Taking the Wrong Cue

image of a red traffic lightWe take many of our driving cues from what is happening around us when we are in traffic. If we are paying attention and watching for the correct cues all goes well. Stop paying full attention to the driving task, accidentally take the wrong cue and you can easily cause a collision.

image showing examples of a visual cue for drivers

Each of these is a visual cue for the driver

An Example of Taking the Wrong Cue

The case in point occurred yesterday afternoon. A car was waiting, first in line at a red light in the left hand through lane. I pulled up to stop beside it in the right hand through lane at the same time as the left turn signal we were facing changed to green. Signals for through traffic remained red as there were vehicles using the oncoming left turn lane.

The driver of the car probably saw the green arrow and my movement in the intended direction of travel in their peripheral vision and decided it was time to go. Something must not have seemed quite right because the driver did not accelerate as quickly as vehicles facing a new green light usually do.

What the Driver Should Have Done

Before moving ahead on a green light this driver should have completed a 180 degree scan of the intersection. This means a scan from left to right and back again to search for hazards.

If he had done this, he might have realized that the light was not green for him and we should all know that a green light does not always mean go.

The Opposing Driver was Prepared

Fortunately the oncoming driver was watching the right cues. He slowed enough that the driver that had been beside me did not collide with him, although it was a near miss. The driver beside me should have been watching the overhead signal for the lane that he was in. Once he saw the green he should have looked left, right and left again, to proceed through the intersection only if it was safe to do so.

Focus is an Important Skill

Not paying full attention to the driving task and catching the wrong cues is an invitation to trouble. Add distractions or impairments to the mix and it becomes even more dangerous. The ability to focus yourself is an important driving skill.

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