Wednesday, April 27, 2005

 

Safe Driving #8: Signals

Signals are the most misunderstood things on cars. Where else do you entrust your life to the state of a colored light? But thousands do, every day. For example, you are in the middle of an intersection with traffic lights waiting to turn left. The lights turn red. If there's a filter light, you may get a green arrow. You go, right? Only if you believe that the oncoming cars will notice the lights are red, and actually stop. As for me, I don't go until I see the oncoming cars actually slow down or stop. This means I get beeped from behind. So what? Numerous times, my passenger will say, "go on, what are you waiting for!". I wait and sure enough the oncoming car just obliviously blasts through the red light or suddenly sees it and skids to a halt half way into the crossing.

Incidentally, always be thinking 'what-if'. When you're sat in the middle of the road waiting to turn left, the steering wheel should be pointed straight ahead. That way, if you're rear-ended, you'll be pushed forward and not left into the oncoming traffic.

People think traffic signals mean this:

Red. Stop
Amber. Go very fast.
Green. Go

What they actually mean is this.

Red. Come to a halt progressively. Don't see the amber, hit the gas, fail to make it and slam on the brakes at the last minute.
Amber. Unless you're right on top of the traffic signal, slow down progressively and stop. Ignore the idiot beeping from the rear.
Green. If you can see other vehicles have stopped and it is safe, go.

Here's another example of trusting your life to a flashing light: You are waiting to turn left or right out of a side road on to a busy major road. You see a car approaching on the left with a right indicator flashing showing that the driver intends to turn into the road you are emerging from. But is that what it really shows? No. All it shows is that sometime in the past the driver clicked the right turn signal switch. Don't go until you actually see their wheels begin to turn. There's every chance they will have just forgotten their indicator is on, or have turned it on too early.

While on the subject of indicators, a word about large trucks and semis and indicators. These vehicles frequently need a lot of road space to turn. If a semi driver needs to turn right and the bend is sharp, he will actually first pull into the left hand lane and turn right from there (to avoid demolishing a building, traffic signal or pedestrian with his trailer). So whenever you see a turn signal on a semi or large truck in front, remember, it means: I am about to do something bizarre so keep well back and be prepared to stop. To spell it out, if you see a semi turn any indicator on, he may intend to turn left, or to move left before turning right, or to move right before turning left, or to turn right. Or he hit it by mistake while getting his map out.

The three signals from other vehicles you should always take seriously are brake lights and reversing lights.

Brake lights. Absent a wiring fault these come on when a driver covers the brake. Always treat them seriously and be prepared to slow down and stop. A brake light coming on is a single to you that the driver is intending to carry out some type of maneuver.

Reversing lights. At the mall or grocery store parking lot, if the car has them and they are working, these may be your only indication of a vehicle about to reverse into your path.


Revolving or flashing lights. Farmers and building workers operate machinery on public highways as though they were in the middle of a field. Avoid, avoid, avoid.
Comments:
All your driving information is just common sense if anyone had such a thing as common sense these days. It amazes me how many people seem to put their driving on autopilot and hurtle along a multi-lane freeway seemingly oblivious to all the other traffic around them - until it's too late.

I played sales rep in Las Vegas for over fifteen years, driving around the city all day every day. Vegas attracts people from all over the world so you get to see every regional bad driving habit on a fairly regular basis. People drive in, or fly in and rent a car, don't know where they are and how to get where they want to go, but they're finally in the big city of glitz. I call them the "wouldja drivers". They're not paying attention to their driving but are gawking at all the sites. "Wouldja look at that Marge". I managed to get through those years without putting a scratch on a vehicle by practicing just the things you've noted on you blog, but I could not count the times I anticipated some stupidity and avoided it because of expecting the worst. Of course Las Vegas is in a desert, gets about four inches of rain annually, so when it does start to rain after three months of dry and hot, the roads are really slick for a while. They'll have two to three hundred accidents in that first couple of hours because they never learned how to drive on rain slicked roads, or forgot since moving there.

This year will make fifty years I've been a licensed driver. I was cited into court once over 45 years ago for driving on an expired driver's license, and put in one claim against my insurance company when a stone truck threw a rock through my windshield. Defensive driving makes all the difference in the world.
 
50 accident-free years! Well done!
 
I think fish had it right with his first sentence ... he should have stopped there. Next week from the gunroom ... "How to walk across the street #1-20".
 
I'd have to agree with the previous poster, what happened to all the good posts?
 
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