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Friday, January 4, 2013

My oldest daughter is of the age where she'll be getting her drivers licence soon. While I'm worried like every parent is about this rite of passage, I wish to impart some wisdom about driving a vehicle. Those of you who don't know, I did some stunt work back in my early days. What I learned then got me out of some serious scrapes. What should have been a fatal accident, turned into a close call.
Driving instructors are going to cover all the basics of defensive driving, and that's a good thing. Here are some rules to live and drive by.

  • Let the other guy go first. The world is full of people who have to get across the road/lane/city now. They speed up, cut people off and try to beat the stop light. They're trying to get where they're going because it's important to them. These folks have a death wish. If you see one of these guys coming up behind you, let them by. Chances are you'll be passing them after the ambulance pulls their broken body from the wreckage... or at least when the cops pull them over.
  • Where ever you go, pad the travel time by 10%. That way you're not one of those guys I mentioned previously.
  • Trust your instincts. If something doesn't look right, don't do it. Many years ago, my new car and I found ourselves at an intersection behind a truck carrying some sheetrock. My girlfriend was suggesting I speed up and go around the truck. I couldn't put pin it down, but something looked out of place. Not really knowing why, I put the car in neutral and took my foot off the clutch, just as the light turned green. When the truck took off, the top layer of sheetrock slid off and landed exactly where I would have been if I had done what my girlfriend wanted me to do. The whole load wasn't secured or tied down. There is no doubt in my mind that sheetrock would have gone into my windshield and ruined my day.
  • Make a decision. A lot of accidents occur because the driver changes his or her mind. Don't be that kind of driver. 'Oh, I want to get off... here.' and slide across three lanes of traffic. Yes, I've seen it done. No, I'd rather take the next exit and double back. If you are going to pull out into traffic, or anything, for that matter, commit to the action 100%. No wishy-washy erratic impulsive driving.
  • Properly adjust your mirrors. A lot of blind spots can be eliminated or reduced simply by adjusting your rear view mirrors. Turn your mirrors so that none of your vehicle is in the mirror. I blame cop shows that feature the good guy on stakeout. We see him in his car, through his side view mirror. That's just Hollywood, folks. In reality, you should place the edge of your car slightly beyond the frame of the mirror. Trust me on this one. It won't eliminate blindspots all together, but 95% will be gone.
  • Always look for the escape route. Make it a game. 'If the guy in front of me were to suddenly go berserk, where would I go? By the same option: adjust your driving so that there is an escape. Somebody's tire can blow and send the car in front of you turning, twisting and screeching. If you've spaced yourself far enough away, you can steer clear of the accident and be the one who got away.
  • Drive with your thumbs next to your hand. What's the first bone in the body to break during a head on collision? Not the chest or ribs, although you might think it's those, but your thumbs will dislocate or shatter before you hit the airbag. (Speaking of which, don't count on an airbag to deploy.) You might end up with a few scrapes and bruises, but even from a small impact, your hands could be bandaged up for a few weeks. You'll lose weight because you will have trouble feeding yourself and forget trying to text someone.
I'll think of some more, but these are the major points I wanted to cover.

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