Saturday, June 12, 2004

Neal's safety tip of the month: Follow at a reasonable distance

Like most safety tips, this one is obvious. Of course following too closely leads to accidents. We all know this. And we all follow too closely.

I violate this safety rule all the time myself. If you leave a following distance of two car lengths in LA traffic, some son-of-a-bitch will slide into it within 10 seconds, and you end up with one-half of a car length between you and the son-of-a-bitch.

We are always muscling for position when we drive. The driving manual instructions to leave 3 seconds between cars seems dumb because it doesn't speak to our experience of driving with SOBs.

Another time I tend to follow too closely is when turning left.

The unwritten rule of LA traffic is that 2 cars always get to turn left on red, sometimes 3. It depends on how brazen the 3rd driver is. You must do this b/c there is so much traffic eight hours per day that you could never turn left otherwise.

Like everyone else in LA, I crowd into the intersection and follow the other car as close as I dare.

But when I have the chance, especially on the highway, I like to give the driver ahead of me a reasonable amount of space. I suggest leaving one car length for every 10 miles per hour you're traveling.

(Eg 3 car lengths at 30 mph and 7 car lengths at 70 mph)

(If you have trouble estimating a car length, it's the same as one second's distance. You can learn to gauge a second's distance by picking a roadside object. When the car ahead of you passes the roadside object, start counting. The time it takes you to pass the object is how many seconds you are behind the car in front of you.)

As you may have guessed, I don't like LA or its traffic. Tool has a great song called Aenima that really sums up my feelings about LA.

No comments: