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New Years Driving Resolutions

Now that we have passed the end of 2020 and are peeking into 2021, perhaps some resolutions are in order. You know, the goals you set in order to better yourself for the upcoming year. Goals, that after a few days, weeks or months, we often forget and go back to our old behavior.

My resolutions have always been to eat better, exercise more, be nicer, and work more on my writing.

Most of which, I end up slacking on.

In the past, at the beginning of the year, I adhere to my new way of life and plow through more vegetables and less fast food. I will embrace the new way of life. Then I cheat. I eat a fast-food burger and MAN, is it good! This cheat will lead to more cheating and slacking. Before long, I am back to my old self.

One thing I haven’t done in the past is set driving resolutions. Resolutions to drive safer and to put away bad habits while driving. I am certain, I could use safe driving goals or change a few things that might be unsafe or irritating to other drivers. How about you? Are there driving habits that you have that might be unsafe? Do you do things behind the wheel that might anger other drivers? Are you the kind of person who honks the minute the light turns green because the person in front of the line doesn’t go immediately? Will you admit to tailgating or speeding? Perhaps you can change those bad habits.

As a defensive driving instructor, I have had drivers zip past me or drive in a manner that I believe is risky and dangerous. I usually say to myself, I wish these people would show up at my defensive driving class so I could set them straight. You know, lecture them on how to drive better and get them to change their dangerous ways. These lofty ideas I have of changing another driver’s driving behavior is likely a dream of the hopeful.

Seriously, many of you guys and gals driving our roadways need to change. Risky driving habits. In this article, I will present the things you need to change, as drivers plus the driving behaviors I need to change.

What?! A defensive driving instructor isn’t a perfect driver?

Not exactly. I have some safety habits I forget when I am rushed or when my mind is preoccupied.

So these are the things that I resolve to change, to do better in the future. And I urge you to examine your own driving. What can you improve? What habits do you have that aren't exactly safe?

We can all learn to do better.

 

Here are my driving resolutions/complaints for other drivers:

Dim your high beams!

Don’t drive at night with high beams. Dim your lights to oncoming drivers. I live in a rural area and it seems that most drivers use their high beams. Always. I have difficulty seeing while driving at night and oncoming bright headlights make it worse.

Particularly on large pickups who seem to have extra lights anyway.

Drivers using high beams at oncoming vehicles can blind he other driver making it difficult to see the roadway. This can lead to an accident.

Plus, driving with high beams in Texas can be against the law.

According to the Texas Transportation Code, Section 547.333 Multiple-Beam Lighting Equipment Required

photo of the text of this section of the Texas Driver Code

In simple verbiage, it’s illegal to use your high beams at oncoming vehicles or when following others.

 

Stop the tailgating or following too close!

One of my main pet peeves while driving is drivers who follow me too closely. The subject of tailgating comes up in every one of my defensive driving classes because following too close is one of the leading causes of automobile collisions.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: 23% of all  motor vehicle crashes are rear end collisions, leading to 2,000 deaths and 950,000 injuries every year. Only 11% of drivers admit to tailgating.

A driver should leave adequate room with the vehicle in front of them to allow for safe stopping. Leaving 2 to 3 seconds behind the other driver is suggested for dry pavement. 6 to 10 second on wet pavement and bad weather driving conditions.

To avoid other drivers tailgating.

  • Drive in the right-hand lanes. Stay out of the passing lane.
  • Move over and allow other drivers to pass you.
  • Do not brake check or brake hard at tailgating. This could lead to a road rageincident or a serious auto accident.

 

Slow it down, Buddy!

As a defensive driving instructor for over 13 years, I have seen students with all types of tickets. The majority of students that get sent by the court to my class, are for a speeding ticket. I see 10mph overs, 15mph overs, some 20mph overs and up. Yes, I had a student ticketed for driving over 150 mph. Not only was he ticketed, he was jailed and had his license suspended. The reason he was going so fast; racing. Not good and illegal.

Speed is an exponential factor.
A 10% increase in speed
can mean a 50% increase
in the severity of damage done.

While driving, I frequently notice drivers zipping around me. I drive the speed limit or close to it and feel, I am in the minority. It seems so many drivers are speeding. Don’t they know the dangers of driving fast? C’mon. Speeding is the leading cause of automobile collisions.

According to the Governor’s Highway Safety Association (GHSA), speeding is a major factor in approximately a third of all traffic fatalities. From web site www.texasstandard.org article

“Why Traffic Deaths Are Steady Despite Fewer Drivers on the Road”, the author points out that by Sept 2020, there were already 2000 deaths due to auto crashes. The Director of the Center for Transportation Safety at Texas A&M, Robert C. Wunderlich stated in the article that speed played a major role. He said, “The thing about speed is it’s exponential function, so that 10% increase in speed can be over a 50% increase in severity particularly in terms of fatal crashes.”

