FINE-TUNE YOUR DRIVING FUNDAMENTALS

November 12, 2012 by  
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Following distance is key. Always leave at least 3 – 4 seconds of distance between your vehicle and the one in front. If the roads are wet or slippery, you should double your fol­lowing distance. To determine your following distance, select an object on the road ahead such as a sign, tree or overpass. When the vehicle ahead of you passes the object, slowly count “one- one thousand, two- one thousand, three- one thousand…” If you reach the object before completing the count, you’re following too closely.

Scan ahead. Look down the road ahead of you for a distance of 8 – 10 seconds. In the city, that’s about one block and on the highway, it’s about 1/3 of a mile, 4 city blocks.

Keep your eyes moving. The drivers’ seat is a 360-degree environment, with potential hazards in front, behind, and on all sides. Many fleet safety programs recommend a “full mirror sweep” every 5 – 6 seconds. If a vehicle suddenly appears in one of your mirrors without you noticing its approach, you’ll know you are not shifting your eyes frequently enough.

Watch your speed. The faster you are driving, the less time you have to react to sud­den moves by other drivers and the less time other drivers have to react to you. Always observe the speed limit and slow down to accommodate traffic and road conditions.

Be predictable. Avoid quick acceleration or sudden turns. Controlled, gradual maneuvers give other drivers more time to adjust.

Give your brakes a brake. If you’re scanning ahead properly, you should only need to use 30% of full braking power for non-emergency braking situations. If you find yourself braking hard, you need to increase your following distance.

Look for mixed signals. Just as “body language” may contradict what a person is saying, when the “body” is that of a vehicle, it can also provide valuable information about a driver’s true intentions. For example, a vehicle may have its left turn signal on but its wheels are turned to the right.

Send the right signal. Experts recommend that you activate your turn signal for 3 – 4 seconds before changing lanes or making a turn.

When not to leave a problem behind you. If someone is tailgating you or a check in the rearview mirror tells you they may be distracted by tasks unrelated to driving, move over when it’s safe to do so and let them pass.

Have an escape plan. Avoid driving directly next to another vehicle for any length of time. Traveling too long beside another vehicle reduces the number of opportunities to move to one side to avoid a collision. Also, when coming to a stop or when stopped, leave enough room between you and the vehicle in front of you to pull out of your lane in the event the driver of the car behind you shows no signs of slowing down.

Give motorcyclists extra space. Motorcycles can stop much more quickly than cars or trucks. If you’re following a motorcyclist, increase your following distance to give you more time to react in case of a sudden stop.

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