Traffic accidents in rush hour are much more common than at other times of the day. In modern terms however they’re more likely to be described as traffic incidents. Accidents are chance occurrences, incidents are avoidable. They happen because people are not paying attention.
The secret to avoid involvement in other people’s incidents is to do their thinking for them. This is the difference between an average driver and one who can call themselves an advanced driver.
I made a short journey of only 20 minutes to the doctor’s surgery this morning. During that time I had to avoid four potential incidents.
The first was in heavy queuing traffic; I was in the right hand of two lanes. Ahead I could see that the stationary queue on my left had a bulge out to the right. I was immediately on alert and approached with caution as I was about to pass them. They began to move more quickly than me; and I became aware of a driver coming from behind on my left getting so close that I had to sound the horn in warning. He immediately pulled back and as he passed me I saw the source of the bulge; a large puddle of water by the kerbside.
Just after this I turned onto a road with traffic calming measures. There were speed humps and strips of raised brickwork along the centre. These ‘median strips’ made it difficult to move out for obstructions without damage to the tyres. It’s impossible to drive at any speed along this narrow road, and I had a cyclist who was clearly in a hurry and trying to squeeze through on my inside.
I knew there was not room for him to do this safely, so I picked just enough speed to move a little more into the left to close the door and prevent him from attempting a potentially dangerous undertake. He then followed very closely to my rear, so near that had I braked he would have been lucky to stop in time. This guy was an incident waiting to happen and the only sensible thing was to get him out of the way. I signalled left and eased off the gas until he moved out to pass me on the right. I then followed him at a safe distance until I was able to overtake on a wider road. The art of defensive driving keeps other people safe as well as yourself.
Towards the end of this wider road I noticed a car on the other side of the road. The driver was facing towards me, and moving out from behind a parked car. They could have just been moving off. But something about the angle of the vehicle told me that the drive had more steering on than needed to clear the obstruction. I eased off the gas just before the other driver moved off into a U-turn straight across my path. My reduction in speed meant that I only had to brake relatively lightly to avoid them.
Pause for Thought
Just when I though the journey couldn’t get any sillier, as I was nearing my destination a Mercedes came up very quickly behind me. This was a driver in a hurry and they clearly had no idea of a safe separation distance. I turned left, and then turned right in to the car park. The Mercedes was still behind me. The parking bays on the right were empty. I slowed down and prepared to steer to the left before reversing in. My instinct told me to pause for a moment, and as I looked around the other driver immediately pulled past on my inside with a complete disregard for what I had been about to do. I could easily have started the turn and a collision would have been certain. The Mercedes driver turned out to be a doctor who stepped out of the car chatting on his mobile phone.
I couldn’t believe how many incidents I had had to avoid in such a short journey. These were all people who may well tell others what good drivers they are “because they have never had an accident”. The truth is that many people only avoid having accidents because there are more advanced drivers around who take care to avoid them!
For more information about becoming an advanced driving you can contact some of the organisations listed here.