There’s more to waiting in traffic than…actually waiting
Wait. Wait. Wait. We seem to be waiting a lot these days. Whether it’s in line at the cashier in a store, at a gas station or to get into the movies, waiting is part of our lives. Waiting in traffic is also part of our lives; an everyday occurrence. As mundane as it seems, there are proper ways to wait to help you avoid injury… or worse.
The traditional way many drivers wait to make a left turn is to angle their wheels slightly to the left. They tend to feel this will help them get out of the intersection quicker. Others feel they can see around the driver turning left opposite them better this way. Unfortunately, they’re wrong on both counts. Let me explain.
The wheel angle points your vehicle slightly in the direction you’re intending to go. The actual movement of the vehicle is what gets you out of the intersection sooner. With that angle, the front left corner is closer to the line of traffic. Your seating position is in a position that doesn’t necessarily allow you to see any better. To help you exit the intersection safely and as soon as possible, look ahead for a gap in traffic. As the last vehicle before the gap reaches the intersection, check the crosswalk to your left for cyclists and pedestrians. If the crosswalk is clear, gently ease off the brake to get your vehicle moving. Just as that oncoming vehicle passes you, look into your intended path and off you go. Quick and easy.
The other most common time we wait is when stopped in traffic; either before making the above mentioned turn, at a red light or just stopped in traffic in general. In North America, the rear crash is the most common type of collision. In some cases, the driver actually sees the approaching vehicle before they get hit, but does nothing about it. Sometimes this is because they don’t know what to do, but other times they just don’t have a place to go. However, this can change.
Many drivers stop close enough to the vehicle ahead of them to see the wheels of that vehicle touch the road. That was a technique many of us learned years ago when you could see the hood of your own vehicle. In many cases, vehicles are too aerodynamic to see the hood, so seeing the wheels touch the road generally means you’re less than half a car length from their rear bumper. Unfortunately, that’s not enough space any longer.
When you’re stopped in traffic leave yourself enough space to get out of the way if the vehicle ahead of you stalls. This is usually at least one car length. Leaving extra space also has an advantage of helping you avoid a rear crash. Before stopping, plan your escape. Figure out where you can go before you actually need to go. This makes it quicker to escape the rear crash. Now for the most important part; checking the mirrors. Not only should you check the mirrors, you need to pay attention to what you actually see. Ask yourself; what’s behind you? Are they gaining on you quickly or are they slowing down?
After many drivers stop in traffic they usually look around at just about anything other than where they should, which is behind them. If you monitor the mirror, plan your escape and leave yourself room to get out of the way, there’s a better chance you can avoid a rear crash. Now, let’s put the two errors together – waiting with your wheels angled and not checking your mirror. What could happen? Check this vehicle to find out.
The driver made a few mistakes, but luckily came away without much injury that we can determine from this video. Seatbelts and the airbag definitely helped him. He did glance in his mirror twice before the impact. Once while slowing and the second time after he heard screeching tires. Could this have been avoided? Yes. At worst case, leaving the wheels straight would have just pushed him into neutral area and not into the oncoming truck.
So the next time you’re waiting in traffic, either to make a left turn or just waiting to start moving again, think about your wheel position and what’s happening behind you. It could save you and your vehicle.
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