Being a lifelong resident of the Los Angeles area, I know a thing or two about bad drivers. You don’t grow up driving the Los Angeles freeway system without cutting your teeth on more than a few drivers who, to put it mildly, would be of greater benefit to society if they utilized public transportation! Those kinds of drivers scare me. I’ve witnessed, and been involved in, more than a fair number of bad traffic accidents. I’ve been rear ended too many times to count – once by an inebriated wacko who obviously forgot which pedal was the brake – and I’ve been sideswiped once by a city employee in a city-provided work truck. And, I’ve had numerous close calls in which, if it weren’t for my quick reflexes or defensive driving abilities, I could have easily been injured or maimed. After a while, when you start to experience traffic “incidents” such as I have, you learn to develop almost a “sixth sense” when it comes to driving and judging the driving habits of other motorists. I must admit, I have a tremendous inclination towards self-preservation; I don’t like pain or discomfort, and I go out of my way to avoid things that tend to cause them. And, being that I do an awful lot of driving on a weekly basis – sometimes as much as 500-600 miles a week or more – I have honed some pretty good defensive driving habits that I feel have contributed to my “longevity” as a veteran Los Angeles area driver.
The number one thing that I use to keep myself safe while driving is my eyes. I have two perfectly good eyes – at least while wearing my glasses – and I put them to good use while driving. I’m always looking ahead at the road in front of me, and I’m always scanning my mirrors; the more alert you are, the better your chances of avoiding trouble on the road. I think a lot of traffic accidents are caused simply by inattentive drivers who are either dazed, distracted, or just not aware of their surroundings. I think too many drivers assume that their fellow motorists are alert and paying good attention to the road; this line of thinking can lead to trouble if you relax and take for granted the driving abilities of your fellow motorists. By being alert and anticipating possible dangers or trouble spots, you will be in a much better position in terms of negating or avoiding trouble on the road. If you see a car on the freeway that is weaving or driving erratically, stay as far away from that car as you can. If you need to, simply exit the freeway and let the trouble car move on. It might also be advantageous to notify the local police or sheriffs department of the erratic driver. I have, on more than one occasion, used my cell phone to report a dangerous driver. By doing so, you might be saving another motorists life down the road.
Besides using my eyes as my greatest asset while on the road, I always make sure to wear my seat belt and, if I can help it, I try to avoid driving the freeways during rush hour. The seat belt thing should be a no-brainer. It only takes a few seconds to strap the belt around you, and it goes a long way towards keeping you safe and in one piece in the event of a crash. I know a lot of People can’t help it, but if it’s possible, try to do as much of your driving during off-peak hours as possible. Driving on a congested freeway with stressed out and aggravated drivers is never a good thing. After a hard day at the office or after a stressful day, many drivers are fatigued and their perception and reflexes are likely to be somewhat dulled. Limiting your exposure to these types of drivers during rush hour can go a long way towards keeping you safe.
The lanes that you drive in while on the freeway can predispose you to certain trouble areas as well. I find that, most of the time, the crazier, more erratic drivers tend to prefer the fast lane. I myself tend to favor the fast lane because I am always eager to get to my destination as quickly as possible. However, I am starting to realize the benefits of driving in the slower lanes of the freeway – the far right lanes. The majority of drivers in these lanes seem to be less hostile and more relaxed in their driving manners. Plus, an added benefit from driving in the far right lanes is easier access to the shoulder and exit ramps of the freeway in the event of a vehicle malfunction or emergency. It’s much more difficult to exit the freeway or pull over onto the shoulder from the fast lanes. Why not slow down a bit and use the slow lane and take your time while driving. Let the speed freaks have the fast lanes, with all of their weaving in and out of the carpool lanes and tailgating; all of that nonsense is just a recipe for disaster. You are better off staying as far away from that as possible. Be vigilant and aware of what’s a round you!
Slow down, take your time, and keep your eyes open! Oh, and please, stay off your cell phones while driving. If a call is that important that it can’t wait, just pull over somewhere and devote your full attention to the call; leave the driving for when you can adequately focus on the road!