Blog: You stink at driving! Heed this advice
The roads are dangerous, peppered with millions of two-ton-and-larger steel machines traveling at extremely high speeds and controlled by an i-Phone consumed, make-up applying, billboard ogling populace.
It’s no wonder that about 35,000 people died in traffic accidents in the United States last year, and more than four million were seriously injured, according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the National Safety Council.
“Americans underestimate the dangers associated with driving because, for many, it’s a routine part of daily life,” says Dr. Frank Belmonte, a pediatrician and vice chair of the department of pediatrics at Advocate Children’s Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill. “What’s especially troubling is the tendency of so many drivers to multi-task behind the wheel. For teens with little driving experience, who may be more prone to use mobile technologies, distracted driving is especially unsafe.”
So I think it’s a reasonable request that everyone responsible for piloting these very successful killers and maimers take a few moments to consider their driving deficiencies and commit to taking a few steps to improve safety on America’s roadways. That said, here are a few pieces of advice my parents offered when I was a 15-year-old student driver.
- 360 Degree Vision. “Always leave yourself an out,” my very sensible dad warned. He preached a not-so-straightforward (in a literal sense) concept – 360 degree vision – that never made its way into my formal Driver’s Ed curriculum. In essence, dad advised, drivers should maintain awareness of vehicles and other potential threats not just ahead but all around, and should anticipate an “out” in the case of an emergency. Constantly check your mirrors – always returning your eyes to the road ahead between every individual check – so that before you need to make a quick decision, you already have an idea of your options. Be aware of closely following or fast-approaching cars from behind, or from the lane over; of drivers that appear impaired or reckless; and identify if there’s a shoulder or pull-off that might offer a safe haven in the event you need it.
- Two Lanes Over. Making a lane change? Mom always reminded that someone else might be pining for the same spot on the road. On the highway or any major thoroughfare, look two lanes over and make sure someone from the right lane isn’t moving to the middle as you come in from the left.
- See Red, Be Red. Things move fast on the highway. And it’s sometimes hard to tell just how quickly things are slowing down. If you see brake lights, dad said, at least tap your brakes. Even if there’s a good amount of space between you and the car ahead.
- Count Out. Speaking of the space between you and the car ahead, why do so many insist on following so closely? This bad habit drives me bonkers, especially when the driver is fiddling with the radio or digging around for some snacks while traveling 70 mph or more! Here’s a tip – not attributable to my parents, but so often ignored that it must be reinforced: Focus on a stationary spot on the road. When the car in front of you passes it, say “zero” and start counting. When you pass that spot, what number are you at? (*Drops mic*) If the car ahead had to for some reason brake hard, and your eyes were off the road for even a second, you’d have smashed right into them.
I’m no saint on the road, and we all know that just by penning this blog I’m about ten times more likely to crash tomorrow than I was yesterday. But driving is a dangerous game, and I see too many hazards on the roads to stay silent.
So my apologies for getting on my soapbox, but at least you were spared 50 more hours with my parents when you had your learner’s permit.
About the Author
Adam Mesirow, health enews managing editor, is manager of public affairs at Advocate Health Care in Downers Grove. A media relations specialist with more than seven years’ experience securing high-profile media placements, he loves to tell a good story. Adam earned a Bachelor’s degree in Public Policy from the University of Michigan. He lives in Chicago and enjoys playing sports, reading TIME magazine and a little nonsense now and then.