Do you trust me?
We were brought up learning not to trust other people. We couldn’t talk to strangers, go for rides with strangers or take candy from strangers. (Although I’m sure Halloween confuses small kids, don’t you think?) So, with all of this concern regarding strangers, why do we trust strangers when we drive?
One of the most dangerous things we do as a driver is making left turns at traffic lights. We give a lot of trust to oncoming drivers just by turning in front of them. I’ve seen many drivers make a turn immediately in front of someone going straight through. If their vehicle sputtered in any way; a crash would have been a sure thing. We trust the oncoming driver would slow down for us if we needed.
On the other side, the driver going straight through the intersection also trusted the driver turning was going to complete their turn without reducing their speed. How many times do we have to see or hear of crashes just like these to know we can’t trust other drivers? We put too much trust in other people for my liking.
My advice is this, if a driver turns directly in front of you, ease off your gas slightly to ensure they can exit the intersection before you reach them. This can help ensure they have passed you before a close call happens. Another technique you can use is to glance at their front tires and compare them to the ground to look for movement and direction. Once you detect movement, and direction into the turn, you will already have a head start to know if they will cut you off. Once you see this, and if they were close to you, you can ease off the gas early to give them more time to enter and exit.
We also trust the driver beside us. We trust they won’t swerve into our lane suddenly. Yeah, right. We hear of these crashes every day in the media. This is where a driver loses control and slams into the driver next to them. This also happens when a driver suddenly realizes they have to change lanes or make a turn and does so without checking first. This is completely avoidable. Think of it this way, drive beside space. If there’s space directly beside your vehicle, you’ll have an escape route in case of trouble. So will the other driver. Why put your life in the hands of people beside you? Adjust speed to regain space, or even change lanes if possible.
Another trusting act we do while we drive is when we’re stopped in traffic. We trust the driver behind is going to stop in time. I watch drivers look everywhere other than in their mirror when they’re stopped. They look at pedestrians, other drivers and even themselves while stopped. What happened to checking the rear view mirror while being stopped? Isn’t that why we have it? Checking the mirror while stopped is important, but you also have to know where to go if the driver behind can’t stop.
We shouldn’t trust the driver behind will stop in time. One of the most common crashes in North America is a rear crash. So why are we trusting the driver will stop in time? Better yet, plan an escape before you need it. If you think the driver behind isn’t slowing down enough to stop in time, use a driveway, another lane, or even going up a curb. I once had a student who didn’t think my small car could make it up a curb to avoid a rear crash. I like a challenge so I showed her. We did it at low speed so we wouldn’t damage the vehicle’s undercarriage. It worked and my student was convinced we could escape. I could only image the thoughts from the neighbors after seeing us drive up the curb.
When I’m training new drivers I ask them what a green light means. I know that sounds like an odd question, but the correct answer isn’t “go”. The correct answer is “go when safe”. Why are we trusting the red light will stop the cross traffic? We’ve all seen drivers go through red lights, and we may have gone through some ourselves. We know this happens, so the trust should come from you. Trust yourself to scan the intersection before you hit the gas. Make sure it’s clear before you commit yourself.
The person you need to trust is yourself. Plan ahead and be a proactive driver. Think about your driving ahead of time and think beyond the immediate. Think about “what if?” each time you’re driving. Think about your escape routes and where they may be. You’ve got nothing to lose if you do this. Come on, trust me!