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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Autos

How am I driving?

If every vehicle had the familiar sticker on the rear asking, “HOW’S MY DRIVING?  CALL 1-800-000-0000,” I’d make a lot of calls — and the answer would often be, “NOT VERY WELL.”  But to make those calls, I’d thwart my own attempt at precision driving by talking on the phone constantly.

Actually, the commercial vehicles carrying those stickers are piloted by some pretty good drivers.  If that’s all it takes to make people drive better, then I’m all for more stickers.  But instead, I believe that those drivers are better because they are fleet drivers — drivers who, as a result of their many miles driven, are exposed to traffic situations over and over.  If they don’t interact properly, accidents and job loss will ensue.

I suppose that most drivers don’t think that they’re part of that “not very well” category, but my observation differs.  You’re only as good as your last successful outing, and maybe that wasn’t even as good as it was lucky.

Here’s a self-test for your next drive.  When you travel through a steady green light, where is your vision focused as you approach?  Most drivers — including me when I have an attention lapse — have their head pointed straight ahead, eyes focused down the road.  If this is your habit, you are in potential peril.

I’ve had enough driving exposure to learn that the concept of drivers running through steady red lights is not just a theory.  When you proceed gleefully through your green light without backing off a bit and checking traffic both ways, you are playing intersection roulette.

So the next time you drive, pay attention to how you handle green light or other right-of-way intersections.  I know that a lot of otherwise good drivers sail right through with eyes fixed ahead — I’ve ridden with them.   Even with the pressure I put on myself to look, I sometimes forget, and gamble on clear passage.  Maybe young drivers, infrequent drivers, or those who are lucky have never experienced the terror of a red-light-runner appearing in the periphery of their vision.

But I’ve sure learned from the few times it has happened to me — panic stops, where every loose item in the car ends up on the floor and your heart ends up in your throat are terrifying.  Besides that, the lout running the light is usually speeding, so they literally come into your vision out of “nowhere”.  Normal speed light runners are hard enough to miss, but if you’re unlucky enough to be entering the intersection when someone is evading the cops at 100mph, even due vigilance might not save you.

Clear passage is not guaranteed just because your light is green, and even an extra side-to-side glance might not be enough to avoid a collision in extreme cases — but it will improve your chance of survival.  I believe that most two-car collisions involve two inattentive drivers — if I’m always attentive, it improves my odds.

You don’t need to foul up traffic flow by hitting the binders at every green light, but to be safe, you must lift your lead foot, glance left and right and ready yourself to stop in case a blip appears on the radar.  You must, that is if you want to survive this driving thing long term.

For improved safety, let’s all pretend that our vehicles are sporting a “HOW’S AM I DRIVING?” bumper sticker, displaying our phone number. 

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