Human beings are all blessed with unique personalities that help to dictate actions in life. Behaviors are a function of decision-making… decisions that can often have devastating results. Driving a motor vehicle is neither a game nor a recreational activity; it is an action that can affect many lives if done incorrectly or without the proper attitude. Don’t get in your vehicle unless you are prepared to drive… and prepared to drive safely!
Stress, emotions and fatigue always affect your ability to drive. Every driver needs to possess an attitude that is suited for the safe operation of the motor vehicle when behind the wheel and should avoid getting distracted. Environmental factors, in addition to attitude, change your driving habits.
To be a conscientious driver, you need to be a defensive driver and have a positive attitude toward law enforcement. Such an attitude can only benefit you. You also need to be able to anticipate potential traffic hazards, select prudent traffic routes, and be aware of the dangers of night driving. (Driving during daytime hours is typically much safer and less dangerous than driving at night). Your attitude and behavior can also be adversely affected by a lack of knowledge regarding when to merge or to yield to other drivers.
Driving is a privilege that is extended to you by the State upon meeting prescribed criteria. There is no right to drive, and as a license holder, you are merely exercising a privilege granted to you. You should make every attempt to keep up to date on changes to Indiana driving laws, new construction, potential road hazards, etc., and always try to keep a positive attitude when behind the wheel.
B. “Like a Loaded Gun”
A motor vehicle can be a dangerous weapon.
A motor vehicle weighs many thousands of pounds, and if driven carelessly, it can lead to tragedy. People are lectured about gun safety and made aware of the associated dangers. However, a motor vehicle, a “simple” object that transports you daily, is far more dangerous than a gun. Abuse of a loaded gun often results in a scary reminder regarding gun safety without injury to anyone. However, abuse of a vehicle will undoubtedly result in damage or injury at some point. An intoxicated person most probably wouldn’t be able to aim the gun, but that person would be able to start a motor vehicle.
This bears repeating: Abuse of a vehicle will almost always lead to harmful results. You must be aware of the tremendous responsibility involved with operating a motor vehicle and consider it the same as a dangerous weapon.
Your attitude and behavior should, at all times, be consistent with actions necessary to be safe on the road. The following elements are vital to safe driving:
1. General Knowledge
A basic knowledge of safe driving techniques and penalties for violating traffic laws can help you to be a safer driver. Benefits derived from periodic participation in traffic safety programs should not be forgotten, as yearly reminders of techniques to be followed are important. Penalties for negligent driving can range from simple traffic tickets to license suspensions, and even fatal traffic accidents.
2. Personal Goals
Your main objectives while driving should be to prevent collisions and to drive as safely as possible. A concern for others and general road awareness are also vital.
3. Time Management
Allow for sufficient time to drive during long road trips and be prepared for unforeseen problems. After you recognize potential trouble or road hazards, you should then allocate appropriate additional driving time, if needed. Hurrying and stress due to poor time management are major contributors to traffic crashes. Not leaving yourself ample travel time increases your stress level and detracts from your ability to operate a vehicle safely. Being in a rush while behind the wheel will cause you to take unneeded chances, speed, and become a road hazard. Avoid driving while under severe stress, as a wandering mind cannot
focus on the road.
Additionally, you should always observe maximum speed laws on highways and expressways and be aware of the basic speed law as it applies to city driving. That law states that you should never drive at a speed that is faster than is safe, and you should neither impede nor block the flow of traffic. “Prima facie” speed limits apply even when no visible or noticeable posts are around. Despite a lack of time due
to any number of circumstances, basic traffic laws must always be followed.
It is important to drive carefully whenever you are behind the wheel. You must be able to anticipate sudden changes, possible emergencies, and high-risk areas. High-risk areas to drive around include schools, playgrounds, parks, hospitals, housing communities, businesses, and municipal centers. Also watch for children at play and stray animals. Various types of vehicle emergencies should also be considered, and corrective measures visualized. A cushion of safety should also be allowed, with proper vehicle spacing, anticipation of road hazards, and avoidance of known congested areas. Learn where alternate exits are in case of an
unexpected change or emergency situation.
Road hazards can appear at any time and from anywhere. In most cases, you will only have a split second to react to an emergency situation, such as an animal crossing the road. Put yourself behind the wheel in
the following animated scenario and test your skills. You must decide if and when to take action:
How did you do? Threats on the road often come from unexpected places. Whether it’s another vehicle running a red light or an animal crossing the road, you must always anticipate danger.
Always be prepared for vehicle trouble. A vehicle should be properly equipped with your cell phone and charger, road flares, a flashlight, a fire extinguisher, fuses, a spare tire, extra oil, paper and pencil, and in case of a collision, a cell phone that takes pictures or a camera to document the scene. Preparation is often the only assistance you will ever need.
6. Awareness of Traffic Conditions
Always be aware of traffic conditions and make informed choices about which roads to use. Decisions to drive on side streets versus through streets, one-way versus two-way streets, or certain unsafe roads can lead to or prevent traffic collisions. A safe driver has a general awareness of which roadways are the safest to travel upon, and always makes decisions with that knowledge in mind.
7. Body and Head Positioning While Steering
To be safe on the road, you need to be properly positioned in the driver seat (sitting up straight with both hands on the steering wheel) with clear visibility over the steering wheel. The roadway must be visible without obstruction, and this relies on the position of your head and body in the vehicle. You must be buckled in the driver’s seat, with your eyes able to focus on all aspects of the road ahead.