Let’s face it, Albuquerque drivers don’t have the best reputation. Just take a look around:
- How many sets of flashing lights did you pass on your way home from work yesterday?
- How many intersections littered with broken glass have you driven through today?
- How many roadside crosses and wreathes have you noticed lately?
It’s all evidence of car accidents, many of them fatal, and many of them preventable.
New Mexico drivers are required to take Driver’s Education courses before being granted a permit. But for most of us, that’s been quite a few years now. Perhaps it’s a good time for a refresher course.
Keys to Safe(r) Driving
We don’t need any fancy statistics to prove ourselves right—most collision damage is caused by following too closely. When you don’t give yourself adequate space between you and the car ahead of you, sudden stops are accomplished with the help of that car’s rear bumper, likely resulting in damage to both your cars. If you happen to collide with a truck or SUV in your car, you’re probably going to “win” the damage lottery. Since cars’ and SUVs’ or trucks’ bumpers don’t align, your hood will likely slide beneath the bumper, causing a lot more (expensive) damage.
The solution: allow adequate space—3 full seconds of driving time between you and the car in front when moving (more when visibility or road conditions are poor).
Mirrors—what a novel idea!
Mirrors were not put on your car to give you a convenient way to apply mascara or check if you have remnants of lunch stuck between your teeth. Mirrors are there to help you be aware of other cars on the road without having to fully divert your attention from the road in front of you. Here’s the trick: they only “work” when you use them.
The solution: while driving, periodically check all your mirrors so you know where you are in relation to traffic and especially before lane changing or making a right turn. Remember, Albuquerque is a bicycle-friendly city, and riders go with the flow of traffic, so a bicyclist may be approaching an intersection at approximately the same time you need to turn.
You, of course, know where you’re going. But drivers sharing the road don’t…unless you tell them. How do you communicate your intentions to other drivers? Turn signals, hazard flashers and the occasional (friendly) hand gesture.
The solution: use your turn signals:
- Before you begin changing lanes
- 100 feet before you intend to turn (200 ft if traveling 55 mph or more) if there is no designated turn lane
- As you enter a turn-only lane
Use your hazards if circumstance requires you to travel at a speed significantly slower than the flow of traffic. If your hazards are on, you should be in the right-most lane.
Also, there’s nothing wrong with the “I need to get in” point, and the “Thank you” wave is always appreciated. But when it comes to hand gestures to communicate your driving intentions, refrain from non-verbal profanity. “Flipping the bird” does absolutely nothing to change a driver’s behavior that irritated you, but it can exacerbate road rage in you and neighboring drivers, and that makes the road more dangerous for everyone.
Your Car: A Place of Zen.
We all strive to keep pace with the speed of life, but in your car is not the place to “stay connected.” When you are operating your car, your focus should be on the road, and that’s not possible if you’re answering your cell phone, texting, plugging in your iPhone to access your playlist, tending to spilled coffee, turning around to quiet the kids or blocking your golden retriever’s access to the front seat with your right arm.
The solution: remove distractions before you shift into “drive” by:
- Stowing your cell phone out of reach or plugging in your hands-free set
- Finding a CD, satellite radio station or playlist you like
- Buckling up your kiddos and making sure they are contented and/or entertained
- Restraining your pets
- Securing loose food and beverages
Maybe you don’t believe us, but we’re pretty sure you’re going to feel a lot calmer, more collected and generally better when there’s one place in your life—your car—where you don’t have to be a multitasking wizard. Try it for 1 week and let us know how you feel. We’re looking forward to a lot of “Quanz, you totally changed my life!” emails.
We can make ABQ roads the safest, most courteous and most fun to drive. You in?