Produced by Donald Asa and, TrukSafe America, Inc.

For the Teens in the Family

One of the more exciting things as a young driver is to gain the personal freedom of moving a piece of equipment around on your own in a direction you want to go, making decisions about who you want to go see, and to test your skills and ability with equipment such as an automobile, motorcycle, or anything that moves you under power controlled by you.

You can believe it or not, but everybody, and especially us old guys would like to be a teenager.  You can bet that you'll hear this many times in the future that, "Gee, if I could just go back to high school with the knowledge that I have now."  This comment comes from people old enough to be your grandfather, so take advantage of being a teenager.  Then, also take advantage of using your ability to listen and especially to old-timers.

As a matter of fact, one of the basic problems is the feeling of power that the equipment gives to you the more you press on the throttle, the more noise you make, and the faster you go.  It's great fun to be able to say to yourself, "I want to go to the river, or to the lake, or to the show.", and actually take yourself there.  That personal freedom is wonderful and is something that we all enjoy when we get to the age when we can control equipment.  Young people are very quick to learn and usually have better eye sight and better reaction time than us old guys.  But, what the old guys have is lots of knowledge gained from lots of experience and therefore, better perception time.  One of the very first things the old guys learned (with experience and guidance from other old guys) is that the automotive equipment is a convenience, a tool, a useful tool, and one that supports the strides toward education, job seeking, and family development. 

We are talking about old-timers, and I want to explain first of all by categorizing drivers.  The classes of drivers start with professional drivers.  These are mostly truck drivers.  The really successful old-time drivers live a long time, do a great job, make a lot of money, have no accidents and no tickets, accomplish millions of miles of driving over a career, and the reasons should be obvious –they don't take chances and they listen to other old-timers. 

Then, there certainly are competitive professional drivers (race cars) who rarely have problems and when they do they know how to solve the problems and they don't take chances, other than, the ordinary chances of driving in high speed competition.

Then, there are family drivers who generally go through life having no problems, getting no tickets, having no accidents, and this is about 85% of all the family drivers.  They obey the law and they don't take chances. 

Then there are the dumb-and-dumber drivers who take chances, get tickets, spend time in traffic courts along with spending money and who generally have little or no understanding of responsibility.  To get a good picture of the results of dumb-and-dumber, drive by a salvage or wrecking yard one day and see the hundreds of vehicles that have been involved in accidents at great expense and quite often involving serious injuries and fatalities.  It's also an educational plus to stop by a traffic court as an observer just to soak up some of the information and the people that would never have to appear and never waste anyone's time if they'd simply obeyed the law. 

