As a novice driver, I was hesitant about getting on the road. Growing up in Calgary and Toronto and hearing on the radio about all the accidents happening on the road each day, made me feel as though anyone could be caught in these situations.
There are more than 450,000 vehicle collisions every year in Canada. It was with this scary statistic in mind that I recently took a driving course from Young Drivers of Canada to sharpen my skills before applying for a licence. I've learned that being both pro-active and responsive, drivers could reduce the number of crashes drastically and am now ready to take the driver's test, confidently.
My instructor was firm but fair. "I love my life, that's why I'm here to teach you to drive safely, so I can continue living my life," he said on the first day of class instruction. "I would rather you be confused in this class than be confused on the road."
Here are some of the tips I've received. If all drivers embraced them, we could make the roads safer for everyone:
Always plan your trip: Choose the safest route to your destination and know ahead of time what lane and when is the correct one.
Circle check: Before getting in a vehicle, walk around it to look for damage or objects blocking the car.
Slow and steady wins the race: Speeders and constant lane changers don't get to their destination much faster than those travelling at a steady speed – and they brake more often.
MELT: This is short for Minimum Eye Lead Time. In urban areas, you should be scanning the road 12-15 seconds ahead – or about one city block. On the highway, it's 20-30 seconds – or as far as the eye can see. Vision is a driver's first line of defence, and it's always better to anticipate hazards rather than react to them.
Keep your distance: Maintain a following speed of two seconds behind the car ahead on city roads, 3-4 seconds on the highway, and 4 seconds on on-ramps.
The eyes have it: Move them, every two seconds. Glance, don't look.
Check: Rear mirror? Check. Side mirrors? Check. Every 5-8 seconds. Check them before slowing, before and after turning, while stopping, and while stopped.
Scan: All parked vehicles for occupants. There's nothing quite like a car door opening unexpectedly.
Parking: Whenever possible, back into a parking space. Ideally, drive through one spot to park in another. The blind spot at the rear of a vehicle is larger than in front.
Wise words: "Don't argue with trucks, they're bigger than you."
Road rage: "When I drive I always bring my dog with me – F.I.D.O: Forget It Drive On."
Being tailgated? Take your foot off the gas to gradually decrease speed. The tailgater will pass.
Communicate: Cars are equipped with a horn. Use it. But be co-operative.
Blind spots: Don't stay in another driver's for more than three seconds.
At a red light: Wait three-four car lengths back if there is no vehicle behind you at a light. Move up one car length every time a car approaches and plan an escape in case you are about to get hit from behind.
Left turns: Position your vehicle when waiting to allow yourself and others to spot problems. Wait with your wheels straight before making a turn (not pointed in the direction you wish to go). Should a vehicle strike you from behind, you won't be pushed into oncoming traffic.
ROAD TEST TIPS
- Look left, centre, right (exaggerate your movements) at every train track and intersection.
- Check your mirrors often (exaggerate and look up using your neck).
- Signal left or right when pulling out of a parking spot.
- Drive in the right lane as much as possible.
- Don’t sigh. It reveals that you just made a mistake, one that maybe the examiner might have missed.
The writer is a student at Guelph University. Special to The Globe and Mail
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