By on October 25, 2013
Image Courtesy of: Crushable.com

Image Courtesy of: Crushable.com

My dad freaked out. We weren’t going that fast when the old dump truck struggled out onto the road some distance ahead of us and it was a simple matter to just let off the gas and coast for a bit while the old truck worked its way up through the gears to the posted 35mph limit. The road in front of the construction site was a mess of mud and gravel and although I am sure my father didn’t appreciate the muddy spray on the otherwise clean flanks of his Delta 88, he seemed rather unbothered about the whole event – at least until we finally closed the distance and drew up behind the big truck. It was then he read the scene in front of him and jumped hard on the brakes. As the old truck rumbled away he turned to me and asked “Did you see that?”

At fourteen years of age, I was already getting some wheel time. It had started a year or so earlier when, on the way home from church, I had asked to drive. There was a pull-out about a mile from our house and my father had stopped there and allowed me to take the wheel. I had required a lot of help at first, but week after week we stopped at the same point, then at another a little further away, then at another place even further from home and eventually I was allowed to drive the entire 9 miles with minimal assistance. Naturally, I didn’t get to drive everywhere, and so I wasn’t behind the wheel that fateful day, but even so it became a learning opportunity.

Photo Courtesy of: Waymarking.com

I had seen the truck lumber out onto the road, it was an old dump truck from the 1950s that looked to be in poor shape and saw the muddy tracks and gravel it dragged out onto the roadway, but other than the mud, which my father had been bothered little by, I did not see any other danger. My dad, however, had. As we had pulled up behind the old truck he had made note of any loose dirt and gravel that might fall from the truck onto the road, but pebbles and sticks falling off old trucks was par for the course in our neck of the woods. It was the other thing he saw that was the real cause of his alarm – a large rock wedged into the space between the old truck’s dual tires.

David, they say, slew the mighty Goliath with just a few small rocks flung from a simple leather sling. The threat we faced that day relies upon the same principle, only replace “small rocks” with “15 pound stone cannonball” and “leather sling” with “high speed centrifuge.” At just thirty five miles an hour, the forces on that stone must have been tremendous. There was no way it would just plop out onto the road, it was going to come out with real velocity and Lord help anyone unlucky enough to be in its way. At the end of the road, the old truck pulled into a gravel pit and my father followed it in and apprised the driver of the situation. I watched as the driver knocked it loose with a hammer and we went on our way.

Photo courtesy of: kingofobsolete.ca

Photo courtesy of: kingofobsolete.ca

For whatever reason, I’ve been thinking a lot about safety this week. The road is a busy place and the situation changes from minute to minute. Even a bare and dry road has flaws, dips and bumps, pavement patches and tar snakes, ruts, ridges and rills. Add to this, any number of other obstacles: flying litter, the squashed bodies of dead animals, broken bits of cars, construction debris and even tools – virtually anything that a person who works out of their truck may have forgotten to secure, and the threat factor gets turned up to 11.

In my last article, I talked a little about the changes I need to make in order to become a better driver and I was happy to see that some of you took that as a challenge to be honest with yourselves about your own self improvement as well. This time, I want to talk about the tricks of the trade – the “life hacks” as the kids call them these days – that we rely upon every time we slide behind the wheel. I know you have them. So, show us what you are made of TTAC, share your tricks and help us all be safer out there.

Thomas Kreutzer currently lives in Buffalo, New York with his wife and three children but has spent most of his adult life overseas. He has lived in Japan for 9 years, Jamaica for 2 and spent almost 5 years as a US Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast he has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He also enjoys writing and public speaking where, according to his wife, his favorite subject is himself.

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81 Comments on “Threat Level 11: How Do We Mitigate The Danger?...”


  • avatar

    Safety features such as ultrasonic front and rear parking sensors should be standard on every car. That’s part of the reason I love both my SRT’s. I don’t need the rear view camera in the LCD screen as much as I need the ultrasonic parking. The audio warning combined with me actually paying attention to the car’s surroundings is more than enough to keep me from #1 damaging other people’s property during parking and #2 tailgaiting other cars.

    My car’s Adaptive Cruise Control also warns me when its camera sees that the vehicle ahead has stopped or is moving slowly and it feels I’m going too fast with a loud beeping warning and flashing red lights.

    Why can’t ultrasonic sensors be standard on all cars? You really don’t need the expensive nav screen for them because all they are just dimple sensors and an alarm buzzer.

