Driving with Jens: Improving your driving in the new year

Make a resolution to never drive distracted

If you’re anything like me in the past, then your New Year’s resolutions are usually just a to do list for the first few weeks of January.

Since I began writing this column, my New Year’s resolutions have included new habits to match the subjects I’ve written about. Over the last few years I have largely succeeded in maintaining these positive changes to my driving habits.

If you make the same commitment and have resolutions around some of the topics I’ve covered in this column, we could make the roads a much safer place.

Here are a few of the most important:

Make a resolution to never drive distracted.

Distracted driving now kills more people than impaired driving. It’s a serious issue and young people are the most at risk. Young drivers today have never known driving without a cell phone. When I was a new driver the only phone we had was bolted to the wall in the kitchen. Talk to your kids about this issue and have them pledge to never drive distracted.

Distracted driving is not just about phones. It’s anything that takes your focus off the road. This can be pets, children or vehicle contents that are not secured properly.

Even taking your eyes off the road for just five seconds at 100 km/hour means your vehicle will travel over the distance of a football field. How many careless children on bikes could be zigzagging around that football field?

Make a resolution to stay within the speed limit and obey traffic rules.

Speed is a factor in most vehicle crashes. Notice I didn’t say accident. Accident suggests it was unavoidable. Most crashes could have been avoided if speed limits and traffic rules were followed without fail. Pay special attention to stop signs and traffic lights. The RCMP here in the Yukon have issued a statement that they will be focusing on traffic rules, with an emphasis on intersections.

I still see a lot of confusion at roundabouts. The basic concept of maneuvering through a roundabout is very simple – yield in and signal out. The trouble begins when drivers don’t yield to the vehicles already in the roundabout or drivers in the roundabout don’t signal to let other drivers know where they are exiting.

Make a resolution to never drive impaired.

Impaired driving unfortunately still continues to be an issue, and it just became a lot more complicated with the legalization of cannabis.

The safest number of drinks or amount of cannabis before driving is obviously none.

Make a resolution to share the road with cyclists.

It’s important to accept, and understand, that both cyclists and motorists have the same right to travel on public roads. But with that right also comes responsibility, for both motorists and cyclists. It’s vital that both groups find a safe and harmonious way to coexist on the roads.

Motorists are to blame for approximately 90 per cent of all crashes with cyclists. Cyclists don’t have seat belts, air bags, roll cages, or other safety items that motorists have. In a crash, the cyclist is more likely to be seriously injured.

Please keep an eye out for cyclists both in front, beside, and coming up behind you. Knowing that they are there in the first place will greatly reduce your chances of crashing with them. Always double-check your blind spots. Maybe instead of having your children play a game where they look out for punch buggies, have them look out for cyclists and motorcycles. Then, as adults, they will be trained to watch for both.

When passing cyclists, stay at least three feet away from them. Give plenty of room to get around them. To demonstrate this point, try standing on a busy road with your back to traffic, and slowly inch out until the passing cars are less than three feet from you. Feel the draft of larger vehicles pulling you into the road. How comfortable do you feel? Cyclists feel this way on every trip.

Through my New Year’s resolutions over the past few years, I deliberately focused on these subjects and have become a better and safer driver. I hope you will join me and make a few New Years’s resolutions about your driving habits as well.

Catch Driving, with Jens on CHON FM Thursdays at 8:15. If you have any questions or comments you can reach out to Jens Nielsen at drivingwithjens@gmail.com, Facebook or Twitter: @drivingwithjens.

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