You should look at least seconds ahead of your car
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Best Ways To Drive In Traffic
Of all your senses, your eyesight is the most important for driving. Your eyes pick up most of the information you need to drive. It is important to understand that your eyes determine the path your vehicle follows - you steer where you look.
To illustrate this, pick a straight stretch of paved highway with light traffic. While driving, look at the centre line about 12 seconds ahead. Keep looking at the centre line 12 seconds ahead. Observe how the car moves toward the centre line. To steer around a curve, look at the inside of the curve to where the centre lines vanish. Do not look in the mirrors, do not look down at your instrument panel. If you take your eyes off the road, you will not maintain precise control over your steering.
Remember, if you look at the side of the road, you will steer to the side of the road. Look where you want to go, particularly in an emergency or a skid, and steer there. Check your mirrors and speed when you are driving in a straight line, and when steering is less critical.
When you drive on a highway, you hope the road is clear and unobstructed. To verify that, you will need to perform a search pattern - searching the road for any obstructions or hazards. As part of your search pattern, look up as far as you can see. To look up means to look as far ahead as you can see the highway - to the horizon.
On a straight road, you may be able to see up to 90 seconds ahead. On a curve, look up across and around as far ahead as you can see. At first, you will likely have to concentrate to look this far ahead in curves. When curving right, look at the shoulder line to the point where it disappears.
Keep looking at that point and maintain a steady speed. When curving left, look at the centre line as far as you can see it. When coming out of the curve, look at your lane all the way to the horizon. As you develop that "far ahead" view, you will automatically drive the curve smoothly and accurately.
You will also benefit from seeing your path far enough ahead to deal with any obstacles in your path. Look on the road in front of you to where the spaces on the broken lines on the road disappear. This will be about 12 seconds away. This will help you obtain information you require to steer accurately and safely. Until now, you have been looking up to the horizon , referencing down 12 seconds ahead , looking up, referencing down, etc.
When most people try this exercise, they usually find that they have not been looking up as far as they can see. Also, they have usually been referencing down much closer than 12 seconds. To establish search patterns of up to 90 seconds ahead and to stretch your referencing down to 12 seconds requires two things.
First, most drivers must admit that they have not been looking far enough ahead. Second, you have to practise to make looking up and referencing down a habit. As you establish the habit of looking up and referencing down, you will see the benefits to your driving, and this method will become easier every day. Also, steering where you look will help you overcome steering problems such as wandering within a lane or wandering from lane to lane.
The next part of your search pattern is to look for things that will interfere with your path - vehicles entering from the side, animals or people on the side of the road, or approach roads. This involves sweeping your eyes across and to the side of the road.
Try to sweep about 12 seconds ahead. Now fill in the gap between you and where you reference down 12 seconds ahead. Check the vehicles in front, the road surface for ice or pot holes, and the width and firmness of the shoulders. Next, you need to check which gates are still open; that is, the space around your vehicle on all four sides.
Pay close attention if you have detected a real or potential hazard. Check your mirrors often to see whether the rear and two side gates are open. You should check your instruments when it is safe to take your eyes off the road. Even checking your speed takes one and a half seconds. Therefore, check your instruments when you are on a straight stretch of road with your gates open and with no real or potential hazards ahead. Check your speed and, less often, glance at your gas gauge and other instruments or warning lights.
Now your pattern should be: look up, reference down, look up, reference down, sweep left, sweep right, look up, reference down, fill in the gap, look up, reference down, check your gates, look up, reference down, check instruments, etc.
The exact sequence that you use will vary with the features and the traffic on the highway. The most important part of the sequence is to look up and reference down. Include the others as needed. The more often the situation changes around you, the more often you have to search. The pattern for city driving is similar to that of highway driving. It is not easy to achieve, but is worth practising. To look up in an urban area, look ahead as far as you can see - usually several traffic lights or a number of blocks ahead.
This will give you information about the flow of traffic, the sequence of the lights and whether there is construction or major obstructions ahead. Next in the sequence, you should reference down.
To reference down in an urban area, move your eyes down from the look up position so that you view the road 12 seconds ahead at city speeds. Even if you cannot see clearly for that distance, you should look around or through the windows of the vehicles ahead. Try to see cars well ahead that are slowing down, changing lanes, turning or stopping.
Watch for brake and signal lights. In the city you need to sweep further to each side and to sweep more frequently than you do on the highway. The sequence now should be: look up, reference down, look up, reference down, sweep left, sweep right, look up, reference down, etc. You need to fill in the gap between you and where you reference down, 12 seconds ahead.
