Learn how to drive

We call it the “LA cell phone conversation”:

“Hi, how are you?”,
“Good, how are you stupid idiot, watch where you’re going!
“Sorry, some idiot just cut me off”

Maybe I’m just noticing it more, but it seems the amount of bad driving going on out there is really increasing these days. Most of getting your pilot’s license is learning the procedures that have been developed over the years to keep planes coordinated and flying safely. Since I’ve gotten my pilot’s license, I’ve gained more respect for the procedures used in driving, and I’ve also noticed how frequently they are broken. At the same time I’ve noticed how many accidents could have been avoided if people were following the simple rules they teach in every driving school.

Here are five points people seem to have forgotten that can easily save your life:

  • Yellow means stop.
    Stop lights used to be just red and green. The problem was, people would panic and slam on the brakes when the light suddenly turned red. So they added yellow. Yellow means “stop if you can without slamming on your brakes” (so the guy behind you doesn’t hit you). It doesn’t mean “go very fast to see if you can make it”. I know a few intersections where this rule alone would have prevented a lot of accidents.
  • Going slow on the freeway is bad.
    Those long on ramps and off ramps were developed so that you’d have time to accelerate and decelerate. Entering the freeway at 45 MPH is very dangerous. I’ve personally seen accidents caused by it. The primary cause of speed-related accidents on the freeway is the difference in speed between two cars.

    • When you’re getting on the freeway, accelerate so that you’re at 65 MPH (or whatever the freeway traffic is doing if there’s traffic) by the time you enter the freeway.
    • When you’re getting off the freeway keep freeway speed until you enter the exit ramp, then decelerate.
  • Don’t enter an intersection unless you can get out the other side.
    Not only is this common sense to prevent gridlock; it’s the law.
  • Perform a self-check before you drive.
    A car is a big object, and we take for granted our ability to control it. Pilots use a self-checklist “IMSAFE”, which stands for “Illness, Medical, Stress, Alcohol, Fatigue, and Emotion”. If you’re too sick, have a medical condition, are stressed out, have been drinking, are tired, or are emotional, don’t drive. Recover, then drive. Driving schools of course teach similar ideas, but I find the IMSAFE checklist helps drive it home in a practical way.
  • Know how to control your car.
    Can you automatically recover from a skid? Do you know what to do if you hydroplane? What if a tire blows, can you correct for it? Many drivers can’t. If you haven’t been taught to drive at a proper driving school, you owe it to yourself, your passengers, and the others on the road to just go. It’ll be fun, and you’ll feel more confident in bad weather or in the event something unexpected happens.

These points are basic and a part of standard driving training and traffic law; yet I see them broken every time I drive. I bet you do too.

Fact is, many of those “idiots on the road” are either us or someone we know. If passing this on saves just one life, it’ll be worth it, so pass it on.