Scanning the Road
Sometimes we take driving for granted. With each uneventful drive we make, we begin to let our guard down. We start picking up bad habits like zoning out and staring at the bumper of the car in front of us. The problem with this is driving is always potentially dangerous and a routine drive can change in the blink of an eye.
A big part to driving defensively is using your eyes. A defensive driver actively scans the road ahead, checks to the left and right and glances in their mirrors regularly. Continuous eye movement will increase your awareness and give you more time to react in a hazardous situation. In addition to watching around your car, it is also good to look farther down the road. By spotting problems early, you will have time to make necessary adjustments in advance to avoid them.
Center Left-Turn Lane Use
If a street has a center left turn lane, you must use it to when making a left turn or U-turn. As the name would suggest, a center left turn lane is found in the middle of a two-way street. It has two yellow painted lines on either side, broken lines on the inside and solid lines on the outside, and is used by traffic traveling in both directions. The center left turn lane is not a passing lane and you may only drive for 200 feet in this lane.
To turn left from this lane, signal, look over your shoulder, and drive completely into the center lane (do not leave any part of your vehicle blocking the traffic lane). Also, watch for vehicles coming toward you in the same lane, preparing to start their left turn. Wait in the center lane until a gap in the traffic allows you to complete the left turn safely. If you are making a left turn onto a busy street, you may enter this lane to complete your turn before merging into traffic.
As a young driver, I was under the false impression that you could “whip a U-turn” whenever or wherever you wanted, as long as it seemed reasonably safe. Wrong. I found out the hard way when making a U-turn on a sharply-curved road. A cop pulled me over 5 seconds later and gave me a $225 education that I will never forget. The lesson learned? LEARN THE RULES OF THE ROAD!
Click the image above to test your knowledge!
Next time you ‘need’ to make a U-turn, remember these helpful hints:
DO make U-turns here:
- Anywhere on residential streets where you have a clear view for 200ft in both directions
- On city streets (business districts), always go to an intersection to make your U-turn
DON’T make U-turn here:
- In the middle of a city street
- On any street that you can’t see clearly for 200ft in both directions
- At an intersection with a “No U-turn” sign
- In front of fire stations
Traffic Control Signals
Traffic lights help drivers navigate roadways in an orderly fashion. However, sometimes lights depart from the standard procedure and might leave you wondering what to do.
If you see a Flashing Red signal light, treat it like a STOP sign. Stop completely and proceed when it is safe to do so. Don’t forget to follow the right-of-way rules.
If you see a Flashing Yellow signal light, treat it like a YIELD sign. Slow down and be prepared to stop for cross traffic.
Taking in the Big Picture
A big part of defensive driving is scanning the road. Not just looking for hazards ahead of you, but also being aware of what is going on to the sides and behind you as well. When scanning, your eyes are continuously moving from side to side, ahead and in your rear-view mirrors. Take short quick glances to take in the big picture and be aware of and regulate potentially hazardous situations before you find yourself in a predicament.
First off, you should make sure to properly adjust your seat and mirrors before you start driving. You want to make sure you have as wide a field of vision as possible to the back of your vehicle when looking into the rear-view and side-mirrors.
Second, remember these three instances where checking traffic behind you is of great importance.
- Backing: When backing it is best to back up as little as necessary as you are more likely to hit something because your visibility is limited. Before you back up check your mirrors and look over your shoulder as you reverse. Keep your speed as slow and safe as possible.
- Changing lanes: Before you begin your lane change, always look over your shoulder after checking your mirrors to confirm that there are no vehicles hiding in your blind spot. This is also good to remember as part of moving over to curbside park or preparing to make a right turn.
- Slowing down quickly: Stopping suddenly can put you at high risk of being rear ended by another motorist. Make sure to check your rear-view mirror when forced to brake harder than usual. This is a good reason to have a safe space cushion between you and the vehicle in front of you.
Get in the habit of utilizing your rear and side view mirrors more consistently. The greater your ability to comprehend what is going on around your car, the safer it will be for you to drive.
Motorcycle & Bicycle Awareness
May kicks off both Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month & Bicycle Safety Month. With only two wheels, motorcycles and bicycles are less stable and require the rider to have great handling ability. They are much smaller and harder to see than other vehicles on the road. Consequently, motorcycles and bicycles are more easily hidden or missed by other drivers. Also, they don’t have the same protection as an automobile driver, making any type of collision or wipeout serious or fatal.
