SPACE INVADERS! Written by Spencer McDonald
In this month's feature, Spencer McDonald discusses the importance of managing your space in traffic.
We used to play a video game called Space Invaders where you had to destroy little spaceships as they appeared on the screen. While it pales in comparison to today's games, it was pretty hi-tech for its time.
Space invaders can be a problem when we are driving too!
While space may be the final frontier, it's also one of the most important elements of safe driving.
The 3rd of Thinking Driver's Five Fundamentals is:
KEEP YOUR OPTIONS OPEN.
Keeping your options open means to keep as much space around you as you can when you drive. Space in front, to the sides and to the rear. I try to adjust my speed and position in traffic so that I'm all by myself.
SPACE GIVES YOU TIME.
Time to see, think and do what is necessary to avoid conflict with other vehicles.
This Fundamental dovetails with the first 2 that we have already discussed: 'Think and Look Ahead' and 'Anticipate Hazards'. By planning your position in traffic to provide space, you have the time to use your eyes effectively to look ahead and all around you so that you can anticipate the hazards that you may face.
Space then gives you the time and the room to deal with these challenges before they become an emergency. Your driving becomes PRO-active instead of RE-active. Besides being safer, this style is more relaxing because you don't have to feel on edge in case some dummy makes a move without seeing or considering YOUR position. How do you create space? It's easier than you think and if you practise it for a while, you will soon be doing it without even thinking. It will become habitual.
The first and most obvious technique is to maintain a safe following distance. At least 2 seconds behind the car in front and more if the conditions are anything but ideal.
If traffic is heavy and slow, this is even more important because sudden changes in speed, several cars in front of you, can ripple back quickly. When traffic is heavy, and slower, than you prefer, it's easy to creep up and get too close to the vehicle in front, as you hope things will start moving faster. Instead, trying driving the speed of traffic (which you are forced to do anyways) but do it with a good following distance. Running traffic speed but back out of the 'pack' will get you there just as quickly, but save you from having to deal with the drama of driving in a mass of cars and trucks jockeying for position.
"But someone may move into the space in front of me!" you may say.
But I say, "So what!"
Back off and open up the space again. What's one car in front of you..or 10 cars in front of you for that matter? Who cares? It's only a couple of seconds and those guys who weave through traffic and try to get ahead will pull out and go around the guy in front of you too.
SPACE TO THE SIDES IS ALSO IMPORTANT!
That space allows you to make lane changes or lateral movements on short notice if something changes up front that necessitates a lane change like congestion or vehicles waiting to turn. Keep track of the other vehicles in the adjacent lanes and try to adjust your speed so that you are not driving right besides them.
SPACE TO THE REAR IS TOUGHER, BUT STILL POSSIBLE TO MANAGE.
If you are being tailgated, the best strategy is to get that vehicle off your tail by adding the following distance that he is NOT leaving, to the following distance between you and the car in front. If you are leaving 3 seconds, and the car behind is only leaving 1, where he should be leaving 3, add the extra 2 and make your following distance 5 seconds. He's likely in a hurry and will find that big space in front of you irresistible and pass you. Problem solved.
In the old Space Invaders game, we just blasted the little alien pests right out of the sky. As much as we may want to do the same to those 'driving' space invaders, the safer and more responsible choice is to change the game and just play 'keep away'!
(Reprinted as previously published in Canadian Occupational Safety Magazine)
Spencer McDonald is Recognized by Canadian Society of Safety Engineering.
Congratulations to Thinking Driver President, Spencer McDonald, as the recipient of the 2013 CSSE BC Yukon Region Outstanding Achievement Award.
Mr. McDonald was recognized for his 30+ years of fleet and driver safety. CSSE awards were presented at the Awards Luncheon held at Newlands Golf Club in Langley, BC on October 24, 2013.
Other Notable Recipients:
CSSE National Awards Program
NAOSH Week - Most Innovative - Agropur Division Natrel
Outstanding Service - BC/Yukon - Norm Ralph (BCRTC)
NAOSH Week - BC Special Awards
Most Innovative - Agropur Division Natrel
BC Safety Authority Records a 60% Incident Rate Reduction Following Thinking Driver Training!
'Thinking Driver's President - Flagrant Safety Violation' Contest!
Congratulations to the Winners of the 'Flagrant Safety Violation!' Contest!
Thank you to everyone, from across North America who entered our 'Thinking Driver's President - Flagrant Safety Violation' contest. The contest is now over and while we had hundreds of entries, unfortunately on the first 11 are winners!
In September, in the Tailgate Topics & Tips #26 - Back to School video, Thinking Driver President, Spencer McDonald, discussed driver safety during back to school time and during the filming, after several 'takes' of one segment, forgot to put on his seatbelt before rolling the vehicle 10 feet or so out of the frame. Everyone who reviewed the video missed this error..until it was released and brought to our attention by Glenn Robertson of City of Penticton, BC, who was the first person to see the mistake and while not on the winner's list deserves special mention for being the first to see it! Nice catch Glenn!
If you would like to see the video again and check for yourself, it's still available for a short time only. Click on the video icon to have one last look and laugh.
Congratulations to all of our winners and thanks to everyone else who entered.
Christine Plomb - Allteck Line Contractors Inc. (Saskatoon, SK)
Ben Bunce (Kennesaw, GA)
Rich Hildebrand - Saskatchewan Government (Prince Albert, SK)
William C. Young - Willco Transportation Ltd. (Calgary, AB)
Spenser MacPherson - HSE Atlantic (Charlottetown, PE)
Jan Smith - Wolf's Bus Lines (York Springs, PA)
Janet Pool - Metro Vancouver (Burnaby, BC)
Dan Tucker - Northern Industrial Training (Palmer, AK)
Lynn Edwards - Franklin Co. Comm School Corp (Brookeville, IN)
Don Simmons - ACSA (Calgary, AB)
Tailgate Topics & Tips: Safety Meeting Planner & Agenda
Click here to access November's free Safety Meeting Planner.
Preview the Antilock Brakes video that accompanies this November's Safety Meeting Planner, click here.
Click here to access December's free Safety Meeting Planner.
Preview the Avoid Intersection Incidents video that accompanies December's Safety Meeting Planner, click here.
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President and founder of Thinking Driver, Spencer McDonald, has over 25 years of experience in designing driver safety training curriculums and instructor development. He has driver safety qualifications in all vehicle types and expertise in psychology, education, training and motivation that uniquely qualifies him to develop the attitude-based Thinking Driver programs.