Five Ways To Nearly Kill Someone While Trying to Be A Safe Driver

As a motorist, you are one of the good ones. You're part of the solution; you do the right thing. Alas, you have the situational awareness of a half-grapefruit, so you make moves in the moment that could get someone killed. Here's how not to let that happen.

The Phone-Call Dive Bomber

You've just answered your phone and now it's important to get your car stopped right here, RIGHT THE FRIG NOW!

Here's the thing, McSmartyphone. It's clear you're a concerned driver and upholder, to a degree, of the "no phone in the car" law. Admirable stuff. But let's be clear, it's not a great idea to answer your phone while driving. If you must do it, say something like, "I'll call you back," or tell your party to "hold the line" while you attend to the task of slowing and stopping your car safely. Do not, say, cut right onto the shoulder and jam on the brakes. I saw a guy do this, and he nearly bought it on loose gravel. You know what sucks? Shotgunning across three lanes of traffic because you lost control in the worst possible place.

Five Ways To Nearly Kill Someone While Trying to Be A Safe Driver

The Too-Soon Braker

The light turns yellow as you're about to cross the intersection, but that camera up on the wire is watching. So you SLAM ON THE BRAKES. It's still yellow when you screech to a stop, safe and sound, and perhaps even without a UPS truck's grille embedded in your skull.

Everyone hates the impatient bastard who blows through an intersection at the changeover to red. But engaging a panic stop at the very hint of yellow can be equally dangerous. This insane behavior tends to happen at intersections over which a red-light camera casts its hawk-like stare. Just go through the early yellow. If the camera snaps, you can always try and say it wasn't you.

Five Ways To Nearly Kill Someone While Trying to Be A Safe Driver

The Too-Slow Onramp Merger

You're such a nice person. Yay for you. You're waiting for everyone on the highway to go by before merging from the on ramp. That's so nice. Trouble is, you're almost out of merge lane. JUST GO!

Highway merging is neither art, nor science. But it is a social compact between you and another driver that both of you will adjust your speeds to allow a safe merge. The mergee will often adjust his speed downward, just as the merger will usually take an active role and speed the hell up. Stopping in a merge lane is unsafe for a bunch of reasons that don't need to be listed here. Google "Newton's First Law."

The Emergency Vehicle Lane Swerver

Your state passed a "move over" law, where you must leave a clear lane on the freeway between you and law enforcement or emergency vehicles parked on the shoulder. You just remembered that law at the last second possible, and so you SWERVED INTO THE CENTER LANE within inches of another car (me).

The point of the "move over" law is to prevent accidents due to "target fixation." That is the unfortunate occurrence when drivers inadvertently slam into a car parked by the roadside because they were LOOKING AT IT, and reflexively drove toward it. But why trade one bad habit for another? If you were looking farther ahead on the road — an old race-driver trick — you'd have seen the police car on the shoulder and planned your slide to the left well in advance.

Five Ways To Nearly Kill Someone While Trying to Be A Safe Driver

The Overly Eager Pull-Overer

A State Trooper is on your tail. He hits the lights. You're getting pulled over, and so you cut blindly across three lanes of traffic to get to the shoulder quickly as you can, so the officer won't be mad at you.

Do you know what state troopers hate more than you putting them in danger? NOTHING. Put on your blinker, give them a hand signal if you want to be a brown-noser, and then wait until you can make your way safely to the side of the road. You may even raise your chances of getting off with a warning. And lose the "Bad Cop, No Donut" bumper sticker.

Photos: Mike Flippo, LukaTDB, imagedb.com, baranq