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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Drive safely to live

We may be driving more for longer distances since airline travel is Covid-affected.  Added exposure makes emphasis on safe driving awareness even more important for survival.  To be safer in our vehicles, we might wear DOT approved helmets, since almost 90% of traffic fatalities result from occupants’ heads striking something within their vehicle.

But I digress — helmets-in-cars are unlikely.  So, since driving is among our most dangerous undertakings that we still have control over, here are some of my favorite safety tips.

A major danger-reducing tact is to take no right of way for granted, especially at intersections.  Whether they are controlled by traffic lights, signage, or nothing, a majority of wrecks occur at these potentially deadly places where vehicles meet. That includes where alleys, driveways and parking lots join roadways.  This caution is most apropos for motorcyclists.  Often, one can live through a cross-traffic hit in a car or truck — not so for auto-to-motorcycle hits.

I never assume the right of way, even if I see a stopped vehicle waiting to pull into my lane of travel from a side street, driveway or parking lot.  Moreover, I don’t expect intersections to be clear when I travel through a green light.  If you test yourself, it’s likely that you sometimes “sail” through green-lights with little regard for potential non-stopping cross traffic.

Red-light runners regularly occur when “your” light has just changed to green. It may be infrequent, but oblivious or impaired drivers do pass through steady red indications, often at higher-than-expected speeds, trying to beat the red.  Consequently, I lift my foot from the accelerator as I approach intersections, making a quick two-way check for fools who might be distracted before I re-accelerate on through.  This cautionary effort beats being T-boned by two-ton projectile.

The easiest-to-use most-effective life-preserving driving tip is bucking your seat/lap belt before putting your vehicle in gear.  When deaths don’t result from heads hitting objects inside the car, they are often due to un-belted occupants being ejected from the car.

Always be in proper mental and physical condition to operate a motor vehicle safely — every safety agency concurs.  That means not driving while impaired by alcohol, drugs or medications.  Also, it suggests avoiding vehicle operation during bouts of fatigue, anger, or excessive stress.

A common caution commercial fleet operators tout involves backing up.  During a typical backup situation, a vehicle has been parked long enough to allow pedestrians or other vehicles to position within a few feet of the parked vehicle.  Backing from a parked position, especially when steering left or right, creates potential hazards for both the driver and bystanders. Consequently, backup cameras appeared a decade ago and became a U.S. mandate in 2018.

Always avoid distracting thoughts and activities that steal necessary attention from the task of driving.  That list includes phoning, texting, rubbernecking, shooing flies, grooming, scolding children, dropping ashes, et cetera. 

Distraction can be disastrous.  I recall being hit by a woman driving an oncoming car as she was stopped and about to take a left turn.  She suddenly accelerated, turned left and struck my driver door exactly as I passed.  She admitted to concentrating on a parking spot on the side street she was turning onto and did not “see” me — though I thought we made eye contact.

Drive safely to stay alive — it will reduce everyone’s vulnerability in the process.

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