While teaching my kids to drive, I used to ask them, “Do you want tombstone to say: I had the Right-of-Way”? Unfortunately, this expression has become only more relevant today due to the lack of defensive driving practices and walking practices. Everyone is taking our lives in our own hands whenever we drive down a street or walk in a crosswalk.
Consider these facts: There are a lot more people trying to get to various places. Consequently, the available space is quite a bit smaller. Driving today oftentimes is like riding a bumper car, only worse because the consequences are real. Moreover, the vehicles operated today are much heavier than those driven in the past. Bigger, heavier vehicles reduce injuries in vehicle to vehicle crashes but substantially increase injuries to pedestrians, motorcyclists, bicyclists, scooter and skateboard riders when struck by a vehicle. Close to 6,000 pedestrians were killed in accidents in 2017 alone. That figure is almost twice the number who perished in 9/11!
Perhaps the biggest reason there are so many more and unfortunately more serious accidents today than ever before, is because there is a lot more ignorance about the rules of the road, safe operating practices and what it means to be a defensive driver or pedestrian. Driver’s Education has not been taught in schools in a generation and private driver’s education is expensive. In California if you are over 18, only 6 hours of driving education is required before you can take the 20 minute driver’s test to obtain a license!
Additionally, many of the drivers on the road today, grew up in other states or countries with markedly different driving conditions. Coupled with all these hazards, is the fact that everyone is either driving or walking around with a cell phone within reach, just like any other body part.
What is a defensive driver or pedestrian? It is someone who waits a few extra seconds before proceeding. It is someone who assumes the other driver or pedestrian did not see them and is not aware of their presence. It is someone who always grants the other person the right of way when arriving at the same place at the same point in time.
Here are some basic defensive driving/walking tips:
- Do not drive or walk while impaired from drinking or lack of sleep.
- Do not text while driving or walking.
- Don’t eat while driving or walking. (Drinking with extra caution is okay.)
- Apply Murphy’s Law-anything that can go wrong will go wrong. Assume the other person has no clue what he/she is doing. This will allow you to better anticipate your response to the other person’s actions.
- Communicate with Others- Use your turn signals well in advance of any movement. Make eye contact with the other person before proceeding.
- Remember every vehicle has blind spots- assume the other person can’t see you and let them pass.
- Keep your eyes on the road or path ahead of you-be vigilant in observing what is in front of you and frequently scan the perimeter conditions too.
- Check your mirrors often and routinely if you are driving.
- Leave yourself some room for failure-don’t try to stop on a dime. Give yourself some space and have a back up plan in mind if Plan A doesn’t work.
- Always consider and reevaluate road and weather conditions- these are constantly changing variable conditions.
- Be extra patient in parking lots-they are very tight spaces, visibility is reduced and remember it is difficult to hear electric cars.
- Overcheck when driving or walking in an intersection – be aware of all traffic signals and any unusual hazard signs.
- Understand required stopping distances for your vehicle as well as the other vehicles around you.
Practicing these defensive driving and pedestrian techniques will increase your ability to respond to hazards on the road and reduce the probability of your being involved in an accident! These tips will allow you to enjoy the journey, knowing you are well prepared for the road ahead.