Speeding:

  • Makes it harder to control the vehicle.
  • Increases the amount of space to stop the vehicle.
  • Increases the severity of the accident thus leading to injuries and possible fatality.

 

And now to point to the resolution finger inward…

There are some driving shortcomings that I need to change. Even though I drive cautiously, I have a few things that need to be addressed in order to increase the safety of my driving experience.

Make sure my car is maintained!

Not long ago, I experienced a flat tire while driving with my grandson. We were driving and I was able to pull the vehicle to a safe place. Not only did I not have a car jack to change the tire I also didn’t have a tire tool to remove the tire. My vehicle is older and my jack was jacked, or broken and I hadn’t taken the time or expense to replace it. My fault there. So therein lies the problem. I slack at vehicle maintenance.

Here are my Maintenance Resolutions:

  • Check tires daily before I drive. ( I live in a rural area so it’s easier to get a nail in my tires.)
  • Check my oil and other fluids monthly.
  • Check hoses and belts as the seasons change. Extreme cold or hot shifts in temperatures can make a older hose or belt fail.
  • Make sure I have necessary emergency equipment.(I now have a heavy duty tire jack and tire tool.)
  • Address vehicle maintenance if extra money provides.
    I have limited expendable income and often put off vehicle repairs. I will attempt to save for an emergency vehicle repair account. Right now I need my front end worked on.
  • Check brake fluid and pads for wear.
    I have already had an emergency where my brakes failed. The cause was the brake master cylinder. I wasn’t changing the fluid when needed and dark, dirty brake fluid caused the brake’s master cylinder to fail. Make sure brake fluid looks clear in the reservoir.

A poorly maintained vehicle could lead to an automobile collision. Bald tires could cause you to lose control on wet pavement. When I googled, “poor vehicle maintenance and auto accidents” there were several pages of articles written about the subject, mostly by law firms. According to some of the pages, if you have an accident causing injuries of others because you didn’t maintain your vehicle, you could be held liable.

Pay attention! You're driving!

One of my bad habits while driving is sometimes being distracted. I don’t text and drive, but I will occasionally answer my phone and talk while driving. It is legal in Texas to talk on the phone while driving, but it is not something I do well. I usually tell the caller, “I will call you back, I am driving.” I am also constantly changing the radio stations. I have an older car so this behavior can distract my eyes from the roadway. Newer vehicles have a button on the steering wheel.

My Distraction Resolutions:

  • I will try to have a better focus on the driving task.
  • I will attempt to stay on one radio station and not change it so often. Or I will ask my passenger to change AC settings or radio settings.
  • I will ignore my ringing cell phone or pull over to answer the phone.
  • I will not read a text while driving. (I don’t generally text, but I have read a text while driving.)
  • I will try not to daydream while driving. (Sometimes while driving, I will be thinking about upcoming writing projects or jokes to write, instead of focusing on the task of driving.)

According to the NHTSA website on distracted driving:

  • In 2018, 2841 people lost their lives involving distracted drivers
  • From 2012-2018, 23,000 people died in crashes involving distracted driving.
  • 9% of fatal crashes involved distracted driving in the last seven years.
  • 48 states, as well as Washington, DC, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Virgin Islands have passed laws making it illegal to text while driving.
  • In 2017, Texas became the 47th state to ban texting while driving. Texas distracted driving law prohibits “electronic messaging, including texting, emailing, and instant messaging.”Texas also prohibits drivers under the age of 18 from using wireless communication devices.

 

That list of driving resolutions one more time…

This is a pretty good list of improvements for all drivers to embrace, including myself.

  1. Dim your high beam headlights.
  2. Don’t tailgate.
  3. Slow it down.
  4. Maintain your vehicle.
  5. Stay focused and pay attention to driving.

And just for good measure, some other biggies are:

  • Buckle up with safety belts.
  • Drive calm and avoid road rage
  • Don’t drink and drive or drive on drugs.
  • Don’t drive fatigued.

Recklessness and distraction are dangerous things for drivers.

But so is vanity. None of us should be so arrogant about our driving, so sure that we're always right, that we can't learn to do better.

If you calmly look at your driving habits — and most of driving is habitual — you'll probably see some things that you can do better. …some things that you need to do differently.

And the beginning of a new year as a great time to examine your own driving behavior and make some changes.

Come to think of it, that's probably why New Years Resolutions are even a thing.


For more than thirty years, Comedy Guys Defensive Driving school has been teaching Texas drivers to be safer on the road. In our live driving safety classes and in our online defensive driving course, driving safety is one of the key things we talk about.

And the comedians that teach our classes work to make sure the classes are entertaining. After all, people learn a lot more when they're not snoring.


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