    #2 Ultimately, the only thing that can make the road safer are smart drivers. Because objects can suddenly appear on the road such as animals, tree limbs, debris, etc, nothing can make roads safer but intelligent drivers making intelligent decisions.

    And that’s why I am 100% certain automated driving will NOT be implemented until Artificial intelligence is perfected. Thing is, with artificial intelligence, many people who would normally be driving will be out of a job because the machines will be able to build better machines (autots) and put us (and the Chinese) out of work.

    • 0 avatar
      Detroit-Iron

      [A]ctually paying attention to the car’s surroundings is more than enough to keep me from #1 damaging other people’s property during parking and #2 tailgaiting other cars.

      fixed

    • 0 avatar
      mnm4ever

      @bigtruck – Agreed. Now that I have a reverse camera I see how comparably difficult and overcomplicated it is compared to the old ultrasonic sensors we had in a previous car. MUCH more useful to hear the beeps and watch in the mirrors.

      • 0 avatar
        darkwing

        When parallel parking, I find the camera makes it much easier to get the angle right the first time, particularly when pulling into a tight spot and/or parking next to a high curb.

        The sensors aren’t precise enough anyway. I’ve experimented pulling up to a brick wall, and in order to park within a foot of the thing, you have to get past the solid tone and back into the 3-6 foot slow beep. The camera doesn’t have that problem.

        • 0 avatar
          mnm4ever

          My Ford and my Dodge were pretty dead on accurate with the solid tone distance thing. Could just be the car. The cameras I have used are a fish-eye view and that distortion just messes up my depth perception. I am sure it’s a personal preference and experience thing, I have never had trouble parallel parking with mirrors, I am quite good at it actually. But then again I wouldn’t even try to squeeze into a tight parallel space, I value my bumper paint too much.

        • 0 avatar

          I miss cars that had rear windows that you could see out of.

          One trick, which I learned from watching my Uncle Alfred drive: in traffic, particularly at night, when braking, pump quickly so that the guy behind you really notices the brake lights.

          When I’m driving in cold weather where the road might be icy, I’m constantly testing whether its slippery.

  • avatar
    mechimike

    Where we live, in a good and rural area, around this time of the year, deer are the biggest hazard on the roads. Combine the corn harvest, impending winter, mating season, and hunting season, and it’s almost a sure bet that any given 2 lane road will be a veritable minefield of the 4 legged monsters, especially around dawn and dusk hours.

    Last Tuesday after work I took the Missus out to dinner for our two year anniversary. On the way home it was about 8PM, and while the speed limit signs allowed a maximum of 50 miles per hour, I was cruising along at 30 to 35, high beams blazing on the deserted roads. The radio was turned down, and I scanned the ditches perpetually.

    We were less than a mile from our driveway when I saw the white tail flicker in the periphery, and instinctively my feet grabbed the clutch and middle pedal. The first doe crossed the road before my wife even knew why she was thrown into her belts, but once she did, the second doe grabbed her attention and she made sure I was well aware of it as well. They always travel in packs.

    This wasn’t the first deer I’d had cross my path this year- a few weeks back one ran in front of my truck, though this was during daylight hours and I’d spotted him a good 15 seconds earlier on the shoulder, just waiting there for some hapless motorist to pass before performing his imitation of Frogger.

    • 0 avatar

      The greatest natural predator of the Whitetail Deer is the AR-15 .223 with plastic tips.

      youtube com/watch?v=fJr7Ph5SGO4

      If you can handle it, do what I did and get the FN FAL .308.

    • 0 avatar

      These days, it doesn’t even need to be in a “good and rural area”. I work at a university that’s on the edge of Baltimore City, and the small wooded area around the school is enough for a ton of deer – I work out at our on-campus fitness center, and frequently see several of them on the road near the fitness center, which is surrounded by a small wooded area.

      • 0 avatar

        You know what would change that? More guns on campus. Just sayin’…

        • 0 avatar
          mechimike

          He said he’s in Baltimore. Chances are good there’s already lots of firearms on campus.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          Mo Guns, Mo Problems.

          • 0 avatar
            Luke42

            I’m not sure if you’re being sarcastic or not.

            But I grew up in rural Virginia with traditional gun culture, and guns weren’t really a problem there beyond reminding high school students that it’s polite to drop your hunting rifle off at home on your way to school. Guns aren’t a problem there, and so regulating them isn’t a solution.

            But my wife was living in Baltimore when I met her, and the things the left says about guns ate actually true there. If you take the guns away from the gangs, you solve lits of big problems – and a lot of dumb kids get to go home at the end of the day and get a second chance to smarten up.

