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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883


Dissecting driver error

What causes driver error?  When drivers make mistakes, they often don’t even know it.  Those drivers may not possess a working knowledge of the rules of the road, or may be simply oblivious of their actions.  Other drivers make mistakes and don’t care, while caring drivers recognize their errors, learn from them and strive to not repeat them.

We all foul up at one time or another, so what category are you in?  Beginning drivers might comprise some of those making mistakes and not knowing it, but there are plenty of experienced drivers who seem oblivious.

And some of that may be due to ignorance of road rules, but other cases make very little sense.  Just yesterday, I drove behind a vehicle with a driver who may have been striving for safety, but his actions were counter-productive. 

Sure, there was some snow at the edges and center of the four lane arterial, but avoiding having one pair of tires in the snow is not viable cause to straddle the center line of the two lanes available for eastward travel and create a rolling roadblock by driving 5 mph below the limit.  But on that day, this driver did just that.

I realize that some drivers simply lack skill or confidence, and I adjust my driving actions all the time to accommodate them.  However, if your “winter fear” holds up a dozen cars over three miles for nearly ten minutes on a perfectly usable arterial, I’d suggest staying on the residential streets, or waiting ‘til spring to drive.

Those who make mistakes and don’t know it are bad enough, but those who make them and don’t care are possibly worse.  That’s because these drivers are compromising safety on purpose. 

Habitual speeding, following too closely (both major accident factors), not signaling and failure to yield right-of-way are all common errors of aggressive drivers.  These are the drivers most subject to road rage, so it never pays to try to correct their screw-ups through citizen involvement.  Most of these drivers will eventually be noticed by law enforcement officers who will cite their errant ways with a costly ticket intended to influence their bad habits.

Many of us are among the caring driving group trying hard to avoid errors, but we still make one now and then.   Things like attempting a lane change when someone is already there, catching a curb with our right rear wheel while negotiating a right hand turn, hearing the rumble strips due to straying out of our lane, or not departing instantly from a just-turned-green light are examples of occasional errors.

Such typical blunders are usually due to a lapse in attention.  I’ve always said that driving is not that difficult if the proper level of concentration is devoted to it.

So that brings us back to applying a due level of mental devotion to the task at hand while operating a motor vehicle.  Too many people consider their automobile to be a private sanctuary, and consider time spent there to be ideal for planning a party, deep thinking regarding their life, talking on the phone, texting, reading, shaving, applying makeup, or engaging some other attention-stealing activity.

A good driver must find ways to avoid distractions and apply ample mental capacity to important driving activities such as monitoring speed, following distance, other vehicles in proximity, and potential obstacles.  A successful driver must accomplish all of this in addition to making proper starts, stops, turns, operating interior controls and dealing with passengers.

Driving is considered to be one of the most complex multi-tasking activities we undergo on its own — there’s no good reason to supply added diversion on purpose.

Know your vehicle, know the rules of the road, dedicate your mind to the task and practice precision driving.  Be ready to accommodate miscues of other drivers and avoid those same transgressions yourself.  If you make an error, hopefully it will not be a critical one; you’ll ideally learn from it and not repeat it.

Much of the time, driving lulls us into complacency, but that’s a very bad state of mind to be in when emergencies pop up!

Readers may contact Bill Love via e-mail at