Slowing Too Soon For The Intersection?

Truck Tractor and Trailer I've been asked to discuss the practice of some drivers who "slow down, way back from a stop light, potentially blocking access for both the left and the right turn lane, especially where there is an advance green light for a left turn." The person who requested the examination is irked by these drivers as it costs them precious seconds of driving time.

I will admit from the start that I am one of those drivers who watch what is going on around me and anticipate what is going to happen at the intersection. If the light is not green with the traffic moving smoothly in front of me I will gear down or let up on the accelerator and try to change my speed as evenly as possible until we are back to speed and flowing freely again. It is something I've watched the truck drivers do over the years and have finally seen the wisdom of.

Driving in this manner reduces the wear and tear on my vehicle. I'm not waiting until the last instant to stand on the brakes and come to a halt increasing the risk of a collision if I misjudge. Neither am I having to always start from a complete stop which contributes to my fuel economy and lowers my carbon footprint.

Lastly, there are no surprises for the drivers around me as they have time to see and adjust to what I am doing.

With this article in mind, I've been watching for something specific behind me as I coast up to a red light. Generally, I don't receive any sign from the driver behind me that they intend to do anything other than follow me up to the intersection. Maybe if they were to give me a clue about what they wanted to do, such as using their signal light, I might choose to temper my speed with their desire.

Yes, I agree, this means that it might take a few seconds longer for other drivers to get to the right or left turn lanes than it would if I was more abrupt.

Oddly enough, I sometimes find myself behind another driver that does this and have to remind myself to take a breath and relax. Since I quit driving an emergency vehicle for a living, I have yet to be in a situation where I couldn't spare a few extra seconds out of my day to improve safety and save some fuel.

I could not find much information on this topic when I researched it. The articles most closely related to making this decision were mathematical proofs of probability, warnings to slow and shadow the brake as you approach or what to watch for ahead and to the sides at the intersection. Many did not advise looking in the rearview mirror to factor traffic behind you into your choice.

What do you think?



Me Too!

I absolutely agree with you on this. I really don’t understand why an extra few minutes delay is such a big deal especially when you consider that most crashes occur at intersections.

Yup, somebody needs to take a chill pill.

For sure, I'll always lift off the gas well in advance of a light that I know will be red when I get there. It saves burning fuel pointlessly, and increases brake life. But also, the more gradual process reduces the chances of getting hit from behind by some inattentive fool.

Separately, there are far too many drivers who speed up to make it through on a green arrow, but many of these are actually ignoring the yellow arrow even though they could have, and should have, paused to make a legal and safe turn. And many of these same drivers barely slow down to make a right on the red, never mind stopping first and taking a look at what another vehicle or pedestrian is about to do at the same time.

Lastly, there are no surprises for the drivers around me as they have time to see and adjust to what I am doing.

With this article in mind, I've been watching for something specific behind me as I coast up to a red light. Generally, I don't receive any sign from the driver behind me that they intend to do anything other than follow me up to the intersection. Maybe if they were to give me a clue about what they wanted to do, such as using their signal light, I might choose to temper my speed with their desire.

I'm the same way. If I can see in my mirror that the driver is showing a signal, then if it's feasible to move up a bit to create the room he needs, I will. But if they don't want to communicate, they can enjoy the view of the back of my vehicle.

First Time Response

Having driven safely well over 1 million miles in trucks, I tend to drive a car in a similar fashion because it safely works.

I think of this coast to a stop, or coast to the physical point of traffic resuming to move As a fundamental good practice And it is the most frugal way to get from A to B (plus, I grew up where it snows in the winter)

As opposed to those who don’t demonstrate variable effect foot pedals They just use an accelerate fast and brake hard on/off switch Much to their possible inevitable risk And worse,  to their hazard to others

A side note if I may I learned early on “never drive for the person behind you" If you increased speed,  even safely,  to accommodate a driver behind And you were involved in something,  as a result or not I suspect the prior following driver  would not be of much support

My Experience

I was a driving instructor for 6 years, retiring in 2006.

We always instructed our students which included new drivers, re-instruction to drivers recovering from a medical condition (usually stroke or brain injury) and elderly drivers for a variety of reasons. Use of a rear view mirror was a primary habit and was used for decision making.

