You cannot drive safely without knowing what is happening on the road. This requires an expanded situational awareness which means more than merely avoiding distractions. Even when not distracted by their mobile devices, many drivers get into needless accidents because they don’t use their eyes actively. Motorists often fail to see the car running a red light when crossing an intersection or the hard braking of interstate traffic that decelerates from 65 mph to a dead stop. The traffic around you does not always behave predictably or follow traffic laws.
Your best defense against these dangers is an improved awareness of the road. Here are five tips on how to increase your situational awareness:
- Look farther down the road. Our visual habit of looking a few feet in front of us works well for walking speeds. However, this habit will cause an accident at highway speeds that are often ten to twenty times our walking speed. Observe the situation farther down the road beyond the car in front. This gives you advance notice on road or traffic changes ahead.
- Don’t fixate your attention. Don’t fixate on any one thing for more than a second. Our focused field of view is only 5 degrees wide. You cannot see detail beyond this without moving your eyes. Outside of your focused field of view is peripheral vision which only picks up movement. Fixating on a point 100 feet ahead means you can only see detail about 4.4 feet on either side.
- Constantly scan with your eyes. This means looking at varying distances in front of you as well as left and right. You need to keep track of what is occurring farther down the road as well as what the car immediately in front of you is doing. Scanning left and right is a habit that can prevent many collisions at intersections.
- Periodically check your mirrors. Single lane and especially multilane roads require an awareness of the traffic situation around your car. This means checking your side and rear view mirrors every 8 to 10 seconds. If everyone traveled at the same speed and never changed lanes, this might not be necessary. However, police cars, ambulances, and aggressive drivers can quickly overtake your car and you may have to get out of their way.
- Use a head check when changing lanes. This precaution eliminates the possibility of colliding with a vehicle in your blind spot.
These tips will reduce your risk of getting into an accident with negligent and aggressive drivers who may violate our traffic laws. However, if in spite of this, a driver injures you in an accident, get a Columbia car accident attorneys’ advice on what to do next. For a free no-obligation consultation, contact us.