What in the world is Nicky talking about this time? When people say someone has their head buried in the sand, they are claiming that the person is ignoring obvious facts or refusing to accept advice, hoping that simply denying the existence of a problem will make it go away. The ostrich doesn’t really do that ……. just dumb people we see frequently on our highways!

As most of you know, my belief is that the most important safety Nick-2015precaution while driving is keeping an adequate “space cushion” between you and the vehicle ahead. You know, at least three seconds between the back of the vehicle ahead and your front bumper if you’re in a car. Increase that distance for weather, trucks, buses and larger vehicles. That rule does so much more to provide a safety net for you.

When you can see far enough ahead to recognize that traffic is slowing down, it gives you the opportunity to reduce your speed with it and stay back far enough, not to crash, as well as, slowing down enough that the vehicle behind can also gradually decrease speed without hitting you.

So many people follow too close. Day after day we watch motorists, doing 120 kph, follow each other with about 25 feet or 7.62 meters behind the vehicle ahead. If you can see about three or four hundred feet ahead, you may be alright because you have a chance to see brake lights coming on at that distance. If it’s a van style truck in-front-of you, that you can’t see around, you haven’t got a chance.

red van By Bruce Outridge

So, where are their brains? For some reason, most humans figure that they are smarter than the other guy. Those that drive in the far left, or far right lanes, think they have a way out. No problem! If that guy jams on his brakes, I’ll just slide down the space to the left (or right) of traffic and be able to safely stop there. WRONG! Everybody else is thinking exactly the same thing and will be over there, piled up with you.

Furthermore, those vehicles ahead already crashing are going sideways into those vacant spaces that you hoped to use.

Concentrating on looking through the rear windows and front windows of the vehicles ahead is another one. Yep, you can generally see through the windows of the first car ahead but, beyond that, you cannot gauge how much or how fast traffic is slowing when looking through that glass.

I spoke about a “van style” truck. Tractor-trailer, a straight job, or cube van, they are all the same. At three hundred feet (92 m) ahead of you when going 100kph, you can see around them. You can see cross traffic blowing through a stop sign. You can see a child chasing a ball into traffic. You can see obstructions still ahead of them on the shoulder that you know they will have to go around. You can make adjustments for the lit-up emergency vehicles and towing units ahead. Gain speed on that van and it becomes closer. The closer it gets, the less you can see of those hazards. Think about those flatbed tow trucks with the sharp edge just in-front-of your windshield. What a way to lose your (and your passenger’s) head! Swift decapitation. – not nice for anybody.

Do you know the thing about driving three-seconds behind the other guy? You are traveling at exactly the same speed as he is. Those that get frustrated driving behind you will pass, and when they do, they will get just as frustrated with him and pass him too. Did you ever watch the rapid lane changers? As I said, everybody thinks they are the smartest.

If you are currently one of those drivers I talked about earlier, you’re going to find that 3-seconds seems like a long time. Believe me, it’s not. If you try it and then do it consistently, you will find a whole new driving world opens up to you. One of relaxation, comfort, and calmness about your driving. You will be able to see so much more, have time to make choices and have the most information going into any situation.

Yes, they will jump into spots ahead of you but, they generally leave very soon after, either exiting the highway or passing the guy ahead.

I always asked my students to practice this method for 33 days in a row. A dumb number, I know but, long enough for it to become a habit. A habit you’ll likely stick to for the rest of your life. Depending on your ethnic background, there are people you never want to get overly close too. Most North Americans want to stand about a foot and a half or two feet away from others. It’s the same thing here. You’ll never feel safe again following closer than this margin you’ve set for yourself.

One piece of advice: as you will seldom have to “hard brake” with this method, always be prepared for that fast action when it is needed.

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

About the Author

Your Old Uncle Nicky’s Opinions

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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