The Truth About Cars » Defensive Driving http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sun, 14 Sep 2014 15:36:15 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Defensive Driving http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Driving Ability: Have I Lost The “Eye Of The Tiger?” http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/driving-ability-have-i-lost-the-eye-of-the-tiger/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/driving-ability-have-i-lost-the-eye-of-the-tiger/#comments Wed, 23 Oct 2013 15:39:43 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=632618 I’ve let myself go over the years. No, I’m not talking about the almost 100 pounds I have gained since I left hallowed halls of Snohomish High School almost 30 years ago, I’m talking about my driving habits. 10 and 2 has slipped to 7 and crotch, with crotch occasionally slipping to 6 to steady […]

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Click here to view the embedded video.

I’ve let myself go over the years. No, I’m not talking about the almost 100 pounds I have gained since I left hallowed halls of Snohomish High School almost 30 years ago, I’m talking about my driving habits. 10 and 2 has slipped to 7 and crotch, with crotch occasionally slipping to 6 to steady the wheel while 7 moves around for added leverage. Know what I mean? I know you do…

Like most of the people who read TTAC, I would like to think I am an above average driver – knock on wood. I bolster that claim by citing the low number of accidents I have been involved in over the years. I can think of just three – one when I was 17 and put my Nova in the ditch, one when I was 18 and put my Nova in yet a different ditch and another in my late 20s when I slid my Geo Metro off of Interstate 90. In the first case, I ran off the road because I was doing doughnuts in the gravel (oops!), the second was on a dark snowy night when I came up over a hill and found the road full of little kids sledding and the third, which should have been the worst, was when I got crossed up on black ice and blew of the Interstate going full speed. In every case, I was able to fish the car back onto the road and go home without a single bit of damage. I have never struck another car (unless you count the times I may or may not have bumped someone parallel parking) nor have I ever caused anyone the slightest injury. Considering that I have been a licensed driver for more than 30 years and have probably driven somewhere north of a million miles in my life, I think that’s a pretty good record.

Oh yeah!

Oh yeah!

In the twisties I have a good sense of my cars’ abilities. I know how to corner, understand how the car’s weight shifts around when you brake and turn, and how traction varies in different situations. When I want to, I can make a car hustle and although I have never driven on a track feel like I would do that pretty well, too. Of course real racers will jump on me now, accuse me of hubris and say that my supposed street skills don’t count for anything on the track – to which I reply, “Give me a race car and some track time and we’ll see..” but I digress.

I’m not saying any of this to puff myself up or get a ride in a race car, I’m saying it because I think most people who read TTAC feel like I do. As enthusiasts, we know we are above average drivers, right? But how do we know? So, in the interest of science, on my way home from work yesterday, I took a good hard look at the reality of my driving habits.

I did some things right. I wore my seatbelt and made sure my mirrors were adjusted before I set out. I looked far down the road to read traffic as far out as possible, used my signal religiously and checked my blind spots before I changed lanes just like I was taught way back in driver’s ed. I didn’t linger in people’s blind spots either, something I learned from a lifetime as a motorcyclist, and whenever possible I used my vantage point on freeway overpasses to look down on the roads I would be merging into before I looped back around to them on the backside of the cloverleaf. Not bad, right? This old dog, I think, has some good tricks.

Click here to view the embedded video.

But I did some things wrong, too. I didn’t grip the wheel in the right places – not even close – I held the wheel at the bottom, with my hands in my lap and only moved them up when I needed to negotiate a turn. There were times I followed too close because I was worried someone would merge between me and the car in front of me and, because of that, there were times I had to get on the brakes harder than I would have liked. I passed on the right, something I have heard referred to as “undertaking” and for much of the journey stayed above the posted speed limit. There were probably other things too, and I will keep looking for them as I go along. Hopefully, I’ll catch all of these small mistakes and be an even better driver for my efforts.

There it is, my own honest assessment of my own abilities. Despite all the puffing myself up at the top of this article, the truth is I have some things I need to focus on to ensure that I stay ahead of the curve. I wonder, however, if there might be other things I should be working on and so I want to ask you to set aside your egos, and check your desire to criticize the people who share, in order to really discuss our bad driving habits. What are they? How serious do you think they are and how can we fix them?

