Ride-alongs with Washington State Troopers and discussions with others who are serious about the driving endeavor remind me that I am not alone in professing my precision driving agenda. Washington State Troopers I’ve met strive to devote full attention to the driving task, suggesting that others do the same and appreciating those who do.
One reason that maximum attention is necessary for safe driving is that it’s a multi-tasking event in itself. Steering the vehicle in its proper position, using the accelerator pedal to maintain steady and proper speed, using signals, dimming lights, watching and reacting to traffic, checking mirrors et cetera all compete for a driver’s available attention. There is plenty for a person to do while simply driving, without using cell phones, navigation systems and engaging in other distractions while doing it. And a bit of reserve vigilance for emergencies helps too.
Too many drivers don’t look far enough ahead to foresee potential hazards — it’s important to do so to anticipate needed reaction. For example, when you see brake lights illuminate on a vehicle far ahead, try lifting your foot from the gas pedal and placing at the brake pedal. You may not even need to apply the brakes, but you’ll add a margin of safety by being ready to slow suddenly if necessary.
By the same token, using mirrors to regularly track vehicle activity to your rear should be a priority. I have experienced incidents where I pulled out of a traffic line to avoid a rear-end collision from vehicles seen rapidly closing in my mirror. In one instance, the errant vehicle struck the vehicle that had been in front of me before I departed the lane.
Another tip is especially apropos for winter driving conditions. It is never necessary to maintain a vise-like grip on the steering wheel. Winter driving maneuvers must be smooth and gentle — a “death grip” precludes that. It’s important to turn, stop and accelerate in a gentle fashion on slippery road surfaces — a “loose” hold on the wheel helps a driver to relax and accomplish that.
One more caution: Remember that there are many eyes besides those of law enforcement watching you and your driving. These days virtually every motorist carries a cell phone, and during one ride-along I heard one radio alert of an erratic driver reported in that manner. You can all 911 to report observed road rage or other endangering drivers — it’s an exception to the law forbidding cell phone use while driving.
The entire Washington State Patrol organization employs a two-pronged approach to traffic safety based on education and enforcement, which I applaud. Their Website, wsp.wa.gov, contains a wealth of helpful motorist information. Also visit the Department of Transportation’s Website, wsdot.wa.gov, for up-to-date road conditions and views from statewide traffic cameras.
The Washington State Patrol public information office periodically distributes press releases on subjects such as winter vehicle preparation, slippery-surface driving tips, emergency procedures and emphasis patrols (DUI, speeding, distraction and others). I will pass those on to readers as I receive them.
I wish to reiterate that the network of law enforcement officers and their backup personnel are in place to enhance the safety of all drivers. If you strive to drive with precision and within the parameters of the rules of the road, you’ll hardly notice they are there. But always be thankful that they are.
Readers may contact Bill Love via e-mail at email@example.com.