Hello again, fellow drivers!
Here’s the third installment of my “Driving Tips” series, inspired by our Grandson, Michael’s request for some of the pointers I picked up (often the hard way) during my fifteen years of driving inner city buses, as well as a long lifetime of driving in general. Michael, by the way, just passed his driver’s exam, and is a licensed driver. He says these tips helped. I certainly hope so. He’s precious to us all.
The three tips I’m going to give you today have in common, “space”- as in the distance you need to keep between you and other vehicles on the road. Some of them may be new to you, or not, but I hope they will prove useful. You, too, are precious to somebody.
-When stopped in traffic, always leave enough space between you and the vehicle in front of you to allow you to change lanes without backing up.
This is one not many people think of, judging from what I see out there. In stop and go traffic, or at a red light, don’t snuggle up to the rear bumper of the car ahead. Instead, leave yourself enough room to safely change lanes, if you need to. This one comes in particularly handy when the person stopped in front of you tardily puts on his left turn signal (or shows that he’s going to turn without signalling at all- thus earning a special place in driver’s Hell). If you’re too close, you’re stuck until he moves unless you back up, which is not a good idea. If you’ve left yourself room, you can go around him, traffic permitting. A small, “beep” is permitted, as you drive away, but refrain from single finger salutes, however justifiable. Those often do not end well.
-Whenever possible, do not travel with the pack. Maintain room for unexpected behavior, lane changes, etc, by other drivers.
You might already be doing this, but it’s good to be conscious about it. Some law of physics or another says that two objects cannot occupy the same space at the same time, so it follows that staying away from other objects- mobile and, for that matter, immobile- is a good idea. Traffic permitting, stay out of “clumps” of traffic. Let yourself hang back. Don’t drive side-by-side with another vehicle, if you can avoid it. Stuff happens, and it can happen fast, and you’re likely to come out of it better if you’re twenty feet from the other car, rather than six feet.
While we’re on the subject, keep an eye out for erratic drivers, and stay far away from them. I’m talking about drivers who are having trouble staying in their lane, or who slow down to fifty, and then suddenly speed up to seventy, and then back down again. Chances are good that the driver is impaired, somehow- drugs, alcohol, or just a very poor, distracted driver, and you don’t want to be anywhere near them because you don’t know what they’re going to do, any more than they do. Some people advocate for calling the Highway Patrol, to report an erratic driver; others point out that doing so can embroil you in some legal consequences. Use your best judgement, but give them a wide berth, and if you’re feeling charitable, pray they get home without hurting anyone.
-Allow more follow space than you think you need.
This is one of those “ho-hum” things that you got in Driver’s Ed (do they still teach Driver’s Ed? I hope so.), or had to memorize for your driver’s test. It may seem ho-hum, but I guarantee, there is nothing that will scare the crap out of you like suddenly realizing that there is a wall of red tail lights ahead, and you’ve been following too close.
Do I have to even say anything about tail gating? I hope not, but I’ll do it, anyway: do NOT try to intimidate or “push” the vehicle in front of you by riding his back bumper! I’ve spoken earlier, and I’ll say more, about “freeway warfare”, and it demonstrates nothing more than a lamentable level of immaturity. If you do it, stop it. Thank you.
The best, and generally used, formula for follow space is what’s called the “Three Second Rule”: pick a focal point that is parallel to the car in front of you, such as a building or road sign. You then count the seconds it takes you to arrive at that same road point. If you are under three seconds, then you are following too closely and must ease up in order to avoid a collision, or potential pile-up. Practice this one (starting with knowing what “three seconds” is like); make it a habit.
Note that this is a minimum requirement. Add a second or two for increased safety. Once you get used to it, you will notice that your driving experience is much more relaxed, because you’ve given yourself another few seconds to react to what’s ahead, and that makes a big difference. This one can, literally, save your life.
So, that’ll do it for today. I’m enjoying passing these tips along, and I hope you’re enjoying reading them. Please drop me a line, with questions and comments. I’ll be happy to respond. Remember that we’re here to care for one another, and one of the best ways to do that is to drive safely.
Until we meet again, happy trails to you. -Buffalo
John Brownson, MFT, (“Buffalo”, to his friends) is a Counseling psychotherapist in private practice, based in Emeryville, in San Francisco’s East Bay. He works with individuals, couples and affinity groups of various kinds, to make the world a better living place.