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ASK GARY: How do I safely avoid distracted drivers?

Distracted DrivingDuring the last few months I have been visiting local driver education schools to give lectures on automobile maintenance and safety. One topic I emphasize in particular is distracted driving –texting, talking on the phone, and eating are all extremely common precursors to traffic collisions. And while my primary audience is typically teenagers, this warning applies to drivers of all ages. I am amazed at how many adults I see on the road texting while driving or clearly distracted while on the phone.

Its common sense really –avoid taking your eyes off the road. Avoid any activity that can divert your attention so that you can focus on your driving. Talk hands free if you must talk while driving and do not text. It is illegal for a reason! But even for those of us that manage to keep our eyes on the road, sometimes that isn’t enough to avoid an accident. Here are some defensive driving tips to encourage greater safety on the road. If you feel like you want to hear more about defensive driving after reading through this list, defensive driving schools have programs designed to teach drivers how to avoid collisions. As an additional benefit, most insurance companies will reduce your monthly rate if you take a defensive driving course.

1.  Look around

Most drivers keep their eyes focused ahead of them (and hopefully not on their phone), looking about 5 seconds immediately in front of them. Being aware of your surroundings is the number one rule to defensive driving, meaning it’s best to look further down the road, as well as in all your mirrors to gain a better understanding of vehicles in your vicinity.

2.  Keep your distance

Maintain a cushion of about 2-4 seconds behind the vehicle in front of you, or more if traveling at higher speeds. No matter how good your reaction time is, give yourself more time to respond to danger because the extra time dramatically decreases the likelihood of a collision.

3.  Have an escape route

By constantly scanning the road, you should be able to identify any hazardous places to avoid –in a truck’s blind spot, for example. Think about your plan of action if your immediate path were to become blocked, and position yourself accordingly. The key is to avoid being caught off guard in case of danger –keeping your distance will allow you to better navigate your escape route.

4.  Know your way

By taking the time to know what roads you’ll be traveling, you will be spending less time scanning for signs or, even worse, looking at your GPS. That extra attention is better spent on the road, looking out for other drivers who might not have taken the same care in their plans as you.

5.  Don’t worry about what other people think

This may sound like advice given to elementary school students, but one of the simplest ways to avoid driving aggressively is to ignore the judgment of others, occasionally expressed in the form of honking horns. Driving fast and driving cautiously are mutually exclusive ideas, so be willing to drive slower as long as you don’t disrupt the flow of traffic. At stop signs and red lights especially, don’t be afraid to yield. I’ve noticed that Boston drivers especially tend to run yellow lights, only to have to park their cars in the middle of an intersection –not only is this illegal and inconsiderate, but also extremely dangerous.

More information on how to avoid being a distracted driver can be found here.

As always, drive safe! (and defensively!)


Ask Gary Jaffarian


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