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12 ways to improve your driving this year

Avoid having to reverse out of a parking space. The red pickup is in less danger of a dent than the grey one beside it.   Photograph By DARREN STONE, Times Colonist

Avoid having to reverse out of a parking space. The red pickup is in less danger of a dent than the grey one beside it. Photograph By DARREN STONE, Times Colonist

By Steve Wallace, Times Colonist, Jan 2nd 2015

If you plan to make a New Year’s resolution to improve your driving habits and behaviour in the coming year, here are a dozen ways to do just that:

1 Get back to basics by parking defensively. About 30 per cent of crashes take place in parking lots. Avoid reversing out of a parking space. Choose “drive-through” spaces. If you must back up, back into a space. Most safety-conscious corporate entities demand it. Professional drivers just do it. It works.

2 Tailgating is the greatest cause of moving-vehicle mishaps. Keep three seconds behind the vehicle ahead. The two-second rule has been expanded because so many vehicles today are smaller and stop quicker. Most drivers do not appreciate the square-proportion reality of braking distance. Double the speed and braking distance increases by four times, not two.

3 Stop means STOP! Complete stops give all drivers more time to notice hazards that may appear from several directions. Most drivers do not stop completely. Doing so can greatly increase safety. Resolve to do it.

4 The right of way should be given, not taken. It is the season of giving. Try it, you’ll like it. Use the “wanter waits” rule. The driver who WANTS to turn left must WAIT for oncoming traffic to clear. The driver who WANTS to enter the roundabout must WAIT for a space to do so. It is a simple, worldwide rule of travel.

5 Light up all year long. Using both front and back running lights is proven to reduce crashes. Drivers think other vehicles that are lit up seem closer than they are, and allow more space and time in dealing with them.

6 The two most deadly crashes are the head-on and T-bone. When threatened by a potential head-on crash, it is best to always have an out. Travelling in a lane that offers an escape route is preferable to being in one that leaves no room to manoeuvre. Steering to avoid a crash is much more effective than braking to do the same.

7 When going through intersections, it is advantageous to have blockers beside you to serve as a protection from the potentially deadly side-impact hit. Choose a personally advantageous lane of travel. The bigger the blocker, the better, particularly when it is driven by a professional driver. Buses make good blockers.

8 Use your four-way flashers effectively. Warn oncoming and following traffic of unspecified perils. Get rid of tailgaters. Communicate with pedestrians, flaggers and cyclists alike. Four-way flashers are fabulous.

9 Use the horn to warn. One tap for moving forward in parking situations. Two taps mean a back-up manoeuvre is imminent. Three taps mean an odd situation, such as a texting driver, phone user or any other unsafe behaviour. The horn should not be used in anger. It is a very effective tool when used to warn or attract attention.

10 Hand signals are the most effective way to personalize travel in a motor vehicle. Everyone reacts better when dealing with an actual person, rather than an object.

11 Lower the window when approaching a railway crossing. More people are killed in collisions with trains than in plane crashes, most years, in North America. Sometimes you will hear the train before you see it.

12 Turn from and into the nearest lane of legal travel.

Those are my 12 suggestions for driving better in the new year, one for each month.

Maybe you have some suggested driving behaviours that I have overlooked. Let me know and I’ll try to cover them in a future column. Your feedback is always welcome.

Steve Wallace is the owner of Joan Wallace Driving School on Vancouver Island. He is a former V.P. of the Driving Schools Association of the Americas, a registered B.C. teacher and a University of Manitoba graduate.





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