Basics to Roadway Awareness
by Anthony Ricci
President of ADSI, Inc.
Whether commuting to or from work or taking the kids to the park on Saturday most everyone will use some sort of moving vehicle. A parked vehicle unless stalled in the middle of a busy road, is generally pretty safe, however when we put the word moving in front of vehicle things can start to get hairy and at times quite scary. If you notice the faster we go the more there is to think about, the quicker we need to react and the vehicle becomes more difficult to control. As we travel down these constantly changing passageways most of us fall into a comfort zone. Even though the environment is constantly changing before our eyes, we take for granted the amount of risk that lies around the next turn or over the next incline. It would not be possible to totally remove risk from our roadways. However, if we work on it we can reduce risk quite significantly.
First, we should have a comfort zone. A safe amount of space in all four directions around our vehicle as it moves along. This space should be enough to allow you time to escape in the event that a hazard occurs. The second rule would be to scan well ahead. Most driving schools and several curriculums preach to look at least 12 seconds ahead. This would allow enough time for the driver to interpret a situation and react to it. While I agree with this rule, it is difficult for most people to judge what 12 seconds is in a moving vehicle. So lets make it simple, look as far as you can see. If you can see it you should predict that it might be a potential hazard.
When following a vehicle as a general rule you should always try to leave a minimum of two seconds of space in front of you. You can measure this distance by picking a stationary object in or on the side of the roadway. Once the car in front of you passes this object count off one one thousand, two one thousand. If you reach the object before you finish counting then you need to slow down and leave more following distance.
To avoid potential hazards all drivers need to use a system. Although, most drivers do this automatically and do not think of it as a set system, it is still very important. The best known and simplest driving system is called the SIPDE process.
S -Scan aggressively in all four directions
I -Identify potential hazards
P -Predict what the hazard will do
D -Decide what you should do and How you should do it
E -Execute the maneuver
If you notice 90% or the first four steps of this process are mental, only 10% or the last step is physical. Hence, the saying driving is 90% mental. Accidents usually happen because the driver is surprised; something unexpected enters their path of travel. If the driver is focused and looking well ahead, chances are they will have time to perceive potential hazards before the hazard becomes an unwanted part of their car. In the SIPDE process the predict step is the most important. For the simple reason that the sooner you know there is a potential hazard the sooner you can react to it.
In simple terms successful roadway management comes down to managing two things time and distance. The more time you give yourself the more space you will have to have to maneuver within.