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Driving well takes effort

Operating the steering wheel, brake and accelerator pedal is easy, but coordinating them for successful driving takes a bit of effort.  The good news is that virtually anyone can master the task by applying appropriate effort to the endeavor.

If anyone believes I take driving too seriously, I’m compelled to mention the one hundred plus lives lost daily in our country by vehicle death.  We all make a mistake now and then, but little mistakes cause accidents.  Accordingly, we must minimize driving errors, learn from those foul-ups, and not repeat them.

My standards for rating drivers are not all that lofty, but I see plenty of bad driving even when simply considering the basics.  Those shortcomings are no big deal until an accident happens — then it’s evident that small errors can trigger crashes.

For example, failure to signal when turning is a small error.  It’s a big pet peeve for drivers, though, and the cause of accidents daily.  In fact, according to legal sources, it is on the main list of court-determined accident fault.  That list includes:  failing to signal, disobeying signs or signals, driving above or below speed limit, disregarding weather or traffic, and driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.  Human error is the main factor in over 60% of accidents.

This is why the “nut behind the wheel” is the most important safety component of an automobile. 

I wish more drivers employed the effort that golfers do in mastering their task.  Hitting a ball, like operating a car, is something nearly everyone can do.  Hitting a ball on the golf course in an effective manner, however, takes instruction, concentration and practice — as with driving a car effectively on the roadway.

Golfers seek instruction throughout their lives — even the pros.  Practice is unending for successful golfing amateurs and professionals too.  Shedding distraction is a must — no one attempts a tee shot, even with a hand-free device, during a phone conversation.  To do well, golfers must know their clubs, know the rules, practice, and concentrate.

And so it should go for driving — drivers must know their vehicles, know the rules of the road, practice, and concentrate.  It seems to me that driving a car should be taken at least as seriously as driving a golf ball.

A driver and vehicle must be “one”.  Be familiar with all of your vehicle controls and their functions.  Get to know a new, rented, or borrowed vehicle before embarking — test the operation of the high/low beam switch, and the location of the indicator light; know how to operate the heater and air conditioning controls; get acquainted with the sound system.

Realize if your vehicle is front wheel drive, rear wheel drive, or all-wheel drive — understand and test its unique handling characteristics.  Keep your vehicle well maintained, and frequently monitor tires, fluids, and lighting.

There are lots of them, but if you are uncertain about a road rule, check the Driver Guide published for your state, or the Vehicle Codes.  Over my driving years, each time I’ve been uncertain of a road rule, I’ve gone to the state or municipal Uniform Vehicle Codes for a clarification.  That information is available in libraries and on the Internet.

Think of each vehicle outing as an opportunity to practice and perfect your driving behavior, performing each operation skillfully and in accordance with the law.

Readers may contact Bill Love via e-mail at precisiondriving@spokesman.com.