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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

A Few Highway Safety Tips

Monash Freeway.  A legacy of Melbourne's 1969 ...Image via Wikipedia

I thought I'd give a few highway safety tips since that's what's on my mind at the moment from a long day of driving. One thing about truckers is we are all
preppers. Some are better than others, some are top notch, and unfortunately there are a few out there that are lousy. I won't get into the lousy ones today, but I will tell you that having logged nearly a million miles and 9 years accident and ticket free...(Well, I will admit to putting a scratch in a trailer one time), that safety has to be #1 on your mind and you have to constantly be prepped every day. Just think for a moment, would you want someone who's driving an 80,000 pound rig next to you on the highway if they weren't a prepper? There are a multitude of things that a trucker has to be aware of and check for all the time and most of these things apply to auto drivers as well. So even if you don't drive a truck, listen up.

Before you drive, do a proper pre-trip
A professional driver does this every day, but you should too.

* Check your tires. Look for bulges. Are your tires properly inflated? Are there gashes in the sidewalls? Do you have enough tread or are your tires bald? This is especially important in the winter. What about abnormal wear? This could indicate your tires being out of balance, bad suspension or your wheels out of alignment. Check for nails in your tires. Are your lug nuts tight and are they all there?
* Check your brakes. Make sure they are functioning properly and you have plenty of pad. Your front brakes are the most important, they provide the majority of your stopping power, but don't let that make you put off replacing your rear brakes when it's time either. All of your brakes should function properly. If one or two brakes are wearing faster than the rest, that more than likely indicates a problem.
* Check your fluids. When was the last time you checked your oil? Too many people cause undue wear and even severe damage to their vehicles by not keeping their fluids topped off. Don't over fill your oil. Make sure you use the proper fluids for your vehicle. If you are unsure, then ask a professional. Make sure you have plenty of washer fluid and that it's topped off. and make sure your wipers work, especially this time of year. Mud and slush thrown on your windshield can make it impossible to see, and if you don't have fluid or your wipers are worn or not working you can be in a real jam or even worse.
* Make sure your steering is working properly
* Check to make sure your mirrors are properly adjusted
* Do you have any leaks? A leaky fuel tank is a real big hazard, check for that.
* Make sure all your lights work. High and low beams should both work. tail lights, signal lights. People must know your intentions when you are signaling. Avoid those unnecessary tickets. Let's not help fund the states budget problems.
* Do you have your plates and are they current? Don't give the cops a reason to pull you over.
* I hate seat belt laws...My personal safety should be my own decision...Yet I always wear my seat belt because it's the right thing to do, not because it's the law. Make sure your seat belt functions properly.
* Check your horn. It should always be working. They can and do save lives when signaling people.

On the Road
* Never Never drive intoxicated! I don't care how superman you think you are, drunk drivers kill people every day. If I see someone driving drunk I turn them in. I've seen way too many fatalities due solely because of intoxicated driving. Believe me, when you see someones head split completely open with their brains oozing out of their head and they are still alive asking "what happened?" and you see beer cans littering the highway, you'll never want to drink and drive again.
* Leave extra early to give yourself extra time. Don't get in a rush. You never know what lies ahead, there could be delays to slow you down and if you are already in a hurry, that could make things worse. Take it easy and allow for uncertainties. This will add years to your life by reducing stress, and possibly save your life on the highway.
* Don't make eye contact with road ragers, just give them room and let them by. You don't need to race them or try to make a point. Who cares if they are mad about you or something. You'll never see them again so what's it matter what they think?
* As far as I know, in all 50 states, the merging traffic must yield right-of-way to the highway traffic. Don't assume the highway traffic will move over to let you on. You can't see what's on the other side of them, they may not be able to get over. This is your responsibility to accelerate fast enough to get on the highway or to move in behind the other vehicle.
* Right-of-way doesn't mean you own the road if you're the one with right-of-way. If you can avoid a collision by getting out of the way of someone who's not paying attention, then do it. Make sure you have room to move over if you can...You should already know if you have room or not if you've been checking your mirrors frequently

* Keep a safe following distance. For truckers it's a minimum of 7 seconds. I cant remember for cars, I think 4 seconds. I don't care how bad the traffic is, you can always keep a safe following distance. If traffic is heavy then go 3 mph slower than the average speed of the rest of the traffic. The excuse I always hear is: "Well, If I don't move up and fill the gap someone else will" So what? I've been doing this for 9 years without a single collision. I know what I'm talking about. Science is actually devoted to studying this. What causes a traffic jam? It's called a backward propagating wave and is actually a matter of physics. Those who tailgate and get in a hurry are actually the ones who cause the traffic jams to begin with. Each time you reach the traffic ahead of you, you have to stop or slow down, this forces the person behind you to stop or slow down if they are flowing close, same with the person behind them...This can be measured for several miles and even several hours. Each time you have to re-accelerate, that's time lost and time added to the jam. Each time you have to slow down because you've reached the car ahead of you you've added a few seconds to the jam and so has the person behind you. There is a skill that must be developed and a mindset you must have to make it through traffic smoothly. This is a measure of your self-reliance and a matter of being a prepper. You know, even in LA rush hour traffic I can drive constantly without ever using my brakes because I pace the traffic appropriately. Could you imagine how much smoother the ride would be if everyone would keep a proper following distance and not cause a backward propagating wave? This is a very important tip that I amaze everyone of my students with when I teach this. They cannot get over how easy it is and how smooth it can be when navigating heavy traffic with proper following distance techniques. Not only does it save big time on your fuel, tires, breaks, and suspension, it also greatly reduces stress. Just turn on the radio, relax, and drive smooth, you'll get there and in one piece.

I've got quite a few more tips to share, but with my job, rest is also important and it's time for me to head off and get some. So until next time. Safe Driving!

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