We all know that emergencies do happen from time to time, but are you ready to handle them when they do happen? I know that we all wish that emergencies would happen to someone else, but that’s not always going to happen when we’re driving. Since most drivers suffer from the “it-won’t-happen-to-me” syndrome, it may be a good idea to think about this now.
Being prepared ahead of time is always a good thing when it comes to driving. If you’re always thinking “what if” while driving, you’ll be mentally prepared. For example; what if the driver pulls out of a side street without stopping? What if the driver behind can’t stop in time? What if the driver to my side swerves into my lane suddenly? These are all things that you’ll have to suddenly respond to. If it catches you by surprise, will you be ready to handle it in a timely manner?
Part of the proactive style of driving is knowing where you can go in an emergency. This means you’ve always got to plan your escape route. This may mean that you have to take out those prize winning roses on your neighbour’s lawn in order to avoid getting hit from behind. It may also mean that you have to hit your brakes hard to avoid getting t-boned in an intersection. Are you prepared for any of this?
Putting your life in the hands of another driver means that you’re at their mercy. We need to take charge of the situation and position our vehicle in such a way that allows for an escape. To give the driver next to you some room for error, never drive immediately beside them. Leave some space beside you so you’re driving in a staggered formation in traffic. This means you’re driving beside space and so is the driver in the lane next to you. You’ve now got room to move in an emergency, and so do they.
Can you tell if a driver who is approaching a stop sign or red light to the right or left of your vehicle is actually stopping or not? If you compare their motion to the items in the background that they’re passing, you’ll be able to see if their speed is remaining constant or if they are slowing down. Trusting them to stop is a little naïve. We’ve all seen drivers run stop signs and red lights from time to time, so what makes you think they’ll always stop?
One of the solutions to stop other drivers, cyclists and pedestrians from continuing along toward you is honking at them. Let’s say you’re driving along and a driver is approaching quickly toward you from a side street. If you honk at them before swerving, you may be able to stop their forward progress, which will give you the chance to move around them. If all you do is swerve, they may still continue toward your path and crash into the side of your vehicle. At Young Drivers of Canada, we teach our students to do this “honk-move” so they can build confidence handling emergencies.
The other option is to stop quickly. That could be dangerous if you’re not prepared for it. Wouldn’t you have to know what was behind you before slamming on your brakes? If there isn’t a driver behind you, or if they are following well back from you, it would be safe to stop quickly. Constant checks of the mirrors while driving along will help you stay informed with the traffic behind you. You need to know what action you’ll be able to do if an emergency happens.
Stay aware of what’s going on around you and always have your escape planned. You never know when you may have to use it.