            I don’t have a problem recognizing that guns have different effects in different contexts, though most of the people whinging about the issue have a big problem recognizing this. The hard part is coming up with a single set of rules that can apply to both rural and urban communities (which are deeply connected). I don’t have a good answer to that, and I haben’t heard one from anyone else.

            But, hey, lots of lobbyists and marketing firms make a lot of money fighting the fight on “our” behalf…. So it’s OK just so long as the lobbyists win, right?

            But, yeah, as far as Baltimore is concerned mo guns is mo problems. Been there. Saw it in person.

          • 0 avatar
            JimC2

            We should regulate cities. No one needs to live in a built up area exceeding some arbitrarily legislated population density. Take away the cities, it’ll solve angry youth problems!

            ;)

            Just stirring the pot!

      • 0 avatar
        mechimike

        Hey neighbor- I’m up in Westminster. You’re right- deer can be as big of a problem in the city and near- ‘burbs. Bigger, actually, since the population density of humans makes hunting the buggers safely impossible.

        • 0 avatar
          FuzzyPlushroom

          That’s how it is in Ithaca (New York). Can’t fire a gun within the ‘city’ limits, but that doesn’t stop the deer – of which there are more than plenty.

          If I lived there, I’d be practicing with a slingshot.

        • 0 avatar
          George B

          I live in the suburbs of Dallas, TX and I haven’t seen any deer around here. It’s a little too populated to shoot a deer with a rifle, but Texas Parks & Wildlife allows bow hunting with a bag limit of 4. Discovered that I’m also allowed one alligator per year.
          http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/regulations/outdoor-annual/2013-2014/counties/collin/#white-tailed-deer

          The big animal problem in Texas is Feral Hogs. Texas Parks & Wildlife encourages people to kill and eat them. Even provide recipes. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4GLDy35byNE People eating tasty animals.

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      I’m in an SF Bay Area suburb, and plenty of deer here as well. One sat down in the middle of the parking lot shared by three condo buildings, and wouldn’t move for maybe two hours. I went out to get rid of some recyclables, and the noise from that didn’t scare him off.

      Being mating season, I guess he was resting. A minefield indeed.

  • avatar
    Crabspirits

    I subscribe to the user TheCrashchanel on Youtube. Check it out if you haven’t already. Be prepared to waste a week. If my daughter was of driving age, I would force her to watch every video.

  • avatar

    @ Tom – I see you lived in Japan for a number of years. How would you rate Japanese as drivers compared to Americans. In my experience, they tend to be quite cautious… except, of course, for the boy racers driving around in their Skylines and on their crotch rockets. I also noticed how Japanese kill their engine at stop lights, something I’ve not seen anywhere else.

    • 0 avatar

      You know, I seriously considered that topic as a possible article this week and may yet go there one of these days. My experience is that they (my wife included) are very good at car handling and the environment they drive in (and their training) tends to really hammer-home slow speed handling skills and caution. Where they fall down, for the most part, are things like looking down the road and understanding how a car at speed shifts its weight around on its suspension depending upon your driving inputs and how that, in turn, affects things like traction.

      I learned a lot driving and riding there – and some of that is applicable to this discussion so I’ll share those tricks. The first is what I call “the whole road approach.” I learned to really watch the entire road, including for objects and obstructions in the oncoming lane that might neccesitate an oncoming car to need to move partially into my lane. In the US we would expect that guy to stop and wait for us to pass, but in Japan I slide over a bit and the oncoming car goes through the gap I leave him. It’s really slick, but confusing at first. I still do it here and its surprising how little worry I feel when that oncoming car intrudes that little bit into may lane. Previously, I would have freaked out.

      The other thing I learned is to take a breath before heading through a green light. The Japanese love to run red lights. I take that extra second before I start and its surprising how many runners go by without a hitch. I also watch the rearview and make sure I’m not going to get clocked, too, but that comes from a lifetime of bikes.

      Lately there are a lot of autostop functions on Japanese cars, things like Mazda’s Skyactive tech that kills the engines automatically. Most people don’t do that, although they do often douse the lights (which is really to stop the glare from your own lights refelcting back in your face off the car in front while you are stopped at long ights.) Some older people will put their cars into park at stoplights. For the most part, the people I know don’t kill their engines because that affects their AC and generally its too hot to do that.

