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      Chapter 7: Safe Passing Techniques

Safe passing requires rapid decision-making and good judgment. Passing other vehicles on the road is often a dangerous maneuver. Visibility and vehicle responsiveness, among other things, are essential. The following should be observed:

A. It is unsafe and against the law for any vehicle to pass another vehicle using the left side of the roadway when the view is obstructed within 100 feet of any bridge, viaduct, or tunnel, or when approaching within 100 feet of or traversing any intersection or railroad grade crossing. A vehicle may pass on the right side if the vehicle to be passed is making or about to make a left turn, upon a highway, within a business or residential district with unobstructed pavement of sufficient width for two or more lanes of moving vehicles in the direction of travel, or on a one-way street. In no instance should a vehicle be driven off the paved or main roadway. When can you use the left side of the road to pass another vehicle?

  1. Passing is legal whenever there is a broken line on your side of the road or when there is a single white broken line in the middle of a two-lane road.
  2. You should use a passing lane only when the maneuver is perceived as safe and prudent and can be completed without use of excessive speed. The pass must be completed within a reasonable amount of time, and you cannot exceed the speed limit.

B. Fatal collisions often occur when passing is attempted on a mountain road. It is against the law to pass to the left on a mountain, when approaching or upon the crest of a grade or curve of a highway, or where the driver's view is obstructed within such distance as to create a hazard in the event another vehicle might approach from the opposite direction. Additionally, no vehicle shall pass another vehicle on a grade unless the passing vehicle is traveling at least 10 mph faster than the overtaken vehicle (without exceeding the speed limit), or unless the maneuver can be completed in a distance not greater than 1/4 of a mile. When driving on mountain roads, be aware of the potential for vehicle overheating or brake failure, the need for proper gear choices, and the need for lower speeds. When driving at high altitudes, a vehicle is prone to overheating and vapor lock. A vapor lock is a pocket of vaporized gasoline in the fuel line of an internal-combustion engine that obstructs the normal flow of fuel.

 

Remember these passing tips:

  • Avoid passing on two-lane roads, as you will be driving into oncoming traffic.
  • Check road conditions ahead, as you will need a 10-12 second gap in oncoming traffic to pass safely.
  • Always signal when beginning and ending the pass.
  • Don't attempt the pass unless you have enough room to return to your lane.
  • Before you re-enter your lane, make sure you can see both headlights of the car behind you to ensure you have enough room.
  • Do not pass more than one vehicle at a time.

When passing is prohibited or especially dangerous...

  • Passing on a Expressway is prohibited if the driver must enter and then exit from a high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane to complete the maneuver.
  • It is illegal to pass within 100 feet of an intersection.
  • It is illegal to pass when going up a hill and having to cross double yellow lines.
  • It is illegal to pass within 100 feet of a railroad grade crossing.
  • It is illegal to pass a stopped school bus with a flashing red light and stop signal arm.
  • It is dangerous to pass a long line of cars.
  • It is dangerous to pass when the vehicle ahead is traveling near the speed limit.
  • It is extremely dangerous to pass when an oncoming car is within 1/2 of a mile.
  • It is dangerous to pass if the maneuver is started close to a "no passing" zone.

Special Note...If you are being passed, don't insist on taking the right-of-way. Allow the other driver to pass and use common sense.

Trucks

Trucks are powerful and heavy, often weighing four to five times that of a typical car. An unloaded truck is equipped with up to eight mirrors, but trucks still are involved in many traffic collisions. Motor vehicle operators lack a general respect for trucks, often tailgating them or becoming caught between the truck and the curb. A driver should also be aware of the truck's blind spots. Studies have shown that a tractor-trailer truck traveling at 55 mph will typically need twice the stopping distance of an automobile traveling at the same speed. Special care must be given when driving near trucks on the Expressway. Trucks should be given extra clearance whenever possible, with the automobile driver always leaving an escape option on the road. Drivers must be aware of a truck's blind spots at all times, realizing a truck's rear-view and side mirrors are not always sufficient. A common blind spot for a truck driver exists near the right front wheel of the truck. Another common blind spot is within 30 ft. of the rear of the trailer. As a result, motorists should never tailgate a truck, pass to the right of a truck, or drive parallel to a truck for any length of time.

