Factoring in Safety

Safety SignFew of us like to live life on the edge. We save money for a rainy day, plan ahead in our lives and expect that everything around us has a built in safety factor. If it turns out that an insufficient safety factor injures us we expect someone to be responsible for it. So, why do we often choose to impose the thinnest of margins when we drive?

Look around you the next time that you are driving in a congested area. How many people leave a 4 second buffer in front of their vehicle? When stopped at a traffic light, is there at least a clear vehicle length between everyone that is stopped? Does the accelerator go to the floor the instant the light turns green or does the driver do a 180 degree scan of the intersection before they move? Do people signal their lane change and then occupy a safe space made for them by drivers in the adjacent lanes?

These and many other safety factors allow us and those around us to anticipate errors and have the time to adjust for them and avoid collisions. They also permit us to discover unfavorable road conditions and correct for them before they become a problem.

Time, or lack of it, is one of our biggest enemies when we drive. Sometimes we must make instantaneous decisions and a built in safety factor can give us an extra second or two to make that decision correctly. That is, if we are factoring in safety whenever we get behind the wheel.

Reference Links

Sharing the Road - Chapter 6, Learn to Drive Smart


Submitted by E-Mail

I agree that we should have a larger interval between cars when driving along. However when one does this, another car will immediately squeeze in, in front of one........sometimes a person can just keep backing off and backing off, making little headway. Maybe it's my imagination, but it seems that people in the Comox Valley drive a lot more aggressively than back in Alberta. It's kind of odd.......when most of these people are out of their car, they seem to have lots of time to saunter along, have a coffee etc but once behind the wheel they are then in a tremendous hurry. I try to travel the speed limit and we have lots of 60 kph stretches in the valley. I adhere to this limit but it seems as if I am in the minority for I would say over 70% of the people are going 70 kph or faster and are either on my bumper or passing me if possible.. I think ignorance is to blame and the idea that there will be no repercussions to speeding. More enforcement is direly needed. The only time I have seen radar set up in the valley is when the RCMP have a speed trap in a playground or school zone and believe me they catch plenty there too. One time I walked by when the cops had the radar set up behind the cruiser. The instrument read-out was 63 kpm. It was an older lady driver (60's or early 70's) and she was doing this in a 30k playground zone with 50 k zones before and after the playground zone!

I don't agree with you about having a car length between vehicles stopped at a traffic light. I like to have some room as a comfort zone but a car length would cause a lot of drivers to have road rage because they would figure that such a person is holding up traffic. (My Chevy pickup is over 20' long.) Also, with such a practice, traffic would probably be sturng out farther and backed up  more often through more than one light controlled intersection if they were a block apart.
My wife and I just returned from Vietnam. I don't know if you have ever been in Asia but if you have, I'm sure you would have had heart palpitations from experiencing the traffic there. I have driven (including semi's) in a lot of North America, including Mexican cities but I would never drive in Vietnam. Rules of the road as we know it don't exist down there. Traffic in Saigon and Hanoi is over 80% motorbikes and they are thick! It seems that no driver looks behind them when driving. They look ahead and to the sides. Everyone uses their horn steady and I guess that is how the driver knows someone is behind and wanting to pass. A vehicle will cut out into or across traffic and it is up to the driver they cut off to stop or slow down. The last pics (Halong Bay, Caron's) were taken from a small bus (about 30 passengers) that was taking us on a tour to Halong Bay from Hanoi and the traffic was very slowly moving in Hanoi. The driver was picking up tourists from various hotels and he realized that he had made a wrong turn. He then proceeded to slowly back up (in this traffic!) through a busy intersection and then make his turn. No one hit him.........the cars, motorbikes and pedestrians all avoided the bus somehow.
Crossing a busy street on foot in the cities was always an adventure and often enough to get the adrenalin pumping. There is a shortage of traffic lights and even with light controlled intersections, one has to watch for a few strays that run the lights, or are even travelling on the wrong side of the street. Often if it is a red light and traffic is stopped, there are usually a few that will cut across on the sidewalk and the pedestrians then have to dodge them (note the guy with the cellphone on the sidewalk). When crossing a busy street we were instructed to slowly and steadily walk ahead.....no darting or running, no stopping and no backing up.  The bikes in general will not stop but will swerve to avoid you (and the bike next to him will also swerve). It is sort similar to crossing a flowing stream. You are the "rock" and the "water" sort of flows around you. Nevertheless it is unnerving to have motorbikes skim past you on both sides at 30-50 kph. One took care to stay out of the way of vehicles, especially buses.......it seems that "might is right" so pedestrians beware. Pedestrians definitely do not have the right of way.

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