      The hotrodders, and I hung out with them on both the bike and in my car, are for the most part just dumbasses with fast cars. They aren’t, IMO, really that much better than your average US hotrodder. They start driving later and it seems to me like they have less intuitive control over their cars when compared to people who start driving younger. One thing they do well is modify their cars, and they can set their suspensions up to be super stiff because the roads there are so smooth and because they don’t rely upon their cars for daily transportation. It gives them an advantage we don’t have because most people in the rest of the world use their cars for more than just playing around.

      • 0 avatar
        juicy sushi

        I can echo the lack of concern for “the whole road.” I found Japanese drivers will frequently pull out without really looking at the speed of oncoming traffic, and don’t regard anything except another car as a cause to yield. If you’re on a bicycle, they will pull out in front of you and you will have to take emergency measures.

        On rural roads there frequently isn’t a middle line on the road, and many just bomb down the middle in their kei cars and then dive to the shoulder when they notice oncoming traffic. Not always in time…

      • 0 avatar
        KixStart

        “The Japanese love to run red lights. I take that extra second before I start and its surprising how many runners go by without a hitch.”

        They would feel right at home in Minnesota. It is extremely common for cars to go through after the light turns red.

        Are the lights in Japan typically of long duration? Ours are typically fairly long and I think that’s part of the reason drivers will go through the intersection late… they know that, if they don’t make the light, they’ll wait a long time for the green.

    • 0 avatar

      You must have a Japanese wife, as do I.

      I’ve not known Japanese to ignore red lights, at least while walking as pedestrians. They absolutely will not walk against a red light. Are you saying that changes when they get behind the wheel? I’ve never driven in Japan, so I have no knowledge of this. I HAVE nearly been run over because my instincts cause me to look the wrong way when jaywalking, something else a self respecting Japanese would never do.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        I can say that on the whole, Korean drivers are very poor!

        • 0 avatar
          Onus

          Agree.

          I worked with a Korean lady. No one ever wanted her to drive them anywhere.

          She flipped a econobox sedan on the highway. Enough said.

          She also drives right up to idiots instead of backing off so they can cause destruction without getting you involved.

          She also has the worst steering technique and randomly just do a super quick turn.

          She also drives way too quick and never uses her signals ever. Even at 4 ways.

      • 0 avatar

        When you leave the airport at Heathrow they have little footprints painted on the curb and a text that says “Look Right.” Americans always look left first, then right. Usually by the time we look right we are already in the street. I had to train myself to look left everytime when I got to Japan.

        I also spent about a month walking on the left side of the sidewalk, pretending like I was driving and always bearing left everytime I came to an intersection. It was especially important to me because I was mainly a motorcyclist there. But that’s beside the point.

        Japanese street lights usually have a long delay after a light facing one direction turn red and the other light turns green. It is usually a full second and maybe even as long as two seconds. Drivers know this and they push it. It is a major problem. As law abiding as the Japanese tend to be, they run red lights with great frequency.

        • 0 avatar
          KixStart

          MN also has a short delay between the red and the green… I’ve not noticed a similar delay on the East Coast.

        • 0 avatar
          Syke

          I hear you. The only reason I’m still here is a very kindly Londoner in January ’94, who grabbed me just as I was about to walk out in front of a double decker bus. Driving in England was never a problem, crossing the street was.

        • 0 avatar
          JimC2

          I once took a vacation in Australia. The simple difference of left/right traffic disoriented me every time I went to walk across a street or picture which lane cars turning at intersections would follow. After a couple days I just started looking both ways–and checking twice–and waiting for the green or walk signal. My kindergarten teacher was right!

          (The sun’s daily journey across the sky in what was, to me, apparently the wrong direction, messed with my sense of direction too- but that’s because I grew up in the northern hemisphere rather than because of driving on the right or left side of the road.)

          • 0 avatar
            cls12vg30

            Pretty sure the sun still moves from East to West in the Southern Hemisphere…..it’s just in the northerly part of the sky instead of the southernly.

          • 0 avatar
            JimC2

            Of course it moves east-to-west. But throughout the day from morning to evening, it moves right-to-left instead of left-to-right. Not everybody might notice that kind of thing, but maybe I’m just special in my own weird way ;)

          • 0 avatar
            cls12vg30

            Right, I forgot to allow for the fact that you were upside-down at the time. It all makes sense now.