In the city, you need to do this more often than on the highway because you do not have as clear a view ahead. You need to be more aware of the status of your gates when driving in the city because vehicles are more likely to be in your blind spot. Never permit yourself to drive in a situation where there are fewer than two gates open. If you cannot control the rear and side gates, at least you can drop back and double the distance between you and the vehicle ahead - to five or six seconds.
You will have little time to check your instruments when driving in the city. From time to time, check your speed. But remember to do this in light traffic or on straight, unobstructed roads. You can check your gauges at traffic lights and stop signs. At night, your search pattern is much the same as it is during the day. You should look up and reference down to about 12 seconds ahead. This means that most of the time you will be looking beyond the part of the road illuminated by your lights.
Do not look at the side of the road because you will steer there. Obviously, do not look at incoming headlights because the glare will blind you.
Look 12 seconds ahead, directly in line with where you are sitting. The rule for where to look in emergencies is simple: look where you want to go and steer there. If you are sliding or skidding sideways, do not look down, do not look at the instrument panel and do not look at what you might hit. Look where you want to go. Most collisions occur at intersections and cross roads. To help you spot and prevent a potential collision, use the following method.
Scenario: You're driving on a road towards an intersection and spot another vehicle approaching the same intersection. You don't know how fast the other vehicle is travelling or how far away it is from the intersection.
To help you determine if a collision is imminent, maintain your speed and course, and turn your head to take note of the other vehicle's position in relation to you. Continue to maintain your speed and course for a few seconds and check the other vehicle's position again by turning your head. If the other vehicle is still at the same position, you're on a collision course. Start slowing down, and be prepared to yield or stop to avoid a collision.
It's important to turn your head while looking for approaching vehicles and not rely on your peripheral vision only. If you are not accustomed to driving in dense traffic, the experience can be highly stressful.
You can make it easier if you plan where you wish to go in advance. It is nerve wracking to drive in a new environment and to try to navigate at the same time. The most important thing to remember is do not give up your following distance.
Do not stop your search pattern. If the drivers around you are driving one second apart, let them, but do not be tempted to follow their example. Table of Contents.
Because there is a lot of obstacles that end up on the roadway—such as garbage, furniture, tire chunks, road kill, and other debris—drivers constantly need to scan the road in order to drive defensively. There is one rule that the Department of Motor Vehicles recommends all motorists do to avoid collisions with such objects. It advises that drivers should scan the road at least 12 seconds ahead to avoid potential trouble spots and to identify possible road hazards. Every driver needs to be able to see what is in front of him, to the sides, and in the rear.
Looking Ahead. To avoid last minute moves, you should look down the road 10 to 15 seconds ahead of your vehicle. A driver needs to look that far ahead to see hazards early. Constantly staring at the road just in front of your car is dangerous.
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Scanning your surroundings keeping your eyes moving includes keeping a safe distance around your vehicle. When another driver makes a mistake, you need time to react. Give yourself this reaction time by keeping enough space on all sides of your vehicle. This space will give you room to brake or maneuver if necessary. To avoid last minute moves, scan the road 10—15 seconds ahead of your vehicle so you can see hazards early. Constantly staring at the vehicle or road right in front of your vehicle is dangerous. As you scan ahead, be alert for vehicles around you. Use your mirrors.
How Can 12 Seconds Help Avoid an Accident?
One of the most important things you can do to be a safer driver is to look well ahead of you when you're driving, so you can pick up potentially dangerous situations before it's too late. Rather than looking only as far as the vehicle in front of you when driving, you should actually be scanning the road in front to a distance of at least 12 seconds ahead of where your car is — that is, the place you will be after driving for 12 seconds. Many people only look ahead of them when driving. This means they're not getting the full picture of what's happening on the road. As well as looking ahead, you should also use your mirrors to look to the sides and behind often enough to be aware of surrounding traffic.
Proactive or defensive driving means that you think about, plan for, and anticipate possible dangers on the road in order to lessen and avoid hazards before they occur. Never assume other drivers are always going to drive carefully or respond correctly at all times. Anticipating what might happen can help you to avoid collisions caused by the driving errors of others. This chapter describes the skills and techniques you can use to drive proactively.
Proactive driving is driving with the aim to anticipate possible hazards and take action to reduce, minimize or avoid danger before it can occur. Never assume other drivers are always going to drive carefully or respond correctly at all times. Anticipating what might happen can help you to avoid collisions caused by the driving errors of others.
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Study Guide: Responsible Driving
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