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What we can learn from this close call on a country drive

Impatient drivers, tailgaters, daredevils, columnist enountered them all in mere minutes

Published June 24, 2013
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Living in the country has its advantages: no rush-hour traffic, noise or smog. It does, however, present different driving challenges.

An incident happened to me just last week that brought some of these challenges sharply into focus. I was driving from the Uxbridge area along Davis Dr. toward Durham 30 Rd. It’s a very scenic route with lovely rolling hills, beautiful estate homes and green fields of crops and trees.

In this area, Davis Rd. is a narrow two-lane road with almost non-existent shoulders and plenty of blind hills and hidden driveways. The speed limit is only 70 km/h, as it should be, yet many motorists zip along as if this is just another country highway.

On this particular evening drive, I was heading toward the crest of a hill with an impatient young lady following me much too closely, no doubt irate because I was observing the speed  limit.

I kept her presence in mind as we approached the blind hill and did not allow her to intimidate me into a speed not suitable for the driving circumstances.

Within metres of cresting the hill I noticed a cyclist approaching from the opposite direction. I hoped there would be no vehicles attempting to pass the cyclist at this danger point but my worst fears were realized when an SUV crested the hill halfway into my lane.

I had to brake and swerve onto a narrow gravel shoulder, modulating my braking and using the smooth steering technique we teach in advanced driver training school, all while hoping the tailgater behind me would not stuff into my rear bumper.

It all happened in a split second, and could too easily have turned serious. It made me think about the all-too-common factors that caused the situation to happen.

What was even more amazing was that the young lady continued to follow me much too closely immediately afterwards.

But although she obviously hadn’t learned anything from this close call, there are many lessons to be learned from it. They include:

  1. Do NOT pass on blind hills. A pass should only occur when all safety parameters are met. Clear roads, clear sightlines and clear weather.
  2. Be patient even when behind a cyclist if passing cannot occur for some time. Wait for a safe place to pass.
  3. Do NOT tailgate the vehicle in front of you. Observation time, decision time and then reaction time all take about 2 seconds. Give yourself that important time.
  4. Slow down when the speed limit requires you to. There is a reason why speed limits are set. Anyone can drive fast. Smart drivers know when not to!  
  5. Expect the worst and hope for the best. Always be prepared for something to go wrong. To do this you must focus on driving and not allow yourself to be distracted.
  6. Learn how to master collision avoidance skills from experts. It can save your life.

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