  • avatar
    Domestic Hearse

    During college, my summers were spent doing hard labor on a construction crew. I got promoted to the dump truck, which was considerably less labor, but more responsibility and much more stress. Having driven one three summers in a row, I got to experience and see all the bad things that happen around dump trucks. So since you brought one up, dump truck life hacks…

    Never pull up close behind a dump truck at a stop sign or light when there’s a reverse downhill grade. Newer ones have rollback prevention features. But most still on the road don’t. A good truck driver can pull away with no rollback, but a worn clutch or inexperienced driver will almost always have a few inches to a foot or more of rollback. So leave plenty of space.

    On multilane roads, never drive side-by-side with a dump truck (or any big truck, for that matter). When the tire blows (it’s not if, but when) it sends debris everywhere. And can cause the truck to abruptly change direction. Just pass quickly and be done with it.

    Don’t follow a dump truck closely (or any truck, for that matter). Some people feel it’s safer to let the truck play fullback on the highway. Or take advantage of the truck’s draft. Don’t. Not ever. First of all, the old racer’s adage – eyes up, look multiple cars and corners ahead. Can’t do that behind a truck. Secondly, dump trucks are always losing stuff, usually rocks and gravel that’ve found their way into the treads, on the frame, or pinched in the tailgate. Those come off and while they may not become the cannonball in Thomas’ story, they will take out your windshield or do a number on your front headlights or paint job. Following a truck in winter is also dangerous, as snow and ice can build up on the roof of the trailer, only to become airborne at highway speeds. And yes, tire blowouts from the trailer can make a mess of your day if you’re following too closely. So don’t.

    If you’re in stopped traffic for an extended period, leave space between you and the truck. If the truck engine stops for any reason (mechanical, driver error stall, out of fuel) there’s a chance the truck loses air pressure. It’ll roll if the driver doesn’t react quickly and engage his parking brake while the air pressure is still high. If he works the brakes and can’t get the truck restarted, he’ll soon run out of brakes. (Once saw a dump truck stall going up a steep mountain uphill and stall. The driver kept working his brakes while he tried to restart, rather than hitting his parking brake and in no time, he was rolling out of control…backwards into oncoming traffic. He knifed the truck to the right shoulder, off the road, up the embankment, and dumped it onto its side. Nobody hurt, but it was a close run thing.)

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      My father drove over-the-road and as a “bid” driver, and many of my family and friends are involved in trucking and logistics. So we have something of a “hive” of knowledge about how to act and react to driving with large trucks in the family. I believe it may have saved my older daughter’s life once.

      These are all great rules of thumb, I wish everyone could read this post, because if you’re on public roads, you WILL be sharing it with a large truck. Treat them with respect and you’ll most likely get it back.

      • 0 avatar
        Domestic Hearse

        I was the only “college boy” driving trucks, the rest of the guys were veterans. Best drivers you ever saw. Most any truck driver with experience is a way better driver than 90% of the people on the road. They’re always thinking miles ahead, cars ahead, and driving every car in their vicinity.

        Used to ask a lot of questions, and copy everything those guys did.

        “You drive with your mirrors, boy. Spend as much time looking back as you do forward.”

        “Smooth is fast. Never rush. Never push. Control yourself. Control your truck.”

        Nothing but respect for those guys. Always flash them in to merge, give them space, signal my intentions. And the courtesy is always returned. It’s as if they know someone appreciates the level of difficulty involved in what they’re doing and understands what they need in order to be safe, do their jobs.

    • 0 avatar
      DC Bruce

      That’s a really useful post. Thanks!

    • 0 avatar
      Audiofyl

      Additionally, the ground clearance of trucks is more than essentially all cars and many smaller SUVs or trucks. Your winter comment made me think of snow boogers (or whatever they’re called in your area) which is the icy snow block of fallout from behind the wheels of someone driving in the snow for some time. But any other road debris that fits under a commercial truck won’t necessarily fit under your vehicle. It’s happened to me with a tire tread in the middle of the highway that I couldn’t avoid due to not having enough following distance and not having a lane to change into due to other traffic.

      Always have an escape route in mind.

      • 0 avatar
        Wheatridger

        To prevent ground effects of the worst kind, I avoid cars with low ground clearance. Form personal experience, I know that some cars won’t clear a 4×4 piece of lumber (that’s 3.5 inches square, by USA custom). My present cars can. When my wife that that dropped timber on the freeway during rush hour, there was no safe chance to change lanes and avoid it. That would have been the worst thing to do. And at night, you might not see it at all.

