Good Driving and Being a Safe Driver

Here is a quick multiple choice question for you:

A Green Light means that . . .

A)  It is Safe to Go
B) It is Legal to Go
C) Both A and B

I know someone who was recently driving after they answered “C” to the above question. They came to an intersection, went through a Green Light, and were immediately hit on the right side by a drunk driver.

They had to be air lifted to the hospital, and of course their car was totaled. The hospital stay resulted in thousands and thousands of dollars in expenses which were not 100% covered by Health Insurance. When they looked at a lawsuit for the at fault driver to try to recover some of this money, they determined that it would not help much because that person did not have any money.

If it is not clear from the story I am telling, the answer to the above question is NOT C. The answer is mostly B, but even there it is possible for it to not be legal to go on a green light, such as when a policeman is controlling the intersection.

I believe strongly that it is the responsibility of every driver to avoid an accident if humanly possible; and not just to avoid ones that would be our own fault. There is never a good time to be in an auto accident . . . it always seems to come out of the blue, when we are least expecting it, and when we were really needed somewhere else, not at the hospital.

There are several habits that folks can get into that can greatly reduce the chances of ever being in an accident. I will outline some of them here, and I am hopeful that these will cause some new thoughts and ideas for the reader.

1. How to treat intersections.  Most non-freeway accidents occur at or near intersections.  If you are driving a stretch of road where there is no intersection then you are safe on the left and right and can worry only about the front and back.  I never go through an intersection even on a green light at full speed until I can see what is happening on both sides up ahead.  If there are trees or bushes that block some of that view then I will slow down until I can get the full view before I enter the intersection.  The safest case is if there are cars already stopped there on the right and the left in all available lanes.  Those cars would provide a buffer against a drunk driver coming behind them.

The scarier case is if there are not any stopped cars on the right and left.  This allows free reign for a drunk or distracted driver to plow right through that red light because there is nothing physically there to stop them.  What I am saying is that if there are no stopped cars on the left or right the danger level goes up about 100%.  I slow down for these situations.  If someone is drunk or distracted coming from the left or the right at 60 mph then they do not have to be very close to the intersection when you enter it to hit you before you get through it.  I will not proceed through until I know that I can see both directions and there is no one there or the ones who are there are slowing down and stopping.

Folks mostly remember to check to the left before making a right hand turn . . . but do they remember to check the oncoming Left Turners?  How about folks coming from the Right who are trying to do a U Turn?  How about a bicycle on the wrong side of the road?

How to guard against Rear End collisions.  The number one thing to do here is allow space.  If we pull up too close to the car in front of us then we have no room to manuever if an emergency comes up . . .  I always stop where I can see the back tires of the vehicle ahead, and I watch what the vehicle behind me is doing.  If they are not going to be able to execute a stop, then I want to know about that before they have hit me.  With a little room in front of me I may be able to get out of the way.

Another aspect of this is following distance on roadways and freeways.  Physics says that the closer you are to the vehicle in front of you, the less time you would have to act if that vehicle stopped suddenly.  I heard of another accident recently where a confused driver cut across traffic from the left lane of a two lane freeway to get to an exit.  The car right behind them was able to stop in time, as was the car behind that one, but the driver of a truck coming behind them appears to have hit the gas and the brake when trying to just hit the brake, and they plowed into the second vehicle which pushed it into the first stopped vehicle.  The original driver who caused all of this was not hit, and made his exit.

Could that have been avoided by drivers one or two?  The best chance for doing so would have been in having a good following distance from the vehicle in front thus allowing for more time to react and slow down.  Then seeing in the rearview mirror a vehicle coming that is not slowing down, if there is enough room in front (because you had a good followng distance) then you may be able to pull to the side and get out of the oncoming drivers path.

The chances of having an accident are greatly reduced if you are not near other cars.  This comes into play when driving on highways.  I will take an example of what I observe on I-45 between Houston and Dallas.  This is a heavily traveled interstate.  There are regularly large packs of cars who are all packed tightly together as all of them try to get past all the other ones.  Get a big tractor trailer in the left lane and then it is a real snarlup. 

I like to not be in those packs of cars,  preferring instead to hang back if I need to or get ahead if I can (without getting stuck in a big pack).  I often find myself driving with a pack of cars up ahead of me, another pack of cars behind me, and me there with no one else around.  This gives me plenty of time to react if something happens to the pack of cars in front of me.  Something to think about.

Last thing I want to mention.  If you are trying to turn right onto a bigger roadway and someone is coming from the left with their right turn signal on so they can turn onto the street you are on,  what are the chances that they will actually make this turn?

A) 100%
B) Less than 100%

Of course we know hopefully that the answer is “B”.  I will not go until they are fully committed to the turn.  Even them slowing down is not always a good enough indication for me.  Also I want to know if the driver looks distracted if I can see them.

We are all really busy and none of us has time for the pain and suffering that comes from an auto accident.  Time and effort put into being a safe driver is a really good investment. 

Let me know what you think?  This page is open for comments below.


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