  • Always walk around your vehicle; eliminating the possibility of backing over someone.
  • Know your blind spots.
  • Know your stopping distance.  For example, it takes on dry pavement from 40 mph, 200 feet to stop.  Perception, reaction, brake lag, and braking from 40 miles per hour for a truck, 160 feet for a car.  Remember this when a truck is following you.
  • Perception, the time it takes to know there is a problem, a hazard, something that requires your attention and perhaps a decision.  This coupled with reaction time is generally 1 ½ seconds, in other words ¾ second for perception and ¾ second for reaction.
  • Reaction time, the time of physical action.  For example, moving your foot from the throttle to the brake, or to steer, or any physical action your brain is dictating to your various muscles.
  • Feet-per-second, this is something a driver needs to know.  What is it?  It is the movement over the ground in terms of time.  So, how to calculate?  It's simple; take ½ your speed and add it to your speed. 
  • As an example, 20 miles per hour equals: ½ of 20 which is 10, added to 20 equals 30 feet per second.  Forty mph, add ½ or 20 equals 60 feet per second.  It is extremely helpful in understanding time and distance when driving equipment, to be able to evaluate quickly how fast you are going to cover a given distance at a given time. 
  • Applying feet-per-second to driving: take the following distance, as an example.  Counting off seconds when following, gives you the distance apart.  (This is a necessary piece of information for drivers.)  When the vehicle you're following passes a fixed object, you can now get a fairly accurate distance calculation.  Say you count to 4 seconds at 60 mph (90 feet per second) is 360 feet.  This information coupled to your knowledge of stopping distance gives you fairly accurate information and adds to your safety factor.
  • Pedestrians average 3 mph or 4.5 fps when walking at an average gait. 
  • When in the presence of pedestrians and backing is necessary, use idle speed.
  • Intersections –wait a second.  Don't be too anxious to press on the throttle when the signal goes green.  "Wait a second."  Quite often that one second will save a possible collision when someone else ran a red.
  • It also is smart to wait a second if you don't have a clear view of the crosswalk.  Pedestrians are often shorter than the vehicles and can't be seen until they step out; especially around big equipment; such as buses.
  • A pedestrian walk signal is most often only 10 seconds in duration.  Crosswalks often get up to 100 feet in length.  A pedestrian walking at normal speed will only get half way on the pedestrian signal, the balance of the way on a don't walk signal.  Doesn't matter –they still have the right of way.
  • Making a right turn across a pedestrian zone against a red light always poses an extreme risk of error, and certainly can endanger both pedestrian traffic, but opposing traffic and following traffic as well.
  • Intersections always, but sheer necessity, involve divided attention.  So, concentrate always.
  • 4-way stops, give way to the vehicle on the right when getting there at the same time.  If there's any doubt, give way anyhow.
  • Flashing yellow certainly means caution.
  • Flashing red means all stop.
  • When a controlled (by signal) intersection's light fail flashing red, means just that –stop and allow the vehicle opposing on the right, the chance to proceed.
  • Focus on driving.  Argue with yourself, which is the safest lane to approach an intersection when going through?
  • Which is the safest and correct lane when approaching an intersection, when planning a turn?  Make your decisions early.
  • Planning is a key to safety, no matter how many times you make a maneuver, plan it.
  • No particular turn is more dangerous than another (if properly planned and executed.)  Turning left, you're crossing opposing traffic.  Turning right, you're turning through a very large blind spot.  Each and every turn requires planning and the danger that might develop is invariably driver error.
  • Visibility (visual range) another possible major factor and one to study at great length.
  • Bicycles can do 25 to 30 mph, and can overtake and pass on the right when you are operating at slow speeds such as intersections.
  • You can be right and wrong.  It's ok most of the time to turn right against the red light and wrong if you forget you're turning across traffic including crosswalks and lanes with traffic that has the right of way.
  • Lanes -12 feet wide.  Cars are generally 5.6 feet wide, trucks 8 feet wide and 13 feet 6 inches high.
  • Emergency lanes are generally 10' wide (freeways), and usually have rumble strips.  Rumble strips are put in place to alert drivers that they've crossed over the fog line into the emergency lane.
  • Rumble strips are approximately 18 inches outboard of the fog line.
  • Fog line is the white line on the right of the extreme right hand lane.  The fog line when coming to an exit will follow the right hand side of the exit lane.  As the lane continues straight, there is a gap in the fog line turning right following that exit lane in what is called the reverse gore point.  This is the beginning of a fog line and the beginning of the left side of the exit lane, leaving generally a large triangular area.  On the opposite side (on-ramp or entrance lane) there are 2 lines come together, once more the fog line and the left side of the entrance lane.  This is called the gore point.  Do not cross over gore points.
  • Lane markers can be used to determine distance between vehicles    or from one spot to another.  This would mean in front of your vehicle.  The dividing broken stripes between lanes are lane markers, and are most often 25 feet between the painted stripes, and the painted stripe is 15 feet, for a total of 40 feet.  There can be some differences, but this information can be a guide to your thinking when driving.
