More space equals more time. Think about that carefully for a moment as it should be a constant consideration for all drivers. Driving should be an action, not a reaction and the best way to make it an action is to give yourself time to think, plan and execute your decisions safely.
The most familiar situation is following distance. You’ve heard about the two second rule, haven’t you? Pick a spot that the vehicle in front of you is passing. Count one one thousand, two one thousand and you should have just reached that spot yourself. Got there sooner? You’re too close then, back off.
Of course, that’s for ideal conditions: light traffic, good daylight visibility, good traction, paying attention, well maintained vehicle. Change any of these variables and you must leave even more time.
The good visibility component is something that changes continually. Clear skies are not the only consideration. Winding roads, hills & valleys and large vehicles are some examples of things that can keep you from seeing far enough ahead.
One of my favourite recent examples involves our slow down, move over rule. You drive around the corner and there’s a police vehicle with someone pulled over on the shoulder.
No room in the left lane to move into as everyone there is trying to bulldoze the other out of their way. A quick glance in the mirror shows that the vehicle behind you is less than a second back. You can’t move over and you’d better be darn careful how quickly you slow down!
Proper following distances, or even a little more than is required would leave everyone an out and the time necessary to slow and move over safely.
How often have you been passed by another driver who moves back over in front of you leaving less than safe following distance? Don’t they know that they are supposed to see all of the front of the vehicle behind them in the mirror before they move back? Now everyone behind has to adjust to regain the space and time that driver stole from them.
It is becoming more and more difficult to find collision data for BC on line. ICBC lumps following too closely into high risk driving behaviours and reports the total. Some insight into the problem can be gained from Australia however, where one study estimates that up to two thirds of drivers were following too closely but did not think that they were.
So, don’t be a space cadet. Give yourself and others the time needed to drive safely.
Constable Tim Schewe (Retired)
DriveSmartBC: Where better than average drivers satisfy their curiosity.