When making decision we taught to consider things such as your own speed, speed of of following vehicle(s), space between you and following vehicle(s), road conditions and your safe escape route in an emergency.

At times it did seem like a lot to keep track of at times but a couple of times in the 6 years my students (beginers) avoiding potentially life threatening crashes from the rear. In one instance on a very icy road my student was able to escape out of the path of a large speeding truck that was unable to stop as we approached a red light at a busy intersection. The truck, probably about a 5 ton slid right through the intersection without a collision.

Talk about a teachable moment!

Too Much Space

I'm with you that slowing down progressively can be a good thing but it can be extremely frustrating when multiple drivers leave more space than required (like two car lengths) between them and the car in front of them at a red light signed:  missed the left turn advance again.

You Need to Leave Some Space

I was taught to stop with pavement visible between the front of my hood and the rear tires of the vehicle in front of me. This would be at least one vehicle length in most cases.

It keeps me from being pushed into the vehicle in front if someone rear ends me and it leaves room to steer out of the way to make room for emergency vehicles.

I hate to miss a light too, but sometimes the gods do it just to teach me that I don't always get what I want.

Situational Awareness

I drive a Dodge truck, with 5 speed electronic gear shift.

I look at traffic, half a block at least ahead if I can, as well as vehicles, in front and behind. Situational awareness.

If the light, is red, turns red at that distance, I always start gearing down. If the light is still red when I get to the intersection, I have an easy stop, to make. I believe this is easier on the brakes, and less chance of hitting the vehicle in front of me.

I guess, left over from driving standard, to leave enough room, in front, to allow a vehicle to role back a bit. Also, the old truck drivers adage, use the same gear going down a hill, as is required to go up a hill, preventing runaways, and the need to ride your breaks. And you can stop if you have to.

I shudder when I see people, who race to a red light, then stand on the brakes. I always wonder if this is what was taught in driving schools.

All automatic transmissions have more than one gear forward, so why are students not taught how to use them.

As for saving a few seconds, what is the time difference between being alive, or being dead.

"D" for Dumb

One of my old supervisors used to remark on how everyone seemed to shift into D and never give it any more thought. Brakes are for slowing down, not the transmission.

I'm Like You

I tend to gear down or use the E-brake on our Prius to slow down gradually on a yellow or red light and sometimes a stale green if (like at Nanaimo) there is traffic piling up.

The interesting part is even when the light turns green and traffic starts to move, rarely do I need to hit the accelerator to catch up. I do notice a lot of drivers go by me if another lane is available and accelerate right up to the point where they need to firmly brake for the light.

Now I’m trying to train my spouse not to accelerate all the way to a stop sign or light and then brake hard. That seems to be a bigger challenge to help her adjust her driving without provoking a tiff. Lol

It's Just Smart Driving

It’s paying attention, looking all around, anticipating the sequence of lights and more. If more people paid attention like this (to the signs as well) we would have more respectful driving, in my opinion).

It’s about a more relaxed drive, a safer drive, a more environmentally friendly drive (especially when you do not floor the accelerator once the lifts change), and as you rightly say, IF the people behind you used their turn signals, you would allow for this so they could pass and not be held up.

Slowing before a light

I have been doing this all my driving career. I also keep getting caught with things been rewritten. When I got what was comparable to class 1 in 1956 slowing down and anticipating when the light would change was recommended.

I do watch the traffic around me. If I see where my slowing before may prevent someone from pulling out of a lane or street then I will speed up. I try to drive in a fashion that facilitates the flow of traffic not impede it. Same with turning. I prefer not to use my brakes yet if I see that by slowing gently impedes other traffic I will brake hard for a corner.

Have also found that the majority of drivers like to stay in the left lane. If there is a lane open I will switch to it, again if it won't interfere with anyone. Suprising how much this can save you in time travelling through a city.

Driving behavior

It is quite interesting to see how many drivers want to use more gas just so they can spend more money on brakes. Planning ahead is defensive driving at it's best, if you don't like what I am doing you can always go around, I will see you at the next light anyway.

