Surviving the Commute

By on June 29, 2012

Tonight I was on the way home from a friend’s house, driving my truck and not paying attention.  A pickup truck came across two lanes after merging and nearly hit me.  I slammed the brakes and pulled on the wheel to get around him, but there was no place to go because there was a divider on the other side of me.  So I swerved into his lane just behind him and we switched places.  What a nice guy.

Most of us just get pissed and yell and scream at the other driver and think nothing more of it.  My wife is great, when something like this happens, she’ll come home and tell me, “Oh my God, I almost died today!”  She’s from California and still has a little surfer chick in her speech.  I love it!  I do something a little different and challenge you to do the same.

I do an after action with myself on the incident.  I take out the part that it was his fault and accept responsibility and try to find out what I could have done better.  I’ll be totally honest with all of you here and tell you how my after action went on this.  First, I wasn’t really paying attention like I should.  I wasn’t on the open highway, I was in the middle of a badly designed interchange where people are merging on and off without enough room to do it safely.  Second, I was driving like I was cool with one hand on top of the wheel, not even wrapped around the steering wheel, just sitting there.  Having the hand in the wrong spot caused me to outrun the traction on the vehicle and then overcorrect when I gained the other lane.  I know that because the anti-lock brakes kicked in and the truck wagged a little under the hard braking.  That’s why we have anti-lock breaks, right?

So these two factors made me come way too close to losing control of the vehicle.  First, if I had been paying attention in the interchange more like I normally am, I would have left space for that guy to come in front of me so I wouldn’t have to brake.  Second, having one hand on top of the wheel is bad.  It actually gives you too much leverage at highway speeds and you can easily panic and flip a vehicle (especially high centered things like my F250 with big tires).  The old 10 and 2 or 3 and 9 is wrong for hand placement.  You should have your hands down further on the wheel with both hands gripping, thumbs outside.  This will give you better control over the vehicle and make you safer in an accident if the airbag deploys.  This works against you so that you can’t make huge steering inputs.  When you turn the wheel a half turn at highway speeds you are writing a check your tires can’t cash.  You will lose traction and the laws of physics take over and centripetal force tries to flip your vehicle.

I know you are a good driver, everyone is right? No, everyone out there sucks, but not you.  Everyone says that.  The truth is we all suck as drivers sometime, and that’s why there are accidents.

Here are a few quick tips you can give to the other people in your life that suck;

Make Inputs Smoother – If you have to hold yourself into your seat at all, you are not smooth enough in your turning, starting, and stopping.
Always Leave Yourself an Out – Whenever you can, leave yourself someplace to go in an emergency
90% of all your problems can be solved by turning the wheel, think drive around a problem before stopping.
Adjust your speed up or down to deal with one person/problem at a time.
Pay more attention the closer you are to other vehicles and when in confined places like interchanges.
When you are driving, it has to be your primary concern, everything else needs to be second (phone, kids, music, site seeing, talking, everything is second).

Doing these things has kept me from having an accident for over 10 years, and that accident was because I didn’t pay more attention when I was close to another vehicle.  10 years doesn’t sound like much until you factor in that I’ve been making my living driving or with a gun my entire life.  Right now I’m working on this blog and work for an oil company driving that F250.  Last year I drove over 60,000 miles and this year it will be closer to 70,000.  The average person drives between 10,000 and 12,000 per year.  So I get to see a lot of people do crazy things.

Pay attention when you are driving, even if the other guy is doing something stupid, you can normally avoid being hit by them if you see it coming.

Stay Safe,

Ben

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Comments

  1. Jason W
    July 1, 2012

    Leave a Reply

    Way back when I was taking drivers education; in high school, i was told that the only space you have absolute control over is the space in front of you. That has served me well when I remember that comment and slow down\back off of the bumper in front of me.

    Even if you were on full alert, that doesn’t mean you would have had a good escape route at that very second, so applying brakes (thus controlling the space in front of you) still may have been your only option.

    I applaud your 10 year streak of accident-free driving. I don’t drive as many mile as you, but have nearly 20 years of accident-free daily driving — knock on wood.

    Anyway, thanks for the blog!

    • admin
      July 1, 2012

      Leave a Reply

      You are right on the space. In this case I would have slowed down to allow that guy to do anything and not hit me.

      I was thinking when I wrote this that now I’m going to have an accident because I talked about how long it’s been since I’ve had one. Hopefully my bad luck doesn’t follow you.

      Thanks for the tip.

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