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We Teach Driving Like Your Life Depends On It

Lessons learned from south of the border

October 6, 2016

By Steve Wallace
Times Colonist, September 30th 2016

Saanich police constables Drew Hildred, left, and Kevin Bates use radar at a speed-trap operation on Shawnigan Lake Road. Columnist Steve Wallace writes that speed enforcement in Canada tends to be stationary, while U.S. enforcement is often from moving vehicles.

Saanich police constables Drew Hildred, left, and Kevin Bates use radar at a speed-trap operation on Shawnigan Lake Road. Columnist Steve Wallace writes that speed enforcement in Canada tends to be stationary, while U.S. enforcement is often from moving vehicles.

 

Watching professional drivers in their element is always interesting.

Larry is the designated bus driver for the Harbourcats baseball club.
I had the recent opportunity to sit back and watch him drive from Victoria to Seattle, for the three-game set with the Toronto Blue Jays versus the home-team Seattle Mariners.

Larry was as smooth as silk behind the wheel.

There were no quick actions. He drove in what can be best described as an unofficial convoy. He found a “seagull” — another professional driver worthy of following.
It makes the trip much less stressful when there is another professional leading the way.
There were times when Larry would make defensive moves behind the wheel to make up for mistakes of other drivers.

There were all sorts of noteworthy things happening during the drive.
Drivers on the Canadian side of the border were much more likely to have their headlights turned on compared to those in Washington state.
Since 1990, all vehicles sold in Canada were mandated to have daytime running headlights.
Our friends south of the border have only recently adopted the practice.
About one in every 30 vehicles on the Canadian side of the border did not light up, as opposed to one in five in the U.S., when it was raining.

When the rain stopped, the ratio in Washington was about 50/50.
Driving with the headlights on will reduce the likelihood of a crash.
Others see the headlights, which make the oncoming vehicle seem not only more visible, but also closer than it actually is.
Many more Canadian drivers were driving with the taillights on as well.

Doing so reduces the chance of a rear-end collision.

For some reason, the more expensive European import vehicles seem to be the only ones with the corresponding headlight and taillight simultaneous matchup.
It is a great idea and should be adopted as soon as possible in all of North America.

Drivers everywhere, regardless of region, seemed to increase speed in the rain. This defies logic, particularly when the stopping distance can be as much as three times longer in the rain than in normal conditions.
Many more vehicles passed the bus Larry was driving in the rain than when roads were dry.
The slapping of the tires on the wet pavement and the spray of the water seems to subconsciously excite drivers.

There was a marked, visible difference in the traffic enforcement employed south of the border than north of it.
The highway patrol was mobile much more often in Washington than in B.C. Canadian speed enforcement seemed so much more stationary and much less visible, with speed traps at the side of the highway.

The best drivers brake infrequently. It is the one characteristic that separates the pros from the rest of the travelling public.
There were a number of other buses on the highway to Seattle.

They used their brakes very few times as compared to regular traffic.The other indicator that identifies the skilled professional driver is the cup-of-water test.
Most good drivers can keep a half-full fastfood cup of water between their legs and drive without spilling a drop.
Whenever a new driver, usually a teen, tells me how good they are behind the wheel, I respond with a challenge.
Are they willing to be put to the half-full cup test? Of course, I put a towel on the driver’s seat prior to the drive.Larry was typical of so many professional drivers.

He used his brakes very sparingly and he could easily pass the half-cup test.

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