We can all do better. What’s it gonna take to get back our “eye of the tiger?” Probably at least one more montage….

Click here to view the embedded video.

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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Shooting The Gap: An Unorthodox Solution http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/shooting-the-gap-an-unorthodox-solution/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/shooting-the-gap-an-unorthodox-solution/#comments Wed, 21 Aug 2013 16:14:08 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=500211 As I slipped the clutch and rolled on the throttle, the big GSXR1100 bucked and growled like a wild beast between my knees. I took the little wiggle and the bucking in stride and cracked the throttle even wider to shift the bike’s weight onto the rear tire. The bike responded instantly, the sound of […]

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keiji-bypass_japan

As I slipped the clutch and rolled on the throttle, the big GSXR1100 bucked and growled like a wild beast between my knees. I took the little wiggle and the bucking in stride and cracked the throttle even wider to shift the bike’s weight onto the rear tire. The bike responded instantly, the sound of its anger pouring out the back as a prolonged shriek of pure rage. The toll plaza fell quickly away as I hit third gear and leaned into the gentle, sweeping left hander that would bring me up onto the Yokohama-Yokosuka Expressway and there, in the final few meters before the merge, I drove the tachometer towards redline and shot past a pair of slow moving cars before shifting into the higher gears and settling onto the highway ahead of them.

The road was wide and smooth and the south bound traffic moved quickly along above the posted speed limit. I ran along slightly faster than the traffic and enjoyed the warmth of the afternoon sun on what was an otherwise cool October day. I was here, where I wanted to be, atop what had been for one brief shining moment a bike that had been on the very sharpest part of the cutting edge of technology. Fifteen years on that time was well past, but the bike’s power and attitude remained and I felt every intoxicating bit of it through the steady thrum of the engine. The power lurked there, under my right hand, waiting – demanding – to be put down onto the street and I was in the right mood to indulge it.

GSXR1100

Ahead was my chance, two cars rumbling along side by side in a painfully protracted pass, neither willing to do what it took to clear the lane of travel for the faster vehicles stacking up behind them. I checked my six in the rearview mirror, rolled onto the white line that divided the two lanes of the freeway, dropped two gears and opened the throttle. The bike shot forward into the gap and in an instant I was out ahead of the traffic accelerating away in brazen display of sheer power. It was glorious.

Right about now, those of you who have never thrown a leg over a bike are thinking I am nuts. I’m not going to disagree with that. There was a time I didn’t have much at stake and I was willing to push right to the edge, but the truth is lane splitting, even at high speeds on the freeway, isn’t a big deal. Bikes can go all sorts of places that cars can’t and understanding that is more important than most people realize. Besides allowing you to act like Top Gun on some Japanese freeway, it can actually keep you safe when the shit hits the fan. What’s more, it’s a skill that you can use in your car.

Click here to view the embedded video.

To most of us, our place on the road is inviolate and the lines on the road might as well be two feet tall and made out of granite. Safe inside in our metal boxes, we are secure in our right to a place on the road and our confidence in the rules, and the fact that the vast majority of people will obey those rules almost all the time, means that we don’t have to think about things like exit strategies. Beginning motorcyclists need to snap out of this mentality in a big hurry if they are going to enjoy a long, injury free career in the saddle. Because bikes are smaller than cars they are often overlooked by drivers and having someone merge into their place on the road is a common occurrence. Without a steel crash cage to protect their soft flesh, a rider’s inviolate legal right to a place on the road the same as any car offers scant real-world protection and so the best answer is often to flee from trouble.

A good rider constantly scans the road for trouble and takes special note of possible escape routes. A beginner often thinks in terms of where a car can fit and so exit routes tend to be few and far between. More experienced riders think in broader terms and soon any space you can reasonably expect to fit into becomes a possible egress. The space between cars running the same direction is surprisingly wide as is, believe it or not, the space on the yellow line between opposite lanes of traffic. Motorcyclists can also go onto sidewalks, up paths and even into spaces between parked cars if necessary. If shoving your bike through some small rat hole stops you from getting squished like a bug then, when the situation calls for it, do what it takes to live.

