With over 230 million cars on the road, today’s motorist is confronted with many challenges. Urban roads are jammed and our highways carry more traffic than they we designed to handle. Over the last 35 years, the number of drivers has increased 65%, but over the same time, we have added only 6% to our highway system.
The video Surviving Urban Driving discusses basic driving strategies for areas such as New Jersey which has more cars per road mile than any other state. Any governmental entity may download and use this video.
- Maintain Proper Following Distance | Urban driving is based on the principle that if you are aware of a problem soon enough, you can control it. The biggest mistake urban drivers make is following the car ahead too closely. Your ability to avoid an accident is directly related to the distance between you and the vehicles in front and around you.
What is the proper following distance? Most drivers think of car lengths, but it is almost impossible to estimate distance while driving. An easy way to determine following distance to determine following time in seconds. The minimum following time when driving a car is two seconds. When the car ahead passes a fixed object, such as a pole or a sign, count two seconds to yourself – one thousand one…one thousand two. Your vehicle should not reach the pole or sign until the end of the two-second period. By counting seconds, following distance automatically increases as speed increases. Two seconds is the minimum. You want to be far enough back so that you can comfortably take your eyes off of the car head. For most drivers, that is about three or four seconds.
- Make effective use of your eyes | Research shows that you only see clearly in the central 3 degrees of your line of sight. Everything to the side is blurred. At 100 feet distance, clear vision is only a 5-foot diameter circle. At 300 feet, clear vision is only a 15-foot diameter circle. So to make effective use of your eyes, you must scan from sidewalk to sidewalk for a block or two ahead and in the rear view mirrors.
On expressways, look as far down the road as possible. By occasionally scanning a tenth of a mile ahead or more, you can often see what will cause the vehicles ahead to react, even before they do. This is why following distance is so important. You cannot make effective use of your eyes if you are too close. And you cannot make effective use of your eyes if you have a cell phone held to your ear, or are drinking coffee, or are engaged in a debate with passengers.
- Control dangerous situations | In most situations the most effective way to control hazards is to slow down and cover the brake. When we say cover the brake, we mean take your foot off the accelerator and rest it lightly on the brake pedal. You don’t have to depress he brake very hard. Covering the brake does three things:
- Your vehicle will begin to gradually slow down
- Your reaction time will be reduced because your foot is already on the brake pedal
- Resting your foot on the brake pedal will light your brake lights and communicate with motorists behind you that you might have to stop
Most importantly, you must have a positive towards your responsibilities. While you can’t always control the actions of others, you can learn to control your own emotions and you can take steps to keep yourself mentally alert. Avoid the temptation to take short cuts or push yourself and your vehicle to the limit.