Do We Really Know How to Drive?

Most of the things I’ll be mentioning I’ve either done, seen done or both. I started driving farm equipment at twelve. That means I’ve been operating vehicles for thirty-six years. That may mean experience, but it can also mean complacency.

Automatic Pilot: If you drive a given route over and over again, it’s easy to find yourself at your destination with no clear memory of how you got there. That’s disconcerting. It’s even more disconcerting if you are at a location other than the one you really intended.

When that happens, I find myself concentrating more on my driving than my thoughts for a few weeks. However, it’s something that should be done by every driver for every trip. If something dangerous and out of the ordinary occurred, would we be with it enough to react?

I’m just a Little over the Speed Limit: It occurred to me, as our daughters grew old enough to be observant, that even going a little over the speed limit was a bad idea. They could read the speed limit signs just as well as I could, and the speedometer is not exactly small. If I wanted them to learn to follow driving rules, I had to show them that I felt they were important.

Usually, there is a little leniency when going over the speed limit. In fact, in some areas, the signs are put up at a rate lower than that figured by traffic engineers as the norm. That doesn’t make it a good idea to disobey them, especially if there are impressionable children watching.

Parking Lot 500: Even if the parking lot is paved in bricks, it isn’t the Brickyard. We all *really* have to watch our speed. That’s one reason they have speed bumps. Depending on the rules for that lot, the speed limit is likely to be somewhere between five and fifteen MPH, inclusive.

If you think about it, this is for good reason. There are loose pedestrians in these lots, and their minds may not be on you and your vehicle. There are also likely to be children and not all of them in a cart or holding mommy and daddy’s hands. At thirty mph, you may not be able to stop without taking them out.

Crash Zone: This is something I came up with to explain why I react to some of my husband’s driving habits. I drive a Thunderbird. I know pretty much how fast I can stop at any given speed, and I try to make sure there is at least that much distance between me and the driver in front of me.

It’s a heavy car, and the brakes are adequate but not spectacular. This means I keep a considerable distance. His vehicle has brakes that can stop on a dime and give you change back. His crash zone is a lot smaller. However, when I’m a passenger, it’s hard for me to remember that.

The reason I bring this up is twofold. First, you should know the stopping space needed for every vehicle you drive, and make sure you use that knowledge. Each vehicle is different.

Second, just because you see a nice, big gap between two vehicles does not mean that it is your personal lane changing spot. This is especially true if you plan on pulling in front of me and then slow down. Changing lanes isn’t a problem, as long as you do it so that the driver in the other lane knows what you plan on doing and you don’t pull in and slow down. You could get rear ended that way.

If, like me, you’ve been driving a long time, maybe it’s time to take stock on how well you follow the rules. It may help make your children better drivers and prevent you from accidents and tickets.

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