  • The rumble strips can guide a driver who is blinded by (for example, dust) going to the right until the right side wheels cross the strip (noisy rumble.)  Keep moving right until the left wheels are on the strip and you're approximately 18" inside the fog line and parked (Stopping is essential when blinded.) inside the emergency lane.
  • When visual range is shutting down you have to slow down and perhaps shut down.  Visual range is how far you can see when you're looking.  For instance, if you're 300 feet from a crest of a hill that you can't see over, then 300 feet is the visual range.  Keep speed inside of visual range for stopping.
  • Work out your own method for measuring visual range.  A couple of suggestions are: One, if you can see 10 lane divider stripes, then you can see 400 feet.  This would mean that you would have to drive at a speed that you can stop in that distance.  Two, the counting method 1001-1002-1003; you're counting seconds, and each second you're covering a specific distance such as 70 mph you're traveling 105 feet a second and in 3 seconds you've covered 315 feet.  You can develop your own method of counting seconds; for instance mother-in-law 1, mother-in-law 2, mother-in-law 3 –or you can use Pahrump 1, Pahrump 2, and Pahrump 3.  Keep in mind that various weather conditions can add to the stopping distance, most often because of changing pavement conditions.
  • You should know how much time it takes to change lanes, and how much distance is traveled.  Since the lanes are generally 12 feet wide, then a very quick lane change (actually a panic type change) would be about 3 seconds.  You've traveled at 70 mph, 315 feet, and moved 12 feet from one lane to another. 
  • Driving a vehicle with a high center of gravity would mean a great deal more care needs to be taken when changing lanes.  This is not only true for trucks with various loads; it's also true for cars.  An SUV with six passengers certainly has a much higher center of gravity than a Corvette with two passengers, so don't drive them the same.
  • Since lane changing creates a high percentage of accidents, fewer lane changes made the better.  One of the methods of reducing lane changes is to reduce the speed of your machine so that you're not catching traffic.  A good method is to drive a mile or two an hour less than traffic, and since you're not catching people, you're not changing lanes.  I'm sure you've observed Mr. or Ms. Dumb and Dumber cruising up behind another vehicle that's doing slightly less and will not back off because they're on cruise control.  Mr. or Ms. Dumb and Dumber could keep out of danger simply by the press of a button.   It's hard to believe that someone would risk their life by putting their destiny in someone else's hands.  It's a good idea to always be in positive control and to be observant.
  • A great motto along this line of thinking, "I don't want to outrun anybody, I just want to outlast them."
  • A great many lane changing accidents come from moving from left to right.  The reason for that is that drivers are generally blinder or have more blind spots on the right side of their vehicle, and especially trucks.  Before moving from right to left, keep track of the traffic and give yourself more time and always assume that there is a tiny person on a tiny motor scooter trying to pass you on the right.  "Look for them."
  • Always signal for lane changes.  And, signal not because you're going to move, signal because you'd like to move.  It's an electronic switch –costs nothing to turn it off or on.
  • Keep track of people around your vehicle, coming up swiftly on either side of you; they may have the intention of moving into your lane. 
  • One of the tips when city driving is to take it for granted that someday an emergency vehicle is going to cross your path.  When approaching intersections in the city you should always have the driver's window cracked perhaps an inch, just listening for emergency vehicles.  Blind intersections such as buildings, bushes, trees and so on can deflect sound.  Good advice is to leave your radio off or at least make sure that the sound is soft enough that you can hear sirens.  City driving is no place to put ear phones in or on your ears.
  • When entering freeway traffic from an on-ramp, blending in with traffic at their same rate of speed is what everybody would like to do.  Sometimes it's not possible because the acceleration lane is not long enough.  Using the emergency lane to gain enough speed to blend in is the correct thing to do; in other words extend the acceleration lane.
  • Exiting should be done with appropriate signals and maintaining speed until you're on the ramp; not always possible but much safer –and left foot braking is once again very useful.
  • Stopping in the emergency lane is not a prudent practice and unacceptable and against the law in many states unless you have a viable mechanical breakdown.  Just imagine needing the emergency lane because you do have a viable problem such as a blown tire, and you find someone blocking your path of travel that doesn't need to be there.
  • When using the emergency lane for a breakdown, move as far off as is practicable so that when you exit the vehicle you are well within the fog line.  Keep an eye on traffic.  Be sure and use hazard lights even as you're approaching your stop, and then put out reflectors if you're driving a truck as quickly as possible, knowing that you're broke down. 
  • Following too closely is another major cause of accidents.  One of the reasons is visual range may be restricted if following too close to another vehicle.  Following a van for instance, blocks the view of the lane you're traveling in.  Since we know it takes a minimum of 3 seconds to change lanes, add the time to that –that it takes to check the lane you want to move into to see if it's safe to do so.  It's obvious that if you're following somebody at 100 feet and they get into trouble you too are in trouble. 