What you may not know is bicyclists and motorcyclists have the same right to ride on the road as other vehicles. Furthermore, they are subject to the majority of laws that all other drivers are required to follow. As a driver, don’t forget to always check your blind spots every time you change lanes or prepare to make turn. Remember to consider a bicycle lane the same as other traffic lanes. Also, do not try to pass a bicyclist until it is safe to do so allowing ample room between your vehicle and the rider.
As a motorist sharing the road with others, it’s crucial your defensive driving strategies include being aware of other types of vehicles in your driving environment.
Cool New App for Your Mobile Device
Got a new driver in the house? Or maybe you’d like to test your driving knowledge? PhDMV is a cool new App for iPhone and iPad that helps new drivers prepare for the written permit test. The PhDMV app is not your average drivers ed app. Besides offering practice tests that mimic the CA DMV permit test, it also provides a fun new twist on the old classic hangman game. Hangdummy helps teens learn the rules of the road while trying to keep the Crash Test Dummy in one piece. Learn more about how you can get the free app for you or your teen at DriversEdApp.com.
New Year, New You
It’s a brand new year and that means New Year’s Resolutions. Here are five driving decisions you can take to heart in the year ahead.
- Pay Attention: Texting and driving is getting a lot of attention, which is good because it is bad. But it is also good to note that anything that takes your attention away from driving is dangerous, whether it is talking to a passenger to grabbing a snack.
- Take Your Time: We all have places to be and a time to be there. However, the important part is to actually get where you are going. Give yourself plenty of time. Speeding is not an answer. And, if you are running late, be late.
- Strap In: Seat belts save lives and take very little effort or time to fasten. Buckle up every time you are in a vehicle. Your life could depend on it.
- Heed the Signs: Traffic signs and signals are on the road for a reason. They tell us when, where and how fast to go. They also more importantly tell us when we need to stop. So be attentive and obey the signs.
- Be Courteous: Remember we all need to share the road. Showing courtesy and respect to everyone on the road helps ensure that we can all arrive at our destinations safely. Use your turn signals, don’t tailgate, and don’t weave in and out of traffic.
Have a happy and safe 2015!
Name That Movie
America loves cars. America loves movies. So what could be better than combining the two? Take a trip down memory lane and see if you can name the movies that featured these memorable cars. If you get stumped, there’s also a quote from each movie as an added clue.
1963 Volkswagen Beetle
“You don’t understand what happens, do you? They make ten thousand cars, they make them exactly the same way, and one or two of ’em turn out to be something special. Nobody knows why.”
Mutt Cutts Van
“Pullover!” “No, it’s a cardigan but thanks for noticing.”
1981 DeLorean DMC-12
“The way I see it, if you’re gonna build a time machine into a car, why not do it with some style?”
1959 Cadillac Ecto-1
“Everybody can relax, I found the car. Needs some suspension work and shocks. Brakes, brake pads, lining, steering box, transmission, rear-end.”
1978 VW Van
“Oh my God, I’m getting pulled over. Everyone, just pretend to be normal.”
1986 Chrysler Town & Country
“I know it’s not pretty to look at….but it’ll get you where you want to go.”
6) The Love Bug (1968) 5) Dumb & Dumber (1994) 4) Back to the Future (1985)
3) Ghostbusters (1984) 2) Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
1) Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987)
Vehicle Control and Recovery
Driving too fast for road and weather conditions can result in loss of car control. In today’s blog we will discuss what to do should you hydroplane or have a fishtail skid.
Hydroplaning occurs when you travel too fast on a wet road causing water to build up between your tires and the road. When you lose contact with the road you no longer have control of the car.
When you begin to hydroplane, do not slam on the brakes. Take your foot off the accelerator to gradually slow down, allowing your tires to regain contact with the road and restore vehicle control. Abrupt actions, like braking or yanking the steering wheel, can make the skid worse by putting your car into a spin.
A fishtailing skid is when the rear end of your car begins to slide back and forth because your back wheels lose traction with the ground. If you encounter a fishtailing skid you should:
- Take your foot of the gas pedal.
- Remain calm and keep a firm, steady grip on the steering wheel.
- Turn the steering wheel in the direction you want your vehicle to go.
- Try steering only enough to stop the skid, but you may need to counter-steer until you have regained control of the car.
Also, in both situations, if you are driving a car with manual transmission, the clutch should be disengaged when you take your foot off the accelerator.