Up-to-the-Minute Defensive Driving Tips
We’ve all heard how good defensive driving may make you safer than even the best offensive driving. Well, here I will present some great new driving tips for our car-crazy ever-texting, coffee-drinking, cell-phoning, multi-tasking times.
One of the first things to become adept at is paying attention to all of the drivers within striking — yes, I did say ‘striking’ — distance of you and your vehicle. Think of driving today as a more dangerous version of the carny bumper-car ride, played out at higher speeds over a much larger area, with the added complications of slow-moving pedestrians, presumptuous cyclists, and truckers alternating between obtuse distraction and overt aggression. Consider it also a zero-sum game: whoever doesn’t make it home safely will end up with crumpled fender in a ditch, if not worse.
Develop the habit of not only checking your rear and side mirrors, speedometer and gas gauge, but also the faces, expressions and vehicles of those moving in traffic nearby. One of the first to watch out for: any vehicle having both a ‘Student Driver’ decal in plain sight, and an elder male passenger in the front right seat a) whose hair is standing on end, or b) who keeps frantically shooting glances over right shoulder, then left, then right again. You can be sure that vehicle will signal right turn, while making a lazy and erratic left turn, into oncoming traffic, with about a dozen wheel adjustments, at 9 miles per hour. See? What did I tell you?
Beware also of any vehicle you cannot yet see, or hear, really — but instead actually FEEL, through the seat of your car and the seat of your pants, as the bass rap rumble of its multiple 1200w speakers sends shock waves radiating down the highway. (You can almost see the asphalt rippling in time!) As the slick, black low-slung muscle car powers past, you’ll know its driver is on a date with destiny: either a DUI after the Friday night game, or a ‘Want fries with that?’ job out near the turnpike.
You should also be quite cautious around any female driver rushing to an appointment — whether it be lunch, cocktails, the semi-annual sale at Shoe Showroom, or a ho-hum real estate presentation. She’ll be easy to recognize: with outfit and hair color-coordinated to car interior; visor down with mirror extended; steering wheel controlled by wrist as splayed fingers’ nails dry; mascara brush in opposed hand flicking at eyelids; torso erect and head thrust towards mirror and over-dash light; cheezoid crooner belting love ballads out of the CD player; decal of some mediocre tech school plastered across the SUVs tailgate. Trust me — if this gal can so blithely make a wreck of her life, she can certainly make a wreck out of you and your sedan.
Next, keep your eyes peeled for any vehicle (quite often, a classic ‘K’ car, for some reason) in which neither head nor headgear is visible above the driver’s seatback. All you’re likely to see are two liver-spotted sets of frail fingers gripping the oversize steering wheel in a chokehold at 11 and 1. You will likely encounter these vehicles by having to frantically decelerate from just over 12 miles an hour above the speed limit to just under 12 miles an hour above zero, to keep from ending up sitting in the trunk bearing the five AAA Elite decals and the Ronald Reagan bumper sticker. Isn’t it great that Gram or Gramps is still able to get out in the world at six-years-older-than-dirt? You are best off taking the very next turn — right, or left, or into someone’s driveway, anywhere, really — to get out from behind this car that’s almost in reverse. You can’t win, so don’t even try.
Take care as you encounter the teenmobile. You know the type: a beater with at least three different body-paint colors scattered about various sections of the vehicle; window markings of ‘Class of ‘11’ or Go Bears!’ or ‘Beat Temple!’ or ‘School Sux!’ or something else equally compelling; 7 or 9 or 12 teenagers crammed inside; deafening and painfully bad music mewling out and mixing with clouds of burnt-oil smoke. This type of vehicle is almost assuredly going to collide with you, whether from driver insolence, inattention, stupidity, or spite, or combination thereof. (Remember how obnoxious YOU were in high school?) Don’t tempt fate.
Also do not mess with the van having window shades, two or more infant seats, finger-smears on all 9 windows, and a driver that looks like she has just lost her last tenuous grip on reality. Take it from me; she has. Between PMS, EMS and Post-Partum, you’ll end up hurtin’ for certain, and a long while in recovery. Just back away slowly, slip into traffic and glide away.
And finally, learn to give way to the ubiquitous BMOTH (Big-Man-On-The-Highway). Yeah, just like in high school, or on the college campus, or at your first job (or second, or third), there’s always somebody that thinks they are just a bit cooler, a bit more capable, a bit more deserving, a bit more entitled than the rest of us plebes with driver’s licenses. You’ll see them tooling along in Jag or vintage Shelby or even just a glorified mid-market yupsedan, expounding executively into their cell phone, briefcase open on the passenger seat, steaming light latté in the console, suit jacket on hanger behind thinning pompous pate, business pages open on the steering column. As you would anywhere else in life, give these guys a wide berth on the highway. They’re nothing but trouble. They’ll cut into your lane with a hand’s-breadth to spare, smirkily signaling after they’re already in, then get caught up in some crisis of global business and let their speed drop lower and lower and lower. Take my advice: slide a few lanes away and leave Big Man to all those other great drivers on the road. They deserve one another.
Now, just drive on over to rickzworld.
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