  • There are exit ramps that are not straightaway ramps but rather downhill or uphill curving ramps.  As an example, traditional curving ramp would be one that changes direction of travel 90 degrees, for instance from westbound to southbound.  However, it takes 270 degrees of travel to accomplish that change in direction.  This would be a classic clover-leaf freeway exit system.  These turns can be interesting for trucks especially, in that they have to decelerate in the off ramp all the way down from highway speed to a safe negotiating speed since the drivers may not know what that safe speed is they need to cut down to 50% of what they think is a safe speed.  In other words, if the driver thinks a safe speed might be 30 mph, cut it down to 15, especially the first time the driver is on such a ramp.  This is another place where left foot braking is vital, keeping in mind that in this downhill turn, the Jake brake does not apply trailer brakes.  Keep in mind that saving 10 seconds by driving too fast can kill you, certainly ruining your day.  Also, keep in mind that when you are behind a truck using a Jake brake to slow, you will not see any brake lights come on.
  • You read newspaper articles from time to time about someone running over a child in their own driveway, backing up.  "Goal" would prevent these accidents.
  • Any time there are pedestrians in the area of where you're backing, then the rule is "Get out and look."  "Goal."
  • Almost invariably accidents can be prevented by taking care.  Sometimes the people that drive you nuts are the people that take deliberate care before they do something.  A great example is a professional golfer getting ready to make a shot, or a bowler looking over the lane for "the" spot, or a race car driver studying the track for the line, or the truly professional truck driver who stops, get out, and looks and does not move till he/she knows that it's safe to move, even that last 2 or 3 feet before touching the dock.  All of these folks are trying to eliminate the possibility of a mistake, so learn from them.
  • In the driving world a mistake is often fatal, and it certainly can be life changing, expensive, world shattering.
  • Using a spotter when backing is often a desirable thing to do.  If you lose track of the spotter in your mirrors, you may well lose the spotter.  So, stop and wait until you can see that spotter again or get out and look.
  • Whatever or whoever you're using as a guide; don't back if you lose sight of either one of them.  It may be a guideline or a post, other equipment.  Stop if you can't see your mark.  "Goal"
  • One good rule, a smart rule, regardless of whether you have back up alarms or not, is to honk your horn when getting ready to back, even in a parking lot.
  • On construction sites, people get so used to backup alarms that they tend to ignore the noise.  A new noise like a horn could alert the on-the-scene personnel. 
  • Keep track of everybody that's within range of your backing maneuver.  When something changes, stop.
  • If you leave your vehicle, even for a few minutes, walk around it before you move forward or backward. 
  • Most common booby trap when city driving is to set a time or a schedule where you have to be there.  People die for trying to save 10 seconds.
  • Generally we're competitive people, so when traffic piles up or generally gets in the way of a driver's progress they're inclined to speed up to make up lost time, or to take a chance changing a lane, or try to pass one more vehicle before making an exit –all of which is reaction type driving, and any of which could be taking a chance on safety
  • No matter what they situation you must always have a place to go, an "out"
  • Usually, (most commonly) slowing down gives you, the driver, more options in having a place to go
  • Always remember your very trusting passengers
  • Regardless of the mission (where you intend to go) focus on your immediate surroundings
  • Just because you make it to work on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday in 29 minutes, doesn't mean you're going to make it on Thursday; therefore don't fall into the booby trap of assuming that conditions and traffic are always going to be the same
  • Always carry water and a flashlight and a cell phone and space blanket
  • Make sure there is enough water for passengers
  • Always be aware of the condition of your vehicle
  • The word passenger car is indeed significant.  You are going to carry passengers (you may be one of those passengers) so the condition of the equipment should be known.  For instance, a blown tire can kill an entire family. 
  • Speaking of blown tires, should you have one get your left foot on the brake before you take your right foot off the throttle.  You should practice left foot braking.
  • Remember, most of the time, the family driver is exactly that –the person most responsible for family safety while driving, and therefore the most responsible person for gaining knowledge about driving. 

One of the simplest things to learn is that the officers of the law are always ready to help and to answer questions.  Our old-times committee mostly consists of truck drivers; both male and female who have traveled in all the states in trucks and have never seen an officer of the law who wasn't ready to assist or help if asked to do so, and, this involves several hundred years of experience.  So, if you have problems when on the highways, roadways, or streets, you can pick up the phone and ask for help.

These tips come to you from truck drivers, and modern truck drivers, as well as from the "Old Boys Committee" whose members have been driving for some 180 combined years.  The one thing they all have in common is that they started driving in their teen years, and they all started driving trucks in order to make money.  And, now 60 years later they can still drive trucks, however they "drive" companies.  The key to survival over all those years and without accidents or tickets was to listen and learn, following the advice of other old-timers.   They certainly have gained valuable information during that time, and now pass some of it onto you.

Putting the Brakes on Unsafe Trucking Companies