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Rookie mistakes for new drivers to avoid

August 8, 2016

By Steve Wallace
Times Colonist, July 29th 2016

New drivers make understandable — and predictable — mistakes. Columnist Steve Wallace highlights the most common of these, and has suggestions for novice drivers to help correct them. TIMES COLONIST FILE

Following too closely is a common trait of a novice driver. Many honestly believe that a doubling of speed will result in a doubling of braking distance, when in fact it will take four times as far to brake.
For this reason, they are often tempted to tailgate other drivers.Two to three seconds’ following distance is recommended, particularly these days, when a vast number of different vehicles travel on our roads.
The rear-end collision is the most common crash of all.

Rookie drivers often believe they can pass another vehicle much faster than it really takes to overtake at highway speeds.

When a group of new-driver education students were recently asked how many telephone poles it would take to pass another vehicle on the highway, their answers were very telling: Most said it would be about two or three poles.

In fact, it is closer to an average of 10 to 12 poles to execute a safe passing maneuver.
When asked how many seconds the passing action would take, a similar series of wrong answers were given.
Their time and space estimates were terribly flawed.

Professional driving instructors will often cover the speedometer and ask a novice driver to travel at a specific speed.
The typical experienced driver has no difficulty estimating the speed of their vehicle, plus or minus a few kilometers per hour.
The rookie is often more than 10 to 15 km/h in error when estimating speed when the speedometer is hidden from sight.

Rookie drivers will take the first parking space they encounter, with absolutely no regard for leaving the parking lot.
They usually pull in nose-first, and do not think about leaving a parking space.
Backing into a space is a better way to park, since about 30 per cent of crashes happen in confined spaces at relatively low speed.

Novice drivers are often the first away from an intersection when a traffic light changes from red to green.
Their vision is sometimes obscured by lateral traffic, which makes them susceptible to the deadly T-bone crash, when others run the red light.

They will pass another driver when approaching a crosswalk.
The fact that the driver being passed is actually slowing for an unseen pedestrian in the crosswalk never enters the rookie’s mind.

A rookie will wait in the middle of an intersection with the wheels turned left in anticipation of making a turn when oncoming traffic clears.
This will result in the new driver being thrown into the oncoming path of approaching traffic if hit from behind. Keeping the wheels straight is a much safer thing to do.

Many novice drivers travel in the left portion of their lane because it is much easier to judge the dimensions of the vehicle from the driver’s side.
This increases the threat of a head-on crash by that very proximity to oncoming traffic. It is much better to travel with a slight right offset in the lane and be closer to the safety of and escape to the road shoulder.

Many rookie drivers are mesmerized by driving in the rain and increase speed in such weather.
The slapping of the tires and the pulsing of the wipers induces them to increase speed, when reducing speed in the slippery conditions is advisable.

Whether it is the fender-benders of the parking lot, high-speed situations or intersection peril, rookies are exposed to predictable danger without the experience to combat it.

Steve Wallace is the owner of Wallace Driving School on Vancouver Island.
He is a former vice-president of the Driving Schools Association of the Americas, a registered B.C. teacher and a University of Manitoba graduate.

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