Plan ahead to cut hazards on the road
By Steve Wallace, Times Colonist, July 5th 2013
The relative risk each driver faces on a daily commute has a lot to do with where we drive. The route a driver chooses will have a dramatic effect on his or her crash rate.
Here are some tips to stay away from high-crash situations on your daily drive.
Shopping-mall parking lots are the highest crash locations in every municipal area of our country. Try parking in a space that’s on the periphery of any well-used lot. You may have to walk a little farther to the mall, but your vehicle is less likely to be damaged if it is at the end of a row with only one vehicle beside it. Always park so you are close to an exit for easy access to the street.
Blind corners abound in parking lots. Backing into a spot or using a drive-through space will eliminate the necessity to back out. People who work in the auto-insurance industry have been using these tips in parking lots for a long time. They are well aware of the hazards.
Drive familiar routes to and from work, recreation, entertainment and other locations. Familiarity does breed contempt, but it also gives most drivers a degree of confidence. When I drove a bus, it was always easier for me to take a route that was consistent with my own daily working routes. Make sure you make the most advantageous lane choice. Choose a driving lane that allows for an easy lateral escape in case of a threat from front or back.
Avoid left turns wherever possible. The more left turns a driver makes, the greater the risk of a crash. If a left turn must be made, make sure it’s from a flashing-green-advance-arrow left-turn lane. When I am unfamiliar with a traffic system, I try to make only right turns to arrive at my destination. It may take a little longer to get where I am going, but the safety factor is increased significantly by eliminating the left turn across an oncoming lane of traffic. Good taxi drivers use this technique. Their passengers are much more comfortable when they are not exposed to oncoming traffic as the taxi driver does a left turn.
I like to drive on one-way streets, which are safer than on a two-way traffic grid. Traffic flows more easily when there is no hold up to accommodate left-turning vehicles. Taking a route that includes one-way streets ensures safety and stress-free driving. When doing so, however, be very cautious when travelling in the immediate left lane. Passengers are much less careful than drivers when they open the car door after parking on the left side of the street.
Emergency personnel often avoid trouble spots when they are off duty. Police, firefighters, paramedics and tow-truck drivers are all well aware of the high crash areas in their local jurisdictions. Every municipal and regional area in our province has a top-10 fatal-crash-site map that is available to the public.
The crash locations for every geographical area are published each year by authorities such as the highways ministry, insurance corporations and health regions, and groups such as automobile associations. Always check to see if you are frequenting these high fatal-crash areas or intersections. It’s a good idea to alter your route to avoid these identified sites. If it’s not possible to do so, try to drive at non-peak hours. Fewer vehicles yields fewer crashes — a good rule to remember.
Steve Wallace is the owner of Joan Wallace Driving School on Vancouver Island and in the Central Interior of B.C. He is the former Western Canadian vice-president of the Driving Schools Association of the Americas and a registered B.C. teacher.