Driving by Example
By Jayne O'Donnell
Want your children to grow up to be skilled, safe drivers? Point them in the right
direction by setting a good example. Whether your kids are tots or teens, the driving
habits they see in you may someday become their own.
Teach "no tailgating." Tailgating is one of the easiestand most
destructivebad habits to fall into, especially in the stop-and-go, slow-go traffic
that typifies both city and suburb. Try to develop a formula for determining a safe
distance between yourself and the vehicle just ahead. One simple measure: Pick out a
landmark, like a billboard or an overpass, on the road ahead. Wait for the car ahead to
pass it. You should be able to count off three seconds before you go by.
Watch yourself in lots. The folks who create lab-rat mazes have nothing on the
designers of modern mall parking lots. The temptation to cut across lanes and dart in and
out of the traffic pattern seems irresistible. But don't. Drive slowly, stay patient, and
be extra alert to the pedestrians and other drivers who surround you.
Yield at yield; stop at yellow. You probably learned both of these rules way
back in Driver's Ed. And you probably forget to observe them every so often. But the
results could be disastrous, especially if you slide through a yellow light and get
T-boned by a T. rex-sized sport-utility vehicle jumping the gun at the other light.
On the right path. If you're driving belowor even just atthe speed
limit, the right-hand lane is the best place for you. It seems more drivers than ever are
busting speed limits and weaving in and out of traffic to get past those who aren't.
Driving the limit, while legal, can cause traffic jams, frayed tempers, and uncontrolled
bouts of hyperactive lane-changing by the speeders behind you. Leave the left lane (and
the troopers) to them.
Forward, drive! Unless you absolutely have to (backing out of a parking space,
for example), don't drive in reverse. It's too easy to lose control of your car and have
it spin out if you go too far or too fast backwards. If you miss a turn, keep going
forward, turn, and circle back when it's safe.
Pay attention. Driver distraction, which includes everything from talking on a
car phone to fiddling with the CD player, is a huge traffic safety issue. In fact, studies
have shown a correlation between car phone chat-ups and accidents. Keep your mind and eyes
on the road, and that means, with the exception of emergencies, staying off cell phones.
If you need to make a call, or change that CD, wait until you find a safe place to pull
ClubMom's AutoPro, Jayne O'Donnell, is a Washington,
D.C.-based reporter (and new mom!) whose automotive expertise and investigative reporting
skills have helped break some of the biggest auto-safety stories of the past several
Copyright © 1999-2002 ClubMom, Inc. All rights reserved.