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The Best Driver is an Aware Driver

Guest blogger Charles Jekofsky still has his first car-a 1964 Chevy Impala, as well as a 1938 Buick Century, a motorcycle, and a Class B camper. With eight years as a volunteer instructor for AARP Driver Safety and 51 courses behind him, he continues to marvel at new vehicle safety improvements.

A few weeks ago, I heard about a massive crash resulting in the damage of more than 50 vehicles that occurred as a result of obscured visibility (luckily there were no fatalities). The lack of visibility was apparently caused by a combination of smoke and fog.

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In the AARP Driver Safety courses I instruct, I always remind participants to be especially mindful of their driving in limited visibility conditions. In my opinion, the concept that is most frequently ignored is the basic rule of driving: drivers should operate their vehicles at a speed which is consistent with road and weather conditions. Now here’s where some people get confused: this isn’t always the posted speed limit.

I’m sure you’ve seen drivers who, in snow, blinding rain, fog, or at night, speed right past you and change lanes suddenly, as if they were driving in regular, daytime conditions. This must be just another bad habit they’ve managed to form.

But safe drivers are those who are aware of the situations they’re in, and adjust their driving accordingly. Many older drivers actively self-regulate their driving, and will avoid venturing out in unsafe conditions. But there are always times when you’ll have to-and in those times, keep these tips in mind:

  1. Leave plenty of room between you and the car ahead of you. The three-second following distance increases when your visibility decreases. In instances such as fog and rain, increase your following distance to at least five seconds. If you have to brake suddenly, a proper following distance could save you from crashing into the car ahead of you.
  2. Keep a “space cushion” around your vehicle. A space cushion, meaning you do not have cars directly to the sides of you and you have a proper distance between the cars ahead of you and behind you, provides maneuvering room in case of an emergency situation.
  3. Turn on your lights. Don’t use your high beams, especially in fog.
  4. Check the weather before heading out. If a storm is on its way, try to wait it out until things clear.
  5. If the weather turns on you when you’re driving, pull off the road and to a safe area until the weather clears.

What do you think is the worst driving condition to be caught in? Have you ever been caught on the road in a rain or snow storm? How did you manage to get to your destination safely?

Photo thanks to The Shifted Librarian.

For more tips and information, be sure to follow AARP Driver Safety on Facebook and Twitter.