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


Back to basics

Certain basic driving behaviors most affect our safety.  A periodic assessment of how well you know and practice these behaviors is a worthy endeavor.

Always be aware of the speed limit and operate your vehicle near or at the posted speed.  Differential of speed among vehicles is a contributing factor to driver ire and accidents.  I believe that many drivers could not tell you the current speed of their vehicles upon impromptu questioning.

Regularly monitor the speedometer, especially when not using cruise control.  Drive with the flow of traffic, and adjust vehicle speed to road conditions.  Stay in the far right lane within the speed limit unless overtaking another vehicle, moving left to allow a merge, or preparing for a left turn.  If a vehicle is tailgating, don’t speed up but rather slow down or move to the shoulder to encourage a pass.

Remember that from a statistical standpoint, risk of death from a traffic accident is doubled for every 10 mph of speed over 50 mph.

Be ready to yield right of way to another vehicle even though they may not have the right to it.  A vehicle running a red light may not have the legal right to do so, but an accident can ensue if you do not accommodate their failure.

At every intersection, driver instructors suggest looking left, right, straight ahead, then glancing left and right once more before proceeding into intersections.  This not only insures vigilance, but delays passing through the intersection by a second or two, helping to compensate for stop sign or red light runners.  Also, many drivers do not observe the “yield right of way to vehicle on right” rule at uncontrolled intersections.

When waiting for traffic to clear before making a left turn, keep wheels pointed straight until the turn is initiated.  This is a small thing that has often become a big thing in the event that the left turner is rear-ended.  If the wheels are turned during such a crash, the turning vehicle is pushed into oncoming traffic.

Maintain a proper following distance at all times.  At lower speeds, keep at least a two-second distance behind other vehicles by observing them passing a stationary object then counting (one-thousand-one, one-thousand-two) until you pass it.  Your following distance should be enough to count to two before you pass that same object.  And at freeway speed, a distance allowing a three-count is optimum.

Drivers are dealing with perception time, reaction time and physical braking distance to allow for emergency situations.  Adding up the time it takes you to recognize a danger, to get your foot to the brake pedal, then for tire adhesion to effect a stop at freeway speed is substantial.

Scan well ahead of your vehicle for debris, slowing traffic or other obstructions on the roadway.  I think the warning signs to watch for deer are good reminders, but intermittent posting is not enough — with the ubiquitous presence of wildlife and potential havoc caused when striking one, warning signs should be permanently affixed to vehicle dashboards.

Make driving maneuvers legally and predictably, and always signal your intentions even when you think no one is looking.  In fact, you’ll likely drive better if you always assume someone is looking — especially if you assume that the person looking is an officer of the law!

Readers may contact Bill Love via e-mail at