Monday, June 30, 2014

Thinking ahead and being aware.

I recently watched a woman in a giant SUV try to park in a space that was plenty big enough for the car, but she just couldn't do it. It was both hilarious and tragic to watch. Try as she might, she could never get enough lock on the steering to turn the car into the space without kerbing the passenger side wheel. Of course she only had the wheel turned about half a lock because she was doing this one-handed whilst on the phone, but even so, it illustrated a common problem today - drivers who can't think ahead and have no idea where the extents of their own vehicle are.
I see this a lot on my commute. Someone will be coming towards us on their side of the road, and the car in front will veer off towards the kerb because they think the approaching car is going to hit them. Or they'll come across a cyclist in a cycle lane, and instead of giving the cyclists the required 3ft of space (which by the way you can do without getting out of your lane), they'll sit there waiting and waiting and waiting for no approaching traffic, then drive on the wrong side of the road to get around the bike.
Kerbed wheels, dented corner panels, scrapes along the sides of the cars - these all point to people who just have no grasp of how large or small their vehicle is.
The failure to think ahead problem is worse, though. How many times have you seen a lane closed sign coming up, and the person behind you decides the traffic is moving too slow and pulls out into the lane which is about to close? Back in the UK I saw a great example of this 15 years ago on the M4. The outside lane was coned off and everyone was neatly driving in the inner two lanes. As we passed an on-ramp, I watched a guy come down the ramp and spear across two lanes of slow-moving traffic to what I assume was where he normally drives (see last week's post), only to be met by a coned-off lane and a road construction vehicle. The brake lights came on as he batted four or five of the cones out of the way, and his car came to a complete stop when he buried it windscreen-deep under the back of the dump truck in the outside lane.
More recently, the guy who was driving our lunch crowd one day was presented with a closed road and two lanes of stalled traffic. The level of indecision he displayed made me want to get out of the car and walk. Indicate left. Stop indicating. Attempt to U-turn but stop mid way then pull back into the lane. Indicate the other way. Stop. Indicate left again then try to turn right into a side was horrendous.
Look further ahead than the front of your own car and I guarantee you it will make you a safer driver. Watch the traffic, adjust your speed and lane positioning accordingly, and pick your times to maneuver carefully. Above all, use your brain.