No Time to React: Practice Decision Driving On The Road
Safe, accident-free driving isn’t a matter of luck. Rather, it is dependent on the decisions made while driving – usually in the space of three seconds. About 95% of vehicle accidents happen due to indecision or poor decisions on the part of one of the drivers. Only 5% are caused by mechanical failure of the vehicle.
Thankfully, most of us were taught proactive, rather than reactive, driving techniques. Add to that the principles of decision driving and it’s easy to learn to make split second decisions with confidence.
What is Decision Driving?
Decision driving is a positive approach to safe driving where the driver focuses on three principles: what to do, how to do it, and when to do it. This means the driver is aware of the rules of the road, has the skills to drive the vehicle, and most importantly, knows when to apply the knowledge and skills learned through training and experience.
A decision driver recognizes one important fact. Everyone makes mistakes. Other drivers will make mistakes. What is important is the ability to react precisely and correctly to the situation at hand.
Decision Driving Tips
- Look ahead: Give yourself lead time
Focusing your eyes at a distance approximately 12-15 seconds ahead of you will keep the vehicle centered in the lane. It also allows you time to adjust to changing road conditions and to blend easily into the existing traffic. When rounding curves, looking well ahead will prevent you from over-steering the car and weaving out of your lane.
- Get the big picture: Check all mirrors regularly
Sweeping your eyes around will help you size up the environment and furnish you with all the information necessary to make a split second decision. Scan the scene to gauge traffic patterns, notice congested intersections, erratic drivers or cyclists. Check your mirrors every five to ten seconds to keep you alert and knowledgeable about what’s behind or beside you.
- Signal your intentions early
Fellow drivers can only perceive your intentions when you signal. Use your signals eight to ten seconds before you turn to alert the driver behind. At stop signs, make eye contact with other drivers. In heavy traffic or on freeways, tap your brake pedal a few times to alert drivers behind that there is slowing traffic or a sudden stop ahead.
- Plan an escape route
This can be a tricky one. The rule of thumb is to leave a minimum of one second for every ten feet of vehicle length. So, a sixty foot truck requires six seconds of following distance. It’s not always easy to maintain this distance since cars weave in and out of lanes, and tailgating drivers could box you in. Thinking ahead and timing your passing moves may mean the difference between a near escape and an accident.
- Make sure you are visible
Dusk and sunrise are particularly problematic times of the day for motorists. Be sure to turn your headlights on 30 minutes before dusk and off 30 minutes after sunrise. Most new vehicles have headlights that remain on during the day. If yours does not, make sure to use them, especially when you encounter reduced visibility.
It is extremely important to be aware of your surroundings so you can react accordingly. It is equally important to take these additional steps to prepare for, and hopefully avoid, any issues on the road. Remember to drive decisively, and not defensively!