Convoys among the safest ways to travel
By Steve Wallace
Times Colonist, July 8th 2016
The summer holiday driving season is officially upon us. Here is a way to not just survive it, but to thrive amid the highway travelers.
Convoy driving, as in the military model or as a civilian strategy, is the safest way to drive at this time of year.
The military model was designed to keep the valuable weaponry and ammunition together, protected by the lead vehicles and those following. (Of course, this is an oversimplification of the concept.)
Professional drivers have always used a convoy type of behavior when traveling long distances. The advantages of traveling in such a convoy are sometimes obvious and sometimes less so. Here are some of them.
Drivers can stay behind the wheel for much longer spells when they let someone else lead the pack. They can change position every so often, perhaps at 20-minute intervals, in order to be less stressed than if they were driving solo. It is much easier to follow the leader than to lead.
After the lead trucker has done the stint in front, that driver will allow all others in the convoy to pass and will then bring up the rear. There is a significant savings in fuel costs by having all the drivers drafting one another at various times during the trip. Convoy behaviour works well on multi-lane highways. When it is done on a less-populated highway with only two lanes of opposite travel, the truckers will leave a much greater distance between them. This will make it easier for other non-professional drivers to pass them, one at a time or more if possible.
Every driver should try to do the same as the pros. Try these tips when on your next highway road trip.
Identify a good driver by looking for one who drives with a slight right side offset in their lane of travel. This allows for an easy escape to the shoulder if there is an imminent threat. Always identify an escape route when traveling.
Good drivers will lean right on all the curves. This gives more space between them and the other vehicles on the road. If others approaching on a left curve in the highway lose control, there is a built-in buffer zone. The pros lean right on right curves as well, particularly on snow-covered highways where there is a possibility of a slight right drift in such weather.
Always drive with the headlights and taillights in the on position. This makes your vehicle look closer to other drivers. They will usually allow more space when your vehicle is lit up. Driving with the parking lights on can accomplish the same result, depending on the vehicle being driven.
Find a driver who is doing an acceptable speed on the highway. An acceptable speed could be identified as one which does not cause a driver to pass very many vehicles or be overtaken frequently.
Good drivers seldom use their brakes on the highway. Find one who does not use the brake in curves. Drivers who brake sparingly are looking well ahead and are prepared for the unexpected.
When you find a good driver on the highway, follow that driver. This action will form an unofficial convoy. When the driver ahead uses the four-way flashers with no impending danger ahead, it is usually a sign this person wants you to lead for a while. It is probably the best compliment one can receive on a road trip. Allow lots of space between vehicles and drive like a pro.