Rock Talk

Three Skills Better than Parallel Parking

Last updated on March 26th, 2019 at 02:54 pm

Your teen passed their driving test and now they’re ready to hit the road – or are they? The statistics emphatically say NO!

There are a number of factors – mostly mental, but some physical, that account for this huge problem. What? You didn’t know it was a problem? That’s a driver training myth.

Cars – not guns, alcohol or bullying – are the number one threat to our 15-20 year olds. Yes, that car – the thing that we love so much that many of us name it and even attach a personality to it – is statistically the most dangerous item in our teenagers’ lives.

Why? Let’s start by taking a look at the test to obtain a driver’s license. The current driving test primarily measures the new driver’s ability to handle and operate a motor vehicle, and precious little on crucial safe driving skills.

As you can guess from the title, parallel parking is one of my pet peeves. It’s a nice skill to have; however ask yourself this question: will the ability to parallel park save my young driver’s life? Once again it’s an emphatic NO!

On the other hand, mastering any of the following three skills may save their lives.

  1. Changing Lanes Properly. This skill is CRUCIAL to driving safely. It is not emphasized nearly enough. The lane-changing procedure that I teach is known as the SMOG system. When changing lanes, the driver should Signal, check the driver’s side Mirror, look Over their shoulder (to be sure that there aren’t any vehicles in their blind spot) and, if clear, then Go. When passing another vehicle, we always need to check the rearview mirror and be able to see the entire front end of the vehicle we are passing, before moving in front of it.
  1. Driving Around Trucks. There is one simple rule – never pass a truck on the right. Whether it’s a dump truck, service vehicle or an 18-wheel tractor trailer, the entire right side of a truck is one big blind spot. Also, 20 feet behind the truck (if you can’t see the truck’s mirrors, the driver cannot see you) and 20 feet in front of the truck are blind spots.
  1. Bail Out Zones. If you aren’t familiar with this term you are not alone. In our The Science of Driving, I outlined the 5 Essential Actions for Driving Safely. Bail out zones are a key component of the fifth action, the “what if” question. When we are behind the wheel we need to constantly ask ourselves “what if?” The next question that follows is, “if this happens, where do I go?” That is our bail out zone.

If you are traveling on a multi-lane road, always maintain a bail out zone, preferably to the right or to the left (provided it does not put you in the path of oncoming traffic). It is important to remember that the danger is not always in front of you. Your bail out zone can also help you to avoid a rear-end collision (possibly from a distracted driver).

If you are on a one-lane road or a two-lane city street, always look to the right shoulder. If there is no shoulder, then it is even more important that we manage our speed and our space to stop in time for a hazard.

In this follow-up blog, we dove deeper into this topic to discuss why passing a driving test is just the beginning. A driver’s license is merely a license to learn how to drive.

Stay Safe Out There!

Plymouth Rock Assurance in New Jersey is proud to feature blog posts by Bob Ragazzo, a certified Defensive Driving Instructor, founder of Save Your Teen Driver LLC, as well as an Adult Driver Training company, Collision Avoidance Technology & Training LLC, and a nonprofit educational resource for parents and teens: The Parents’ Coalition to Stop Teen Driving Deaths NOW! Most importantly, he is the father of two young drivers, Nick and Patrick. Bob trains thousands of drivers each year, both experienced and inexperienced. He has authored dozens of articles on driver training and several eBooks, including: “7 Things That Every Parent Must Teach Their Young Driver.” He has been featured on Network News shows from Florida to California, and is a regular guest Driving Expert on radio stations all over the U.S. and Canada.

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