It is that time of the year to wish good will onto man. Have a Merry Christmas or Happy Chanukah or whatever other holiday you may celebrate, and of course to all a good New Year. However, in our business the word safety comes up more often at this time of the year than most. A time of joy and celebration for many becomes a time of tragedy and pain. So I would like for all of us to stop and reflect on the word safety and what it means.
Safety is more than a word, it is a way of thinking, or at least it should be. Telling people to be safe is not always enough. What is needed is to also remind people that being safe requires preparing for the worst and hoping for the best. It is a way of programming your thought process. When you go out on the road you think, "I have to go to this place," so you get in the car and drive. You drive in the style you are accustomed to driving. Do you have good driving skills to depend on or not? Have you become accustomed to just driving or do you process information on the road in terms of preparing for the worst? A colleague once said "ice gets respect, snow gets respect, rain does not." What he meant was that we become more vigilant for obvious dangers, but don't seem to "turn on" our brains for rain. We do not always slow down as much as we should, and we do not increase our following distance. So I ask you, have you established a "good" following distance? "Good" is safe, but how do we define "good?"
The leading cause of collisions in inclement weather is not maintaining an adequate following distance, that is safe. If you keep at least 3-4 seconds of following distance in normal weather, and 5-7 in poor weather conditions, then that is safe and "good." One very easily establishes a following distance of car in front of you by viewing where the car passes a stationary object, then counting until you yourself pass that same object two, three, or five seconds later.
Furthermore, a relatively good measure of the distance you are traveling per second can be found by multiplying your speed by 1.5. For example, 50 miles per hour corresponds to 75 feet per second. So, 4 to 5 seconds is 300-375 feet between cars, which is safe in good weather. More of a following distance is safer in poor weather. Most people are driving 30-60 feet behind the other vehicle. Next time you are driving, check in your rearview mirror, it never fails... It is not about what you think is safe, it is about what really is safe and physically possible in terms of stopping distance.
Improper following distance, resulting in rear end collisions, is the leading cause of collisions. If you solve that driving problem, you will drive much more safely. So, over this holiday and the winter remember that being safe requires thinking and understanding, and these are more than just words. Driving safely means increasing your following distance in bad weather and slowing down to a velocity that is controllable when pushing the gas pedal, as well as when pushing the brake. Know your car, know your own ability, and stay off the roads when the weather is poor if possible. Remember that most drivers out there are convinced that they know what they're doing, because they consider themselves to be "safe" drivers. Watch out for them!
I hope you all make it through the Holidays "safely," because the Holidays should be a time for joy and being with the ones you love.