        Or, you might not see it because it’s too bright. Sunlight was glaring painfully off the road as I drove westward. Passing the Coors Brewery, as it happened. When I sensed a brighter glint inside that glare, I realized there was an aluminum ladder lying flat
        in my lane. About three stripes ahead, at 65 mph! I had just enough reaction time to steer left, to barely miss it. When I stopped, I checked the right front tire and found a shallow cut in the sidewall. My New Beetle, although raised one inch, wouldn’t have made it over that! But worse, you wouldn’t want to be following behind the first car that hit it.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      My brother had this happen. Following a semi in the winter, and a huge sheet of ice came off the trailer at 65mph on the highway. Punched a big spiderweb crack and accompanying dent into his windshield.

    • 0 avatar
      KennethofGA

      +1 that. As an aside I’d also mention that trucks have blind spots in places where most people wouldn’t think they do, like for instance right outside the driver’s door of this rolling corner office.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      All of this goes for buses too – I drove them part-time in college and grad school. Amazing how stupid people can be around large un-maneuverable vehicles with lousy brakes. Cars are too easy – even the bad ones steer well and stop on a dime. Trucks and buses sure don’t!

    • 0 avatar
      JimC2

      Speaking of tires coming apart… once upon a time, while driving on a multi-lane freeway in a locale where big trucks are allowed in the left lane, I was waiting for an opening to get past a pack of vehicles, including a big truck using the left lane for something other than passing (but I digress). A minivan came along and cut close in between the truck and me- and very close to me. I resisted the temptation to honk (but muttered to myself, “Next time use a shoehorn for a lanechange like that, buddy.”). Almost right away I smelled burning rubber and started to see little wisps of smoke coming from the big truck… and Mr. Impatient Minivan was rewarded for his efforts by flying hunks of molten rubber hitting his minivan. I briefly enjoyed the sight, sound, and smell of several of these things pelting his vehicle and then bouncing off up, over, and clear of my vehicle. Aaaand then I slowed down and moved over before the really big pieces started to fly.

      A few minutes later my patience was rewarded and I got around the pack. Thanks again for help, buddy!

  • avatar
    GST

    Easy. You are waiting to turn right onto an arterial. The car on the arterial to your left has his turn signal on.
    Do you pull out on to the arterial anticipating that he will turn before he reaches you? No, he may or probably is going to turn later and if you pull out, a collision may result. This happened to an acquaintance last month. He had a 5 day old (new) Audi Q5.

  • avatar
    davefromcalgary

    I think a big one is staying up on basic maintenance. Tires, brakes, wiper blades and glass (and glass clearing devices), lighting, shocks and struts, any of these areas being compromised is a huge safety issue. You can have the reactions of a fly on crack but if the car won’t do what its told due to being in a state of disrepair, its all for naught.

    My car is pushing 300.000 kms but all of its running gear is new and working, and I trust it more than many newer, “nicer” cars that are neglected by their owners.

    • 0 avatar
      olddavid

      As another David, I have to second this one’s perspective. My Father always used to say “your tires are your life”. And brakes, and wipers and lights. I don’t care how old your car or how empty your pocketbook, for everyone’s sake keep up with the safety operations of your car. And keep those tires full of that free stuff that keeps them working.

    • 0 avatar
      brettc

      Basic maintenance is key. My wife drives a 2000 Jetta and people that don’t know cars (aka most people) are amazed when they find out it’s 14 years old and is approaching 200000 miles. A bit of time and money for wear parts will pay off in the long run. Too bad more people don’t recognize this. I’m amazed at the number of cars I see in parking lots with nearly bald tires.

      I constantly see SUVs and minivans with no rear wiper on the arm, or a falling apart wiper. Or even no wiper arm at all! I figure that if they care that little about seeing out of the back of their vehicle, I don’t want to be around them on the road for extended periods because who knows what else has been neglected? Even though there are yearly inspections in Maine, I think a lot of shops are easily bribed to pass beaters.

    • 0 avatar
      Beerboy12

      +1 absolutely. Wheel alignment to.

  • avatar
    thesal

    FYI…the fastest that rock can come out of the truck tires is at the speed the truck is going. This would be because that’s as fast as the rubber at the edge of the tire could be going.

    So if it would release exactly backwards, it would stop in the middle of the road. However, if it was released upwards, some of that 35mph would lift it in the air. Speed relative to the ground would drop. That’s where slow stone in air would hit faster car approaching…impact speed would definitely be less than 35mph though.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s things like this that make people think of science as a tool of the devil.

