Even a small car
driven slowly has more energy than the most powerful
firearm yet, routinely, things are done with them that are so dangerous
that if the equivalent were done with a firearm a severe prison
sentence would be inevitable. Most unsafe driving is not done
by the irredeemably reckless but by ‘ordinary folk’ either having a
lapse of concentration or, more usually, simply not realizing how
dangerous they are being. Both can be dealt with by
prevent a lapse in concentration, though the
development of good motoring habits can help reduce the consequences
from an accident to a scary ‘wake-up call’. Fundamental to
this however, is attitude.
become a ‘safe driver’. All you can do is
to be safe, now.
easy, all-purpose, formulae which automatically
guarantee safe driving. At all
times you have to use your personal judgement.
fundamental to judgement, and relaxation is fundamental to
awareness. Here are some points about the realities of
driving which might help you differentiate between what you can do and
what you would like to do, which is essential if you are going to have
a more relaxed journey.
1. MATHEMATICAL FACT -
to reduce the duration of any journey (driving,
walking, cycling) by 10% - a measly 3 minutes in a 30 minute drive - it
is necessary to increase your average speed by a staggering 50% over
almost a third of your journey - i.e. 40mph must become 60mph, 70mph
must become 105mph. Generally speaking, it can’t be done. Why
2. OBSERVED FACT -
ever wondered why your regular journey always takes
about the same length of time whether you drive fast or slow?
Mainly it is because of (1) above, but it also due to things over which
you have no control - the traffic density and what happens at lights,
roundabouts, crossings and junctions generally. Why rush?
TAILGATING - to
keep at least two seconds away from the car in
front, wait until it passes over an identifiable mark in the road then
say, ‘One thousand, two thousand.’ If you are still talking
when you pass over the mark, you are too close, ease back.
Increase your count to three or four thousand in wet or icy weather -
you must use your judgement at all times.
4. MATHEMATICAL FACT -
if someone cuts into the two second gap you have
left, ease back until it is two seconds again. This will add
only one second to your journey time.
– we each have a ‘personal space’ about us which,
if intruded into by strangers, causes a reflex physiological response,
(flight or fight), usually anxiety and alarm. We have no
control over this though we do have control over what we do with
it. It is the same when we are in our cars, hence the
disproportionate anger caused by tailgating and close cutting-in.
Keep away from other drivers - not only the two second gap
when driving, but also when stopped – you should be able to see tyres
and tarmac. You’ll notice the difference.
6. RED LIGHT AHEAD -
charge up to it and slam your brakes on, or take
your foot off the accelerator and roll up to it nice and
easy. Either way makes no difference to the duration of your
journey but the latter is far easier on both you and your car.
Often you will find you are still moving when the lights
7. PHYSIOLOGICAL FACT
- shining a bright light into someone’s eyes
makes the pupils contract and reduces their ability to see less well
lit objects (pedestrians etc) and to judge distance and
speed. Dipped headlamps are thus not intrinsically safe but
intrinsically dangerous, a danger which is increased by the fact that
bends and bumps routinely throw a full beam into the face of oncoming
drivers. Being a hazard to other road users they should only
be used when failure to use them poses a greater hazard i.e. when you
need them to see where you are going, or in fog or spray where other
vehicles come into view before you see their sidelights.
use headlamps just
because it is night time, overcast or raining - you
must use your judgement at all times.
DRIVING SKILLS - do
not confuse skill in handling a car – good
driving - with good motoring. It is always a good thing to
improve your car-handling skills but high-speed manoeuvring, skid
control etc are rarely needed. Skilful motoring consists of
being aware of other road users - assessing and anticipating what they
are going to do and thinking about how your actions will affect them.
9. SPEED - your speed
in miles per hour increased by a half is your
speed in feet per second: e.g. 40mph = 60feet/sec. Halved, it
is your speed in metres per second: e.g 40mph = 20
metres/sec. A second is about one heartbeat.
10. SOCIOLOGICAL FACT
- we generally treat each other as we are
treated, so SMILE, you sonofabitch!
11. ‘SPEED KILLS’ -
this unhelpful and inaccurate ‘buzz phrase’ is used
instead of proper driver advice, not to say, rational
thought. It should be ‘inappropriate speed is dangerous’ but
this, though accurate, lacks literary verve and is difficult to wag a
patronizing finger to! It is true that the higher the speed,
the less time there is to make decisions, the greater the stopping
distance, and the greater the damage done on impact (this being
proportionate to the
speed). What kills, however, is not speed, but
coincidence - two objects in the same place at the same time.
Consider, you hit something at 30 mph, and are piously advised ‘if
you’d been travelling slower this wouldn’t have happened.’
Quite true. But it wouldn’t have happened if you had been
travelling faster either. If you had been doing 28 mph or 32
mph for just one minute before the time of the collision, you would
have been 180 feet away from where it happened!