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10 road warning signs you’ve probably missed

Published July 17, 2012
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It is surprising to most motorists how much driving information is in front of their eyes and they don’t see it. If everyone focused in on their motoring world more while driving, the details available can tell each of us a lot more about our driving circumstances. The more information each motorist has, the better driving decisions we can make.

Here are 10 tips most motorists wouldn’t think of:

1. Large oil stains on the road. This clue means there is a large enough dip or bump in the road to cause oil to fall off of trucks and cars as they “bottom out” in the dip. These can usually be seen by drivers well before they encounter the dip unless they are following the vehicle ahead too closely. Some of these dips are big enough to cause a vehicle’s suspension to compress enough to affect steering. In older vehicles with worn shock absorbers it can cause the vehicle to wander in the lane. When you see one of these large oil spots, be ready for a dip in the road.

2. Tire ruts on the road way. Where trucks and heavy equipment travel their weight tends to push the asphalt out from under their tires forming a rut or depression in the pavement. You can see an exaggerated example of this at many bus stops where the bus’s weight pushes the asphalt up into “bus knuckles” as they are referred to. These ruts tend to develop bigger bumps at expansion strips causing vehicles to experience more wear and tear on suspension components than necessary. These are also quite noticeable at railway crossings. The rail tracks will be much more pronounced in the ruts causing a bigger bump than necessary. Drivers only need to shift to the right or left in their lane by half a metre or less to miss the worst of these bumps. This shifting out of the ruts will also reduce the chances of hydroplaning in the rain as these ruts tend to flood with water.

3. Spray of off tires. In weather that threatens rain, it is quite easy to tell you will soon be encountering wet roads by observing vehicles coming from the opposite direction. If there is rain or wet roads up ahead, oncoming traffic tends to carry spray with them for a kilometre or so down the road. You can notice this spray while you are still driving on dry roads and be prepared to encounter wet roads up ahead soon. Much of the oncoming traffic will still have their windshield wipers going giving you another indication that rain is just up ahead.

4. Scars on concrete walls. When approaching an offramp or onramp there will often be tire skid marks and large scrapes along the wall. This is an indication that many motorists have had trouble negotiating this turn and maybe it requires extra attention. If you notice a particular ramp with lots of “scars”, it is an excellent warning that this ramp needs a slow speed and concentration.

5. Rat packs. It is a well known fact that motorists tend to clump together and drive in “rat packs”. The greater the number of vehicles in a pack the greater the chances are for motoring mistakes and the resulting mayhem. If more motorists noticed these packs forming and stayed clear of these packs, they would reduce the chances of being involved in someone else’s mistakes. Watch for these “rat packs” and steer clear of them.

6. Traffic “Hot Spots”. Traffic tends to flow in a pattern determined by the road design and traffic volume. There are sections of road that will always slow up at certain times of the day. An excellent example of this happens on Hwy 404 southbound at “Major Mac” and 16th Ave. every morning. It is simply due to the volume of traffic merging on to head into the city. Each morning, motorists should take note of this and be prepared well in advanced of this “scheduled” slow down. It always amazes me how many drivers each morning are surprised and are forced to slam hard on their brakes as the traffic slows.

7. Feet on the dash. With this summery weather, more and more passengers are putting their feet up on the dashboards. Newer vehicles all have air bags stored in the passenger side dashboard. In the event of a crash, those air bags deploy at over 300 km/h. If a passenger has their feet up on the dashboard when that happens it often ends up in catastrophic injuries for the passenger. If drivers notice their passenger resting their feet on the dash, they should warn them of the dangers and request they sit properly in the seat.

8. Trucks and hills. When travelling along the highway motorists should note where trucks are at all times. When approaching a hill, trucks will almost always slow down due to their large mass. If a motorist is paying attention they can pass the truck before the hill. Now they will not be stuck behind the truck or trying to pull out and pass on the hill while travelling at a speed much slower than the vehicles already in the passing lane. It never works out well when a vehicle pulls out into passing traffic at 70 km/h when the passing traffic is doing 110 – 120 km/h.

9. Towing a trailer. Many motorists will be towing trailers this time of the year as they get away for vacation. Boat trailers, camper trailers or utility trailers should all be double checked for safety. After checking all connections, lights and chains, every driver should perform a second check about five kms down the road in a safe location to be sure everything is still hooked up. What might look tight and fine before the drive can loosen up within a few kilometres. This second check can catch anything that has come loose. Checks should also take place anytime the vehicle stops for fuel or at rest stops.

10. Distractions. Most motorists will follow too closely on our roads. Each driver should have two seconds between themselves and the vehicle ahead. Most drivers will travel closer than one second to the vehicle ahead. This means that a simple one second distraction will put the following driver right onto the rear bumper of the vehicle ahead in an emergency situation.

Every driver should never allow distractions of any kind to take their focus off the task of driving. Doing so will mean the driver will miss important driving information and the hundreds of hints on our roads that can keep them safe during their journeys.

These are just 10 of the multitude of driving hints available to all motorists that can make their drive safer and less stressful if they would only pay attention to their driving world!

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