After 16 years and hundreds of columns submitted, changes at the Spokesman-Review are coming. As of July 25th, I will no longer be writing of driving topics for this publication.
Over the lengthy run, I have thoroughly enjoyed dissecting and discussing rules of the road, driver behavior, pet peeves, local traffic issues, vehicle maintenance and more. Reader feedback has been rewarding and always welcome as a source of column fodder.
It’s hopeful that these columns have resulted in added awareness by readers of the driving task — and maybe even played a role in thwarting accidents, injuries or death. I believe driving is a privilege — one that everyone can enjoy successfully given due effort
In fact, physical operation of modern vehicles with automatic transmissions and driver assists is so easy that virtually anyone can master it with practice. But that mastery is only part of the formula for trouble-free driving.
Good drivers must also study rules of the road and be mentally equipped for all of driving’s variables — traffic, weather, or unpredictable actions of other drivers for example. And it doesn’t hurt to gain some knowledge of how vehicles work and how they are maintained.
Overall, full attention while driving is the best defensive driving tactic. That’s not always natural, since much of our driving experience is relatively uneventful — lacking necessary emergency action. As a result, drivers can become complacent and not be ready ready for a vehicle suddenly appearing with its driver acting unpredictably. That’s why drivers need to combat tendencies to distraction and stay alert even when things are uneventful.
Over the time of this precision driving column, the main source of distraction has gone from rubbernecking at roadside events to fiddling with one’s phone. As if talking on it were not enough, the popularity of texting has brought device distraction to a new level. Even talking on the phone (hands-free or not) robs drivers of cognitive attention to driving, but texting does that and actually takes the offender’s eyes off the road for several seconds at a time.
So, in a quest to avoid distraction, please avoid phone and other electronic device use while driving. It’s always best to pull off of the roadway and stop to use your phone.
Given full vigilance and attention to your driving, there are a few other qualities good drivers share. A full knowledge of road rules is paramount. If you question what is right according to the rules, the state and municipal vehicle codes are available for research. The Driver’s Handbook published for each state (the one aspiring drivers use to study for the driving exam) spells out the basics. Beyond that, every state has a Website where drivers can obtain specifics about the laws governing vehicles and their operation — the same is true for exceptional rules for each city. It pays to know the rules — especially if you are cited and wish to make a court challenge.
The freedom and convenience of individual transportation via the automobile has proven to have a mighty strong appeal. No wonder — all we have to do is turn a key (or push a button these days), step on a pedal and steer to wherever we wish to go, near or far. But retaining that luxury depends on doing our best to do it well — please do so.
Readers may contact Bill Love via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.