An avid reader of Westside Story, who is also my favorite daughter, Paige, sent me the car vs. traffic-light pole crash photo below. The image speaks volumes to me. It reminds me that a majority of drivers fail to “see the light” when it comes to driving safely.
To help my readers “see the light,” I wish to share some of my safe driving tips. I learned and developed these ideas through my background as a traffic officer, driving instructor, collision investigator, motorcycle rider, and as an assistant on vehicle fatality investigations. I should mention I have been the victim of multiple bad drivers crashing into me too.
TIP TO HELP DRIVERS “SEE THE LIGHT”:
While it was a long time ago, my memory, which is still razor sharp, even as I get ready to leave my 70s, reminds me President Reagan’s wife, Nancy, was well known for her quote, “Just say no to FTC.” Does that quote ring a bell for you too? FTC is an acronym for Following Too Closely.
If I could magically make all drivers avoid FTC at all times, I might well be a top candidate as a patron saint for safe driving. Avoiding FTC will save drivers money, injury, death, lawsuits, lost wages, damaged cars, disability, road rage, and the classic double-ender crash, to name a few.
When we drive, we do not always look forward to the car in front. Not looking forward is triggered by both legitimate and unlawful reasons.
Examples of not looking forward include looking into our mirrors or looking over our shoulder to make a safe lane change. Answering the phone, or holding a dog, are a couple more causes for taking one’s eyes off the road. Another distraction is adjusting the radio station to our favorite wrap station. (Note to Mary Hammond: I realize wrap is not your favorite music, nor is wrap the correct word, but it sounds like rap, and I already finished typing wrap. I cannot risk slowing the publication process by editing a work of this importance and magnitude.)
When drivers are FTC, as they look forward again, they often belatedly observe the vehicle in front has slowed or stopped. Yes, they see the car, but it is too late.
Drivers experience close calls where they barely miss striking the car in front. When this happens, if the driver used panic braking or brake jabbing to control forward motion, the driver will benefit by recognizing they were FTC. One should never have to panic brake or stab the brakes in normal driving conditions. Eliminate panic braking by backing off to create more distance.
If a driver hits the car in front, this at-fault driver has no defense. The at-fault driver was following too closely, thereby risking an unnecessary crash.
Now you are about to witness Joe Boyle creat a brand new term that may go down in the annals of driver’s training history as the most significant concept of all time.
An alternative view is you are about to witness Joe Boyle being branded as one of the greatest word abusers in the annals of time.
What follows next is the creation of highly effective and recognizable terminology designed to help drivers “see the light.”
I wish to start with a foundation of something we are currently using on a daily basis and are familiar with, such as, “Use Social Distancing to avoid the Coronavirus.”
Now building on the term Social Distancing, I give you my creative vernacular, Vehicular Social Distancing. If you practice Vehicular Social Distancing, you will avoid both Coronavirus and car crashes.
Vehicular Social Distancing is what is needed to help us avoid rear-end collisions.
There are three safe driving tactics known to me that promote Vehicular Social Distancing.
VEHICULAR SOCIAL DISTANCING METHOD #1: Maintain a distance of one car length between cars for every ten miles per hour. For example, at 60 mph, 6 car lengths are required.
VEHICULAR SOCIAL DISTANCING METHOD #2: At a bare-bones minimum, we should always be far enough back that we can see the rear tires on the car in front touching the pavement. I practice this method consistently.
VEHICULAR SOCIAL DISTANCING METHOD #3: Use the counting system. It works this way. I select an unmovable object ahead of my car and the car in front of me. Choose an object like a power pole, a fire hydrant, or a phone booth. (Note: Generation Z readers, please perform a Google search to discover what a phone booth is or was.)
Do not choose an object with hooves like a cow or pig that might bolt to a new position at any minute, thereby throwing off your comparative spatial analysis. An overpass is a better choice than say a chicken.
When the car in front passes the unmovable object, I start counting to see how long it takes me to reach the same unmovable object. I begin my count with 1000 – 1, 1000 – 2, 1000 – 3, 1000 – 4, 1000 – 5. I stop counting when I reach the same unmovable object.
I like to be a minimum of 1000 – 4, but 1000 – 3 will work if I am focussed on what is ahead. 1000 – 1 or 1000 – 2 is FTC, and I will be asking for trouble. I adjust my distance based on my count report. This is my favorite method for avoiding rear-end crashes, and it works at any speed.
Some drivers may object to my idea because another driver seeing the space may jump in. Amazingly, space jumpers rarely appear, but if one comes my way, I do not care. This new third driver may have put me in a position where I am now FTC behind him. I simply adjust by dropping back to my 1000 – 3 or 1000 – 4 position. Sometimes I am running at 1000 – 6 or more. This is especially good if the roads are slick, I am tired, or distracted.
If you admit to yourself you are an FTC violator, please do not be too hard on yourself. In your defense, no one has ever told you about this collision avoidance concept. Am I right?
While you cannot change the past, you can work on improving your future habits to avoid FTC.
I hope my words help readers “see the light,” thereby allowing them to avoid FTC.
Boy oh boy, did I save you time today. My original column ended up with over 2,560 words. Even though you are sheltering in place, you still probably do not have the kind of spare time required to read an enormous Westside Story. Realizing a little Joe Boyle can go a long way, I cut out more than half of my words from this column.
Having slaved over the material I eliminated, I cleverly saved it. Paraphrasing a saying from the South, my content shall rise again.
Watch for my next safe driving tips installment, where we build on what you learned about FTC by introducing my related and helpful acronym STC. If you have no idea what STC is, do not feel like an illiterate. I just created STC concept about four years ago. STC could save your life. Can’t you hardly wait? Huh, can’t you? STC is coming to a computer screen near you.
At no extra charge, I plan to make you safer on the road by publishing a short bonus column intended to teach you about the heinous con, Swoop and Squat.
Combining Paige’s photo with my writing, generated this FTC column. If readers adopt my FTC philosophy, Paige and I will have contributed to saving lives, and that will be no small accident.