(I include riders along with drivers in these, at least for the ones that apply)
1. Talking on the phone – some people (usually those who do it) get defensive on this one, but I have both real evidence from this study (and others by the same team) and anecdotal evidence from my time on the road: someone commits one of the other sins below, and you’ll almost invariably find it’s ‘cos they’re on the phone.
2. Failing to indicate – we’re not mind-riders. And sometimes we (on bikes, I mean) move fast enough that you don’t know we’re there. So indicate your intentions every time – and early enough. The law here says 30 m or 100 feet before the corner. The people who lock up the brakes and stop completely, and then indicate have it dangerously in the wrong order… but they’re still better than those who don’t indicate at all. Taxi drivers must get too tired from driving all day, I guess…
3. Failing to head-check before merging – Mirrors have a blind spot (heh, I originally typed ‘blond spot’ ), and the only way to merge or change lanes safely is to look over your shoulder in addition to looking in the mirror. Even if you just figured out you’re about to miss your exit. Always shoulder check before moving out of your lane.
4. Distractions – the phone is the worst offender, but it can be anything – a hot cup of coffee in your hand, a burger dripping in your lap, a pet wandering around the car or sitting in your lap, rubbish rolling under the pedals on the floor, turning around to discipline the kids, fiddling with the radio… If your attention isn’t on the road in front of you while you’re piloting a tonne of steel at high speed, you’re putting your own and others’ lives at risk1.
5. Failing to drive for the conditions – I stayed off the bike for two days this week, because they were rainy: the first seriously rainy days for a couple of months. I knew the roads would be covered with oil and muck that would make them slippery and dangerous, and I knew people wouldn’t drive appropriately for the conditions. Sure enough, there were two fatalities on Brisbane roads in the rain, one of them a 24 year old mother who died in front of her 4 year old child and her mother. If traction and visibility are reduced, it only makes sense to drive more slowly and more carefully… and failing to do so is negligent and will stand a good chance of getting someone killed.
6. Tailgating – two seconds is a good guideline. Just watch the vehicle in front pass a stationary object and count 1 – one thousand – 2 – one thousand. If you’re closer than that and something unexpected happens, you’re going to hit them, because there’s not time to react and brake. Sitting on someone’s tail in a place where you can’t overtake anyway doesn’t get you there any quicker, it just irritates them and makes them more likely to crash – and you likely to hit them after they crash.
7. Running/jumping lights/pulling out without looking and allowing time – If you run a red light, you have a huge chance of killing or injuring someone. People do try to check a bit before taking off on a green light, but if you come really late and fast they may already have started. And if you jump before the green (say on seeing the red in the other direction) you’re also much more likely to be in an accident. Same for pulling out of a side road without adequate checking – even if you come out of that street all the time. And you shouldn’t assume everyone is doing the speed limit, either – the person coming toward you may be going faster – and sure they shouldn’t, but that’s no consolation when they hit you. Stop long enough to make a good judgement about their speed… and it’s courtesy to drive so that you don’t make others have to brake and swerve to miss you.
These are in addition to the ones everyone knows about like speeding (which gets a lot of attention because it’s easy to police, but probably is more of an exacerbating feature in accidents caused by the above than an actual cause of accidents), fatigue and drink/drug driving, of course.
And one more deadly sin: driving as though everyone else is a saint (in terms of these sins). Defensive driving means driving like a saint yourself but assuming that everyone else drives like a sinner. If we could all work towards being cleansed of these sins, we’d all live longer.
- I know: Sue’s mother was crossing the road at age 60 with two older women and some guy fiddling with the radio in his car hit and killed all three of them. One reason my daughters don’t have a grandmother.