Saturday, October 10, 2009

Driving mantra Part 6 - Use your eyes properly.

If you really want to stand a chance of driving smoothly, you need to look way further ahead than the car in front. Some people will suggest looking at the vanishing point but I find that takes too much of the near-field away from me. Instead I recommend you watch the car in front of the car in front. That gives you an early warning of what is coming up. If that vehicle suddenly brakes, then it's a good bet the vehicle in front of you will do the same. If you've anticipated this by already slowing down, then you've bought yourself more time and road space to do something about it when the next car in line does the same. The same goes for swerving or emergency moves. Can you see the lane is closed up ahead some way? Then change lanes now. Don't wait for everyone in front to do it - just because they can't see any further ahead than the tip of their own steering wheel doesn't mean you should follow suit.
In a related note, get used to the relative size of pedestrians as you're driving. This sounds a little odd at first but think of this: is that person in the road in front of you an adult who is 100m away or a child who is 30m away? Making the wrong choice could be disastrous and anedotal evidence suggests that this could be a contributing factor to the number of children hit by cars. People are so used to thinking in terms of adult size, that their interpretation of a child standing in the road is actually that it's an adult standing much further away. That mistake fools them into believing they have more space for avoidance than they actually do, often with tragic consequences.
Finally, don't get distracted. Your cellphone isn't that important. Neither is the in-seat DVD, the navigation system or the climate control. You are at the wheel of a 2-ton weapon and when you get distracted you become dangerous. Keep your mind on the job at hand - driving - and if you must take a cellphone call, find somewhere to pull over and do it. Your time and convenience is not worth more than the safety of roads users other than yourself. However simple and safe car manufacturers make it seem, driving is a complex task with life-threatening consquences when you get it wrong. Treat it as such.

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