Truck Tips:

  • Oftentimes, a driver of a passenger vehicle does not realize when it legally becomes a "truck" on the road. Sometimes, merely towing another vehicle changes the laws you must follow. Your vehicle becomes much heavier, and your stopping distance can multiply by two to three times. When a driver is towing a vehicle and following another vehicle being towed or a three-axle truck, the driver must stay at least 300 feet behind that vehicle. If the driver is in a business or residential district, on a highway with more than two lanes moving in the same direction, or when overtaking and passing the vehicle ahead, the same rules would apply.
  • A truck traveling at 55 mph will require more than 400 feet to stop, and that is without factoring in the reaction time of the driver. Truck drivers must travel at safe speeds in relation to traffic flow and the increased distance needed to stop. Drivers must keep clear of fast-moving trucks on open roadways.

SMART RULE #1...If you cannot clearly see the truck’s side view mirrors, the truck driver probably cannot see you!

Some typical problems involving trucks include:

A. Trucks making wide turns account for many collisions as cars are often sandwiched between the truck and curb. Drivers must respect the wide turns required by trucks.

B. Trucks are rarely allowed to travel over 55 mph, so they usually stay in slower traffic lanes. The higher the truck's weight and the higher the truck's speed, the longer the stopping distance.

C. Slow trucks often carry full loads of cargo and lack the power to keep up with the flow of traffic. Drivers should never tailgate a truck, but simply change lanes when safe to do so.

Indiana Truck Statistics

The figures below are for the State of Indiana. Some national statistics are included for comparison purposes.

1. In 2004, 166 large trucks were involved in fatal crashes. Nationwide, 4,862 trucks were involved in fatal collisions.

2. Nearly one out of six Indiana traffic fatalities in 2004 (157 of 947, or 16.6%) resulted from a collision involving a large truck. Nationwide, 12.2% of all traffic fatalities involved a large truck (5,190 of 42,636).

3. In 2004, 27 occupants of large trucks were killed in traffic collisions, representing 17.2% of all truck-related fatalities.

4. Non-truck occupants accounted for 114 fatalities in 2004, or 72.6% of the total truck-related fatalities.

5. Trucks can outweigh passenger vehicles by up to forty times, and for this reason the change in velocity is almost always sustained by the passenger vehicle.

6. Approximately 10.2% of fatalities in truck collisions were nonoccupants (pedestrians, bicyclists, etc.) in 2004.

Car Maintenance and Pre-Trip/ Post-Trip Inspection

A. Preventative Maintenance

A vehicle should always be in good working order. Preventative maintenance should provide for fewer unexpected mechanical failures. If the vehicle is poorly cared for, it cannot respond properly, making quick reaction time useless. A proper maintenance time table should be followed, with brakes and tires the primary focus. In addition, check and replace worn or cracked belts and hoses. An emergency such as a blowout, car stall, or brake failure can often be avoided if the car is properly maintained.

B. Tire Maintenance

Collision avoidance and emergency driving techniques don't just rely on a quick reaction time and skill behind the wheel. An important element, as stressed numerous times throughout this curriculum, is properly maintaining all essential vehicle control mechanisms. The tires, in particular, are the vehicle's connection to the surface. Driving on balding tires or those without any tread whatsoever would be analogous to a person attempting to walk on ice. The task is both difficult and dangerous. A driver must keep the tires rotated and inflated to the manufacturer's suggested levels, ensure there is adequate and sufficient tread, and periodically check the tires for distress. These precautions will allow your tires to wear evenly, stick to the road better, and corner better in snow, rain, and ice conditions.

NOTE: It is imperative to get a tune-up at least twice a year or according to the car's maintenance schedule.

C. Pre-Trip Inspection

The following is a list of things you should do before you enter your vehicle and before you leave, whether it is a short trip to the grocery store or a long trip out of town:

  • Walk around the vehicle and look under the tires to make sure there is nothing obstructing the tires (glass, nails, pets, children, or any obstruction).
  • Make sure the tires do not look flat.
  • Look at all the windows, making sure they are not covered in dirt or leaves, and remove any flyers from under the windshield wiper.  Having a clear view through all of your windows is an important part of driving safely.
  • If you are backing out of a parking space or a driveway, make sure the road behind you is clear, because once you get into your vehicle, it is very difficult to see objects on the ground directly behind your vehicle.
  • When you get in your vehicle, make sure to check your gasoline level before you start your trip.

D. Post-Trip Inspection- The following are a few things to keep in mind after a drive:

  • Once you complete your trip, and before you exit your vehicle, make sure your vehicle is in "Park" or in gear.
  • Check to see that headlights are off.
  • Ensure that you have your car keys with you. Most vehicles today require you to use your keys to lock the door from the driver's side, so if you can't lock your car, check inside for your keys.