    • 0 avatar
      Halftruth

      Perhaps but I wouldn’t chance it. On route 80 in PA some years ago, a nice gentleman left a loose piece of concrete on his flatbed truck. Thru the various bumps and vibrations, said piece of concrete finally took flight and was headed straight for my wife in the passenger seat.
      I swerved left and avoided what I thought would be a disastrous event.
      But I wonder if the speed difference was all that much between me and the rock. I would think not but I wasn’t about to find out. Even worse would be encountering anything that big whilst on two wheels.

    • 0 avatar
      Wheatridger

      So you’re hit by the sum of the truck’s speed and your own speed. That’s not so reassuring.

  • avatar
    mnm4ever

    I made all 3 of my kids read Jack’s column on driving vision, I thought it was excellent:

    http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/08/trackday-diaries-the-vision-thing/

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    One time I was driving along a two-lane road in rural-ish Indiana, about to enter a town. There was a line of cars all doing about 35-40. I was somewhere in the middle. There was a rock as large as a baseball in the road, and everyone drove around it, except the guy in front of me, who ran OVER it with both his tires, causing it to bounce around and roll backwards toward me. There was no shoulder to speak of (someone’s yard with a picket fence), and a solid line of cars coming the other direction. So I watched and waited for the rock to hit the front of my pearl white 90S. It didn’t, as I reached it just as it landed on the pavement again. As I drove over, I could hear it hit the shields under the car with a BANG BANG BANG. After the third bang, it bounced up high behind me, and flew down right in the middle of the hood of a Cavalier behind me. After that it flew off to the right, into the grass. The dude didn’t slow down or pull onto a side road (I would have had to look that very moment to see), but I’m sure his hood was really messed up. I was extra glad those shields were all under there so it didn’t do any damage to my car.

    And that’s my rock encounter of 2005.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Never speed in parking lots or neighborhoods.

    You never know when a child might emerge from a hidden spot, and everybody has to live with the consequences. If it still tragically happens, at least you can say you were within the law.

  • avatar

    Some of the things I look for are drivers who tend to swerve over the cats-eyes and white line near the shoulder. If they are repeat offenders (especially in a straight line) I tend to flicker my “flash to pass” since they don’t seem to get that that rumbling means they’re in harms way. I also tend to give these drivers more space in case they end up flinging a rock or actually contacting someone in the opposite lane.

    Bicycles… where do I begin? I give them my lane when I can, but it still bugs me when there’s a decent shoulder but they are still right on the line (or in my lane). When they are in the opposite lane/direction, I do move closer to the shoulder so that drivers coming toward me have the wiggle room they may need to feel comfortable passing.

    Dump trucks and cement mixers: it seems no matter what the gap, I hear the grit and pebbles on my car even at a good quarter mile apart, or even in the next lane over on freeways. Still, it’s better than being immediately behind.

    Left lane lingerers: those people who hover at the left-rear quarter of my car, but never actually pass. Here in California the consensus seems to be that if I turn on my turn signal for a couple clicks to move in front of them, they’ll finally pass me. In Oregon they tended to slow down (they’re nicer, even though a number of them don’t like Californians). Washington went back to the California mindset. If I do run into a Californian who doesn’t get I just want them to get around, I will turn the signal on once and lightly tap the brakes twice. If they still don’t get it– third gear WOT blast to increase the gap so people who may be stuck behind them can go by on the right.

    Giving truckers a spot: when I’m in that line of cars taking forever to pass a semi truck, I wait a little ways back so in case the truck needs to cut in front of me for, say, a merging motorist or roadside emergency, they have it. Once there’s room enough for me to catch up to the car in front of me as well as ample space to safely move in front of the truck, I go balls-out past them because hey– my car takes a few seconds even in the power band. Not all truckers appreciate it, I bet, but I’m sure they like it more than just sitting next to them like the other morons.

    Safe distance to move in front of large trucks, buses, etc. tends to be the “full front view in rear-view mirror.” That’s always been my reference point for them even before reading it elsewhere.

    Empty/unladen semi’s can’t brake as well: stay farther away/wary of these trucks. With a tight rear end, those trailers and their brakes don’t have the pressure for a good contact patch, making it harder to control in an emergency stop. I learned that from my last bout of traffic school.

    One way street? Still look both ways. Pedestrians (especially teenagers and vagrants) still come from any place they want, and drivers aren’t always going to be sharp enough to notice all the cars parked down the street are facing one direction. I had such an instance in downtown San Francisco some months ago, making a right onto a one way street (fortunately at a light) to find myself face to face with a Toyota Rav4. They made a three-point turn to fix the stupid.

