Back in 1975, my Uncle Cecil taught me how to drive on some little country roads in the hills of Tennessee. In those days, I had three things that I would consider modern machinery. I had an automatic transmission, an electric starter and an AM/FM radio with horrible speakers. We only had about four FM radio stations, so my radio was set to 101.5 WQRT.
While driving with my uncle, I was not allowed to jam out, and I can, to this day, hear him telling me, “Watch the road.”
The roads we practiced on were the roads less traveled. There was an occasional car, but he also taught me to watch out for people on the sides of the road and animals.
Fast forward a few decades, and cars are more complicated than the bridge of the Star Trek Enterprise. There are also distractions brought by cell phones. These thingies distract us from watching the road.
In driving schools, we are taught to drive defensively. That is true until you are no longer watching the road. When you are not paying attention, you become the offending driver. You are a threat to everyone on the road, yourself and your passengers.
Last year, I saw more motorcycle wrecks on the highway than I have ever seen before. We hear about pedestrians, scooters and bicycles being run over by cars. This is tragic for the person who has been hit. It is also hard on the driver. They can face criminal charges, fines, insurance issues or lawsuits — and then there is the knowledge that they accidentally harmed someone.
Here are some things that will help you avoid an accident.
Look for others on the road. You are not the only game in town, and we all share the road. No distractions. Your text message or phone conversation is not as important as your driving safety. If your call or text can’t wait, pull over in a safe spot, finish your business and then pull out into traffic carefully.
Watch your surroundings. Don’t change lanes suddenly without first looking to see what is around and ahead of you. Many motorcycle accidents are caused because of people switching lanes or passing someone and clipping a bike that was in front of the car they passed.
If you come upon a school bus or Fayetteville’s FAST buses or see the mail truck, you know they are going to stop. Give them space.
Stop at yellow. Fayetteville’s traffic lights are quick and in many places take several minutes to cycle through. I often see both cars and motorcycles trying to speed through a yellow light. It is better to be safe and stop than to get hit at the intersection.
Watch for motorcycles in high-traffic areas. The Cross Creek area, Skibo Road, Ramsey Street, Bragg Boulevard, Raeford Road, Owen Drive and Spring Lake are all high-traffic areas.
Don’t overdrive your ability to see and take control of any situation. If you cannot see what is ahead of you, then slow down. This is especially true during periods of darkness and rain.
Trust your instincts. Train yourself to slow down or to stop if you see something without knowing what it is. Your eyes give you a good field of vision. Your peripheral vision may catch something that your mind does not register.
Train your mind to see what you don’t see. In the book “The Survivor’s Club,” author Ben Sherwood discusses “luck.” Ninety percent of the people he studied viewed luck as “the way we think.” He goes on to show that those who use their peripheral vision notice more and therefore seem luckier.
The book further describes what is called “inattentional blindness.” Inattentional blindness is the failure to notice an unexpected stimulus in one’s field of vision when other attention-demanding tasks are being performed. It is categorized as an attentional error and is not associated with any vision deficits.
This typically happens because humans are overloaded with stimuli, and it is impossible to pay attention to all stimuli in one’s environment.
It’s important to develop your field of vision and, as Uncle Cecil said, watch the road.
If there is a topic you would like to discuss, please send your comments and suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org. RIDE SAFE!