Sharing the road

By Diane Tait

Image courtesy Pixabay
Now that the snow has started falling up north, it’s guaranteed that the snowbirds will descend on the Sunshine State in force.  Between that and the holiday shopping traffic, it’s going to get hectic on the highways in the next few weeks.  So, I thought I’d take the time to point out a few things that all drivers need to heed when it comes to sharing the road.

So many cars.  So little time.  Everyone is in a hurry these days.   Whether it’s to get to work, to make it to Miami before nightfall, or to head out to the mall to do a little Christmas shopping, the roads are going to be packed with impatient drivers.  While haste makes waste, that tenet is doubly true this time of year.  While winter driving in Florida doesn’t include snow, that doesn’t mean that you’re not going to be in for a bumpy ride from time to time.  Everything from popup rain showers to gridlock caused by rush hour traffic, tourists and shoppers are quite common in December.  Don’t let them spoil your Christmas cheer.  What this means is if you want to get where your going with the least amount of stress, try to time your trips to avoid the worst of the traffic.    

Keep your distance and your cool.  Have you ever noticed that the least patient drivers are the most aggressive?  While the habits of Jacksonville drivers don’t seem to be quite as frantic as the kamikaze pilots I seem to encounter every time I drive through Orlando, it isn’t unusual for me to see an occasional driver using I-95 as a slalom run or have a speedster barrel right up to my bumper, even if there’s no place for them to go.  While road hogs and street racers can cause your blood pressure to spike, the best way to keep your cool is to get out of their way.  More importantly is for all of us to avoid being a hazard to navigation ourselves.  This means using sensible lane discipline, giving other drivers room to breathe and using our turn signals. 

All too many drivers act as though they own the road.  This causes them to needlessly block traffic by using the middle and left lanes in such a way that it forces faster traffic to pass them on the right.  It makes you wonder if they ever took a driving course. Most drivers follow other vehicles way too closely, regardless of the weather.  Should the driver ahead jump on the brakes, this is one sure way to wind up in a pile up.  Always give traffic ahead at least a 3-second lead in dry weather and a 5-second lead in wet weather.  Do I really need to remind all of you not to talk on the phone or text while driving?  And for Pete’s sake, learn how to use your turn signals.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had cars cut into my lane without any warning.  Brake lights aren’t the best way to signal a turn.

Image courtesy flickr
What kind of drivers are you sharing the road with? While everyone in Florida complains about out of state drivers, statistics tell us that they’re more likely to be involved in an accident with a local than with a snowbird.  That doesn’t mean all drivers are created equal.  The most dangerous drivers are those who are either very young or very old.  Teenagers today act as though a car is a rolling entertainment center.  In short, most of them do everything behind the wheel that’s guaranteed to distract them from what’s going on outside the vehicle.  Elderly drivers are also a hazard to navigation since they have issues with everything from hearing and eyesight to molasses slow reaction times.  Even cars with ill-behaved kids can quickly become a problem, since any driver forced to deal with a car full of unruly brats is going to be less than attentive to what’s happening on the other side of their windshield. 

Size Matters - One of the biggest obstacles that drivers face on the highway are buses, motorhomes and trucks.  While the average family sedan weighs a couple of tons, buses and tractor trailers can weigh a lot more.  A fully loaded big rig can weigh anywhere from 20,000-80,000 pounds or 10-40 tons.  If you think you have trouble stopping on the highway while doing 80 MPH, just think how far it takes to slow down a 20-ton juggernaut on the interstate.  What’s even worse is that once a trucker hits the brakes, there’s no telling where the trailer is going to go.  It can plow straight ahead through stopped traffic or jackknife to take out a couple of lanes on either side of it.  They can also flip onto their side, especially if the truck goes off the road.  Personally, I am always cognizant of big rigs, buses and motorhomes and tend to give them a wide berth.  This means I either stay well back or if traffic permits, I put them in my rearview mirror as quickly as possible. 

Inage courtesy flickr
Motorhomes are particularly treacherous, since you don’t know how much experience the RV driver has behind the wheel of his or her rolling summer home.  What most RV owners fail to realize is how Newtonian physics applies to them.  Even if they normally drive an SUV, any motorhome is going to require at least twice the stopping distance.  Motorhomes and travel trailers also require a lot more room to make a turn, which a rookie RVer may or may not realize until they find out the hard way.  As bad as having to deal with commercial trucks and buses is, at least these behemoth vehicles are driven by professional drivers who are trained and licensed to operate them safely.  To operate a motorhome or travel trailer, all you have to do is buy or rent one. 

People who creep slowly past a bus, motorhome or big rig don’t realize the huge blind spot that these vehicles have.  Another thing most drivers don’t realize is how many hours truckers put in on the road.  The last thing you want is to have a trucker who’s half asleep decide to suddenly change lanes when your vehicle is beside them.  Slowpokes in particular are in for a rude awakening.  Whenever I see a tractor trailer growing large in my rearview, I always give way, since that’s not an argument I’m likely to win.  If a truck, bus or motorhome blows a tire or loses its brakes, there’s no telling where it will wind up.  All I know is I have no intention of becoming a hood ornament.

Diane Tait owns and operates A&B Insurance.  To find out more about how you can save money on auto insurance, go to her site or fill out the form at left.


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