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May 16, 2013

Most drivers know the "two-second rule" of spacing vehicles in traffic, but columnist Steve Wallace recommends extending that gap to three seconds because of the popularity of smaller vehicles that can stop faster.  Photograph by: DARREN STONE, Times Colonist

Most drivers know the “two-second rule” of spacing vehicles in traffic, but columnist Steve Wallace recommends extending that gap to three seconds because of the popularity of smaller vehicles that can stop faster. Photograph by: DARREN STONE, Times Colonist

By Steve Wallace, Times Colonist, May 10th 2013

Dave M. asked for clarification of lane position, as it pertains to the avoidance of the oil slick that often appears down the centre of a highway lane.

Drivers should ride slightly right in such a lane. This will put the right tire of the car closer to the road shoulder, which is the best escape area to avoid a crash. The left tire should be placed slightly to the left of the oil slick, providing an additional space cushion from oncoming vehicles, especially on a two-lane road.

Art W. wanted to know who had the right-of-way when two vehicles approach one another on a narrow two-way residential street. There is no hard and fast rule. The usual convention is to allow the vehicle with the fewest parked cars on their side of the road to proceed. If there are driveway breaks in cramped quarters, drivers will often hide in these spaces and politely allow others to get by.

Kerri wants to know the appropriate spacing between vehicles when stopped or in slow-moving traffic. Drivers should be able to see the tires of the vehicle in front of you. This gives a good space to get around anyone who stalls in front of you. It also allows for time to hit the horn if the driver in front begins to back toward you. It also creates the necessary space to protect the front of your car if you are ever rear-ended.

Most drivers were taught the two-second rule of following distance. Because of mini-cars, scooters, and other much smaller vehicles on the road today, it is best to expand the timing to at least three seconds of following distance in today’s traffic.

Linda D. wrote me a note confirming that she had a great time doing her daily commute without using the brakes as often as usual. Linda noticed more because she was forced to look further ahead while downshifting, and found herself timing traffic lights. Pedestrians and cyclists got her immediate attention and she could prepare well in advance for perceived and potential traffic conflicts.

Garry wanted to know if we have all gone “bonkers.” He had no idea what to do when attempting a left turn onto a one-way street from a solid red light, as a skateboarder pulled in front of him attempting the same manoeuvre. I am still researching this one! Bonkers does indeed seem an appropriate exclamation.

John P. had two queries. He wanted to know if it was proper to proceed through a pedestrian-controlled solid red light at a crosswalk once the pedestrians had cleared the roadway. It is not legal to go through until the light is green, flashing or otherwise. There is one isolated exception to this rule. If there are no side intersecting roads, then a driver is free to go through the red light after the pedestrians have crossed the street. This is a very obscure traffic law. I never recommend doing it. It just feels wrong despite its legality. Most police, driving instructors, examiners, traffic engineers, pedestrians and the general driving public are unaware of this seemingly contradictory anomaly.

John also wanted to know if it was legal to make a left turn from a designated left-turn lane governed by a separate solid red traffic light. It is not. The manoeuvre is legal from a standard traffic light, with or without a separate left turn lane.

Keep the questions coming, and I will do my best to answer each and every one.

 

Steve Wallace is the owner of Wallace Driving School on Vancouver Island and in the Central Interior of B.C. He is the former Western Canadian vice-president of the Driving Schools Association of the Americas.

Serving Vancouver Island locations in:

Victoria

250.383.7483

Duncan

250.737.1991

Nanaimo

250.755.1331

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