3-5 seconds

You should be scanning your mirrors every 3-5 seconds when driving. This includes your rearview mirror. I car behind you is indicating in some way they want to make that advance green, temper your speed accordingly for them. Its the right thing to do. And polite.

Its much better to 'read the lights' so your doing sudden acceralations and decelerations. Its better on your machine AND your fuel economy. Not to mention, makes the traffic flow much more smoothly.

Reverse Complaint

This is about people that pull out in front of you on the highway.

Today I was approaching a "T" intersection where the posted speed is 90. Other than the car waiting to enter the highway I was the only car. Person sat there for several seconds that I observed so I decided he was going to let me go by and pull out after. Like I said no one behind me.

At the last minute he decides to pull out. No big deal but if I pull out in front of someone I accelerate to the speed limit or better as fast as I can. I was turning off in 2 k and even then the person that pulled out in front of me had only accelerated to 70. 20K under the speed limit.

If the traffic was heavy I would have no problem with pulling out like they did. But if you are not going to drive the speed limit why pull out in front of another vehicle and make them slow? This to me makes no sense. I have also seen people under similar circumstances pull out in front of you then drive at 50K to the next road and pull off. Again on a 90 or 100K road. Like I said if the traffic is heavy you go when you get a chance. But if you wait 3 or 4 seconds and pull out behind the car that is approaching and there is neither no one behind that vehicle or a large gap in traffic, let them go by before pulling out. And why sit there and then pull out at the last minute?

I know those that would like to see the speed limit set at 10K will say that the speed mongers should learn to chill out. On the other hand common courtesy should prevail and lets try not to impede the flow of traffic.

After a Long Career in Trucking

I agree with your comment about truckers slowing before an intersection. It gives us a chance to assess the intersection with what’s going on with vehicles and pedestrians in but also approaching it. The economic factors you mentioned and shifting gears come into play. From a full stop, we may have to pick up 10, 13, 15 or 18 gears to get to full speed

Just a Thought

Having driven professionally most of my career for a few different companies, couldn't agree more. Over the years I learned (something everyday) from others, and just plain observation. The more I observed and tried to anticipate the other driver (and pedestrians) the more I avoided potential incidents.

Having said that, I can't help thinking, if more training and driver education (mandatory in my case) improved my chances of avoiding  a MVA, maybe the frequency of our system of driver training and 'retesting' might reduce the number of incidents on our roadways. Not to mention deaths and injuries.

The challenges inherent in training and testing!

I would like to respond to this, with some observations from inside the business.

Having said that, I can't help thinking, if more training and driver education (mandatory in my case) improved my chances of avoiding  a MVA, maybe the frequency of our system of driver training and 'retesting' might reduce the number of incidents on our roadways. Not to mention deaths and injuries.

Given the opportunity, a Driving Instructor will always try to teach his students 'more' than is simply necessary to pass a test. But, in order to stay in business, it's important that the majority of students are successful with the test, or the Driving School won't be operational for very long.

And the way tests are conducted (for reasons of efficiency, along with trying to ensure similar challenges for each class of license anywhere in the province) inevitably results in the Applicant being faced with numerous turns throughout the time with the Driver Examiner. Much of the time in fact, as soon as one maneuver has been completed, the DE will give direction for the next turn, in order to provide the Applicant with as much time as possible to prepare, and to identify what's happening at the next intersection.

Unfortunately, this means that most Road Tests - for all categories of license - will spend little time just cruising straight along arterials with a number of traffic light controlled intersections; and even then, it can be challenging to assess how much is going on in the head of the Applicant being able to anticipate what's evolving a block or two ahead of them, a key aspect of proper defensive driving. With the various routes they follow, then 'retesting' would be pointless unless the competency requirement had been increased. Probably the only tests that attempt to measure this are the Enhanced Road Assessment for drivers who may have a medical concern (ie the onset of dementia), which are way longer and more thorough than typical driver testing.

I teach Class 4 Unrestricted, and I also spend many hours driving various Senior's Residence buses, so it's inevitable (to my way of thinking) that I drive - and teach other drivers - to think with the long view, along with proper spatial awareness of what's around them at all times. But for many Driving Instructors, having the time and ability to do this is not always realistic.


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