Rock Talk

The Science of Driving

Last updated on November 15, 2019 at 02:30 pm

Summer is here, which means sun, fun and NO SCHOOL! What’s better than that?

Because summertime can be a dangerous time for many young drivers (and their passengers), now is the perfect time for a “science of driving” discussion.

You didn’t know you are a scientist — did you? Every time you get behind the wheel of a motor vehicle, you become a scientist, whether you realize it or not.

Have you ever said or heard someone say, “Driving is easy — there’s nothing to it”? Or “I’m bored when I drive”? That’s because they aren’t doing it right!

There’s a lot more to driving than most of us have been taught. There’s actually a process and a scientific approach to driving that can give you a 90% chance of arriving safely, every time.

It’s amazing how the average driver has no idea what they’re supposed to be doing. Of course, it’s not their fault. Our current driver training system teaches new drivers how to operate a motor vehicle and how to pass a driving test, but NOT how to drive safely.

Let’s get to the science of driving. Here are the five consistent actions that are essential to safe driving and to getting you home safely. 

1. Check your speed.
You’ve heard it before: higher speeds increase the likelihood of traffic crashes and fatalities.

2. Check your space.
The proper following distance is two to three seconds on dry pavement and four to six seconds in wet or snowy conditions. (Here’s how to do it: when the car in front of you passes any stationary object or a stripe in the road, start counting “1,001; 1,002; 1,003.” If you reach that spot before 1,002, you are too close!)

Reminder: if the driver in front of you is speeding, DO NOT break the speed limit just to keep up.

3. Scan your mirrors.
Do a perimeter scan every three to five seconds. Start with the driver’s side mirror, then the rear view and, last, the passenger side. You want to know what is happening on both sides and behind your vehicle at all times.

4. Look down the road — 100 yards or more.
Now that you know what’s happening around you, you need to see what’s coming. Emergency vehicles, a deer in the road, pedestrians and kids — you need to see them well in advance so that you remain in control.

5. Keep asking yourself, what if?
Be prepared for anything and everything:

  • If the car in front of you blows a tire
  • If a child runs into the street after a ball
  • If someone decides to open their car door right in your path
  • Even if a small plane makes an emergency landing in the middle of the road …

We need to train ourselves to take it in stride and act calmly and without emotion.

OK, time to get you back onto the beach, the golf course or wherever you like to spend your summer. But, please, remember to take a physical vacation, NOT a mental one this summer.

And, as always, stay safe out there!

Plymouth Rock Assurance 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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