Driving a motor vehicle is one of the most serious responsibilities we give people as a society. It is the only device that everyone is invited to partake in that has the ability to kill and maim. It is a potential 3,000 lb murder weapon that we hop in and drive away every day several times a day and think nothing of it. It takes years to master good driving skills and the fact that we deal with so many new drivers is not lost on us. Not surprisingly, teens and new drivers have the highest incidence of accidents and deaths as drivers. That is because you have not developed your driving skills.
What do we mean you have not developed your driving skills? You passed your test and got your Learners Permit or license. You’re an accomplished driver! Ah, no, you’re not. We really appreciate every single student we get at 2Cool Traffic School. We love what we do and we want others to enjoy the freedom we help provide but it is one of the biggest responsibilities we are given so we just want to share some facts since so many of our clients are teen and new drivers.
We have grown up watching our parents and other adults drive us everywhere. They do it so effortlessly that we tend to think that it is easy and doesn’t require much attention. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Good driving skills are accumulated over long periods of time. Just a year or two isn’t enough to really become a seasoned driver. The reason is that most of the time we spend behind the wheel is uneventful. What makes a good driver is how we react when an unplanned event takes place. That is why you don’t want to be a distracted driver with a cell phone or texting those first couple of years driving. Yes it is boring. Yes you could be more productive if you were knocking out that text but it only takes a split second for things to go wrong when driving and you don’t have much time to react, decide or recover.
It seems like once you get the hang of starting, stopping, turning and backing there isn’t much to learn beyond that. Those are just the basic skills so you can operate a car within a minimum standard. Not so that you can avoid an accident in a split second. Or make the right choice approaching a hazard. You gain that knowledge after years of driving and watching how other drivers react.
That is the key to a lot of driving safely. Not only driving your vehicle responsibly but observing other drivers and learning what bad habits look like before they happen. There are a lot of tell tale signs that you learn to look for after having a lot of experience. So when you are a new driver and have your basic vehicle control covered, your job now becomes watching other drivers and learning to predict what they are going to do so you can drive safely. Here is something to keep in mind.
Situational awareness is one of the most important things you can grasp while driving. It isn’t just what is going on in your vehicle or directly around it but what is going on around you in your entire field of vision. A great example of lack of situational awareness is when someone is pulling out onto a multi lane road. Say a 6 lane road 3 lanes going one direction 3 the other. You are the only one driving on the road in the middle lane and approach an intersection. As you do someone pulls out on the road but rather than choose either lane that is empty they pull into the middle lane right in front of you.
That is because they did not pay attention to the complete situation they were in. Had they done that they would have evaluated everything and either waited until you passed or chosen one of the empty lanes on either side of you. But they were absorbed in their own thoughts probably paying very little attention to what they were actually doing and just pulled out without even thinking.
Situational awareness is the practice of looking everything over in a quick glance and figuring out the best course of action in that situation. You will do this a hundred times every time you get behind the wheel. Too often we will see a tiny break in traffic and want to jump right into that spot. Either pulling out in traffic or merging on the highway. But what situational awareness teaches you is to look at the entire picture. You might be able to make that left turn real quick after the next car if you go quickly. Or, wait for 15 more seconds when all the cars have passed and you can turn completely safely. Look at all your options. Be completely aware of your entire situation and make the best choice of all your choices presented. Not just the quickest and most expedient, the best.
Please take this message to heart. If you are one of our new drivers don’t be irresponsible and get behind the wheel thinking you know it all. You know the very, very basics of operating a very dangerous machine with a bunch of other people that probably are not paying anywhere near as much attention as they should be. You have to look out for them too. Keep safe.