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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Simply for safety

Why follow the rules of the road — or avoid distractions?  Why know and maintain your vehicles?  Why strive for precision driving?  The answer is simple:  for safety.

With a traffic death count of nearly 40,000 annually, over 100 drivers lose their lives on American roadways daily.  These deaths occur from drivers’ lawbreaking, inattention, lack of skill and poor judgement.

Self-preservation is a worthy motivation for driving well.  Following the rules of the road will keep you from getting tickets, but drivers must reach higher.  Rules of the road are designed to help vehicles interact safely with one another in a predictable, efficient manner.

Mayhem may ensue when drivers ignore or reinterpret established laws.  For example, if a driver uses left signals for right-hand turns, accidents may result.  That’s an extreme example, but it demonstrates how simple driver errors can lead to big problems.  A more common foul-up is no signal use whatsoever, which may not only lead to wrecks, but road rage.

Varying speed is another hazard stemming from rule neglect.  Traffic flows safest when every vehicle in proximity is travelling the same speed.  When 98 percent of the traffic is near the speed limit, one percent is going way faster and one percent is going way slower, accident potential grows.  There is a reason for speed limits other than providing ticket revenue.

At uncontrolled intersections, law provides for the driver of the vehicle on the left to yield right-of-way to the driver of the vehicle on the right if the vehicles arrive at, or approximately at, the same time.  Flow at such intersection moves most efficiently when this proviso is observed.  Drivers ignoring this procedure and attempting to supersede the law by “waving ahead” drivers to their left, are reducing safety.

Full attention to the driving task is of paramount importance to safe driving.  To effectively handle unexpected occurrences, drivers must not lose focus for a moment.  Studies show that cell phone conversations while driving are just as distracting as dialing or texting.

Independent agencies have cited research showing that those who talk on their phones while driving increase their chances of having an accident by four-fold.  That pileup propensity is roughly the same as it is for a driver above the legal intoxication limit from alcohol consumption. Please pull off of the roadway to make calls on your cell phones.  Anyone can drive and talk on the phone, but the diluted attention compromises your ability to drive competently..

If your mind is up to the task of driving, it’s nice to know that your vehicle is too.  Your tires’ trustworthiness, engine’s responsiveness and the stopping power of your brakes all depend on you.  Either you or someone you trust must track and perform scheduled maintenance of your vehicle.  The owner’s manual has a scheduled guideline to follow.  For unscheduled maintenance or breakdown, establish a trusted source for repairs.

Learn as much as possible about your car or truck to help you in both operating and maintaining it.  Knowing the mechanics and physics of what is happening when you apply the throttle, turn the wheel, or “hit” the brakes will make you a better driver.  Such knowledge will also help communication with repair technicians.

For safety’s sake (mine, if not yours), strive to bring precision to your driving.  Obviously, not everyone is paying attention on our roadways — don’t be one of them.

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