The bike I really learned to lane split on - my CBR250R

The bike I really learned to lane split on – my CBR250R

As a driver, you should be thinking along similar lines. If you can’t stop to avoid a collision, you should seek to avoid it by going around it. Cars are bigger than bikes, of course, but they don’t require an entire lane worth of space in an emergency. They can, if the situation is right, run between cars, go up the shoulder, into a median or up onto a sidewalk as long as there are no pedestrians. No place is off limits in an emergency so long as you aren’t putting anyone else’s life in danger. So maybe you have to rebuild someone’s fence or reseed a lawn, but the cost pales in comparison to extensive repairs and a lengthy hospital stay.

Not everyone can be Top Gun, but all of us should be ready to act when our lives are at stake. Understanding that there are other options outside the norm is a trick that every driver needs to add to their bag. Sometimes the unorthodox solution is the best one, and knowing that it is there waiting to be used might just save your life one day. I’m not asking you to split lanes on your way home tonight, but just think about the possibility. Criticize my antics that sunny October day now if you like, but remember them because one day they might just save your life.

Thomas M 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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Flirtin’ With Disaster – Motorcyclists’ Thoughts On Defensive Driving http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/flirtin-with-disaster-motorcyclists-thoughts-on-defensive-driving/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/flirtin-with-disaster-motorcyclists-thoughts-on-defensive-driving/#comments Fri, 29 Mar 2013 14:59:21 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=482558 I am always hesitant to write a “how to” article. I learned a long time ago that no matter how good I am at something, there is always someone better right around the corner. For every bad-ass black belt you meet, there is a Chuck Norris looking to teach him some humility. Still, when I […]

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It can be murder out there!

I am always hesitant to write a “how to” article. I learned a long time ago that no matter how good I am at something, there is always someone better right around the corner. For every bad-ass black belt you meet, there is a Chuck Norris looking to teach him some humility. Still, when I know something it’s hard to keep it under my hat so I am going to risk drawing your ire in order to start a conversation. Let’s keep it congenial, mkay?

My first motorcycle experiences were not good. The first time I threw a leg over a bike I ended up riding it into side of my uncle’s house. Another time I dumped a Honda three-wheeler into an irrigation ditch and smashed my head on a rock so the fact that I turned out to be a rather proficient motorcyclist in my later years is something many people still regard with amazement. How proficient? In 20+ years of riding, 9 of those in Japan where I was on two wheels almost every day, I never had an accident that did much more than scuff my bike or an injury that required as much as a band aid to treat. Still, I had my share of close calls and the experience taught me a lot about road safety and made me a better driver.

Driving a car and riding a motorcycle are skills that are only loosely related. I know I just burst some people’s bubbles with that statement, but the truth is I may have just saved your life. I don’t care how many fast cars you have driven, you cannot step out of your car and leap onto the back of a 150HP superbike with no practice or training and expect to be fully successful. Still, some of the skills you learn on a bike, especially when they involve defensive driving, situational awareness and things like avoidance and evasion can greatly enhance your ability behind the wheel.

The first thing we teach new riders is to act like they are invisible, because to a lot of drivers that’s exactly what they are. Being invisible leads to a lot of bad things. Cars frequently cut across your path, pull out in front of you and even merge into your lane while you are riding along side of them. The trick to staying alive is to know that driver’s often don’t see you and that you need to be ready to react in a split second.

Sometimes that reaction needs to involve escape routes. Bikes are small and they can go a lot of places people might not think about. They can run in the gutter between a curb and the lane of travel with surprising ease, they can dive between cars – in fact the space between cars can be surprisingly roomy – and they can even split the space between their lane and oncoming cars if they have to. Cars can do this too. Look at any third world street and you will see five lanes of traffic where there are markings for just three. I’m not saying you should drive in these places every day, but you should be looking for them and thinking about how you might want to use them should that semi-truck you are running next to want your space.

That’s another thing, don’t get obsessed with your legal “right” to be somewhere. The law says a motorcycle is entitled to its place on the road as same as a car, right? If you decide to take your CBR up against grandpa’s Buick you are going to lose. If someone else wants your spot, move out of the way and let them in. There’s no point in getting pissy about it, just do it and move on with your life.

Because I love a good discussion and because I have discovered that there is a real art to brevity, I’m not going to spill all my secrets here. I want to ask you, the Best and Brightest to spill YOUR secrets. What do you know about driving and/or riding that can help save some pain, frustration and maybe even lives?

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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