Interstate traffic

Ask The Driving School Instructor: Interstate Driving

Question: When should a permit driver drive on the interstate for the first time?

 Answer: This is a hard one to answer. Driving on the interstate should be a required part of every new driver’s training but when to attempt it will be different for each driver.

 The first thing to know is that, scary as they may seem, driving on interstates or limited access highways, is actually safer than driving on a country road. More fatal crashes occur on country roads than on interstates. However, interstates do require special skills.

 Interstates require that a driver drive at high speeds. Driving too slowly on the interstate can be dangerous. Interstates also require that a driver know how to merge smoothly into traffic and the new driver may be dealing with a lot more traffic than he or she is used to.

As far as when to get on the interstate for the first time, the new driver should have a lot of driving experience including driving at higher speeds. After getting experience in driving in heavier traffic, the new driver should first practice on multi-lane highways with speeds above 50 mph.

Instead of jumping into city interstate traffic, it’s best to expose the new driver to the interstate in a rural area where traffic may not be so heavy. After getting experience there, the driver can be slowly exposed city traffic.

When entering the interstate, it’s important to remember that you need to get up to interstate speeds on the entrance ramp. As you near the end of the ramp, watch for an opening in traffic and then adjust your speed to merge into that opening. Never stop on an entrance ramp unless traffic just won’t give you enough clear space to merge. After merging into traffic, keep at least a two second following distance between you and the vehicle ahead.

Once you’re on the interstate, you should practice merging and changing lanes. Remember to stay out of the far left lane unless you’re passing slower traffic. Once you’ve passed, move back into the center or right lane.

Pay attention to speed limit signs. Speeds on rural interstates may be as high as 70 mph but can go down as low as 55 mph when nearing a city. Driving with the flow of traffic doesn’t mean you should go over the speed limit. Driving too fast limits the reaction time you need to make decisions to avoid a crash.

If you miss your exit, never try to stop and back up. Go to the next exit and reenter the interstate in the other direction to get back to your exit. When exiting the interstate, get into the correct lane at least one-half a mile before the exit. Don’t slow to exit until you enter the exit ramp.

Parents texting and driving

Parents Text More Than Teens

Parents text more than teen drivers according to a newly released study sponsored by Straight Talk’s Safe Driver Initiative. The results of a poll of 1,000 licensed teens conducted by KRC Research revealed, among other things, that thirty-three percent of parents text as compared to twenty-four percent of teens.

Among their other findings

  • Almost one-third of respondents admitted that they nearly were in a crash as a result of texting while driving in the past year.
  • Forty-two percent of respondents said they were more likely to admit to pointing out others texting while driving than were likely to admit doing it themselves.
  • For parents, texting and driving is the third most significant worry behind academic achievement and alcohol and drug use; and 88 percent of parents have had a frank discussion with their teens about texting and driving.
  • More teens have had a frank discussion around texting and driving with their parents (74 percent) than have had discussions about teenage drinking (73 percent), drug use (71 percent), or sexual health (61 percent).

We wrote about the “Do as I say, not as I do!” phenomenon as far back as 2007. Teens look to their parents as their biggest influence and, when learning to drive, if they see their parents act in a way that, at the time, seems to have no negative consequences, the teen is more likely to follow that example.

Research has shown that more than eighty percent of crashes involved driver distraction within two or three seconds of the crash. If they want their teens to drive safely, parents need to put down the phone and be the role model for safe driving.

To learn more about the study, visit: Do As I Say, Not As I Do When It Comes To Texting And Driving

Left turn yield on green

Ask The Driving School Instructor: Left Turn On Green

Question: I’m confused by the “left turn yield on green”. Who is supposed to turn first when the light turns green?

Answer: I can see how this could be a little confusing for a new driver. This sign is most often posted where there is a combination of both a left turn arrow and a standard traffic light as in the photo above. It allows traffic to turn during those periods when the green turn arrow isn’t working.

During normal or low traffic periods, the green left turn arrow won’t used at all. However, during times of heavier traffic, such as rush hours, the left turn arrow will be used along with the regular green light. The turn arrow will allow traffic in the left turn lanes to turn left. When the turn arrow turns red, the standard, round green light will light up allowing traffic in the right lanes to proceed. The sign, “left turn yield on green,” means that traffic in the left turn lane is allowed to turn but only if the oncoming lane is free of traffic.

If you’re in the left turn lane facing a standard, round green light with the “left turn yield on green” sign posted, you must wait or “yield” until the opposite lane is clear or there is a wide enough gap in the oncoming traffic to give you enