely to pay attention to crossings when away. By the way, property beside all rail lines is private. You can be charged with trespassing.
SOME RAILROAD CROSSINGS HAVE GATES. If you are part way across a set of tracks and the gate still ahead of you comes down, drive on to break through it and avoid being hit by the train. Most gates in Canada only block the one side of the road that traffic is expected to come from. Remember, almost every set of rail warning lights or gates you see means that, at least three people have died at that crossing. That was the criteria to erect crossing warnings at one time.
THE 2ND TRAIN!
Every railroad crossing with more than one set of tracks in Canada and most in the US are marked with the number – ( 2 TRACKS, 4 TRACKS, etc.) Many people have been killed when they are impatient waiting for a train to pass and start away when the last car clears. A second train, coming from the opposite direction, arriving at precisely the same time has killed many people.
People have died by trying to race a train. At a double-crossing, they die perhaps differently than what you might expect! All eyes in the vehicle, including the kids while cheering the driver on, are watching the only train they are aware of right up until the last second. Thinking they have beat it, they proceed on to the tracks. Never thinking of a train coming from the opposite direction, that’s the one that kills whole families.
RAILROADS – Something to note: If you come across an incident at a rail crossing, there is a 1-800 number and the crossing reference number painted on, either the back side of the RR crossbuck warning or on a little (usually painted silver) signal building near the crossing. This number connects directly with the railroad and by giving the crossing number, you can warn those in control.
SAVE YOUR BABY! Learn to back-in and drive-out of driveways.
Your Old Uncle Nicky Note:
This is a little longer than my normal post but, there are so many of these tips that people never learn that I wanted to shove a few more in. THERE ARE NO GUARANTEES! Perhaps, it can save somebody. Maybe, even you. Many, many more tips exist in driving courses.
Possibly, I can tantalize you a bit by checking out some of my previous general audience posts. Articles like “Attitude”; “Iceberg Road Rage”; “Road Aider”; “Tire Failure” and “Who’s There? at:
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