    In the city, everything goes– have someone stand in the middle lane of a busy, three-lane street to stop traffic so your buddies can “parallel park” at a 90-degree angle. This was the same night in San Francisco, but in Chinatown. The two right lanes were taken up with a minivan. Lets just say, I heard someone locking up their brakes a few cars back.

  • avatar

    I operate under the assumption that other drivers are going to do the wrong thing, will do the stupid and dangerous thing. 99.99% of the time they don’t. But all it takes is once; one failure to stop at the stop sign; one lane change unchecked. This policy has saved my bacon, in situations that would have been horrible, three or more times over the course of my driving career.

  • avatar
    KennethofGA

    1. open your ears.
    often times trouble comes from blind spots but a lot of times you can hear it before you see it.
    2. know where you are
    Not where you are in the since of a map location but as in the difference between a residential area and the freeway.
    3.Trouble comes on the double
    “Soccer balls and puppy’s have children attached to them.” my trainers words pop into my head every time I see a a dog on the side of the road. Deer as we know travel in heards and if a dude on a crotch rocket blows by you at triple digit speeds his buddy that got stuck at the last red light is coming up hard.
    4. stay calm
    well duh

  • avatar
    VoltOwner

    My dump truck story goes like this: Passed a construction site just before crossing an overpass. On the overpass I came up behind the truck, which was already signaling a right onto the cloverleaf, so hung back and patiently followed the truck into the curve. I noticed a line of gravel on the left side of the road, it was there because the dump trucks had been taking that route for a week already. So I backed off a little more. I guess the guy in the BMW behind me was getting impatient about then, because he decided to pass both me and the truck using the commuter lane that opened up halfway through the loop. I see him zoom around and disappear in front of the truck, and then the truck starts braking, hard. Comes to a complete stop, and I pull to the right to see why. Lo and behold, there’s Mr. BMW dead in the road, looking the truck driver in the eye. Spun 180 and killed his car in the middle of the merging lanes, just before the freeway merge. We waited while he started up and reversed around, then sped off in a hail of gravel.

    If I had been driving that truck I know I would have been tempted to be just a little lighter on the brake pedal than the pro who was driving it…

  • avatar
    GS650G

    Ride a bicycle on the street and you’ll get a real good idea of what the streets can offer up as far as hazards. A motorcycle gives a perspective as well not found in a car of road hazards.

    • 0 avatar
      davefromcalgary

      I sometimes commute on my bicycle. It has definitely made me a better drivers, as it has made me more aware of things to look for that pedestrians and cyclists are prone to do.

  • avatar
    This Is Dawg

    Ususally I come to this website one or twice week, scroll through the articles I’ve missed, and open interesting articles in new tabs until I recognize old posts. That tease just made me click the link without caring what articles lie below. That’s some good authentic suspense right there. Very well written.

  • avatar
    alexndr333

    I remind myself of my last trip to Maui. With no real freeways and lots of slow traffic on the main road in Kihei, everyone relaxes. Drivers stop for others entering from side streets and no one behind the stopped car goes mental. If I can remember the patience and ‘generosity’ I exercised while driving in Hawaii, I’m a less stressed driver here in California.

    As to this story, I’m guessing that the number of fathers with the mechanical know-how to recognize the danger of that rock has moved from 1 out of 50 when Mr. Kreutzer was a kid to 1 out of 5,000 today. The downside of trading our manufacturing economy for an information-based one. A big loss in my opinion.

  • avatar
    ravenchris

    Set your departure time so as to be at your destination five minutes ahead of schedule.

  • avatar
    shaker

    “A Rock… Unflung” as the genesis for many good stories.
    Brilliant.

  • avatar
    Beerboy12

    Safe driving is about habits. Always use the flicker, that way its a habit. Always check mirrors. Spend a bit of time setting your mirrors up to maximize view and minimize blind spots. Use the cruise control to control speed, because speeding is mostly unnecessary and expensive. always try to see beyond the car in front of you…

  • avatar
    -Nate

    In the summer of 1969 in rural New Hampshire , I hitch hiked a ride in a VW Bus from some dipshit hippie and his wife .

    They were very nice and all but along the road , a 1929 “AA’ MJodel Ford dump truck pulled out in front of us and there was a large river stone wedged in between the right set of dual tires and the damn fool driving the VW refused to stop tailgating nor to pull over & let me out ~ I had to suffer some time watching that rock whirl around and I was in it’s direct path had it launched rear wards .

    Don’t be a dick while driving , scaring the crap out of your passengers isn’t funny at all .

    Many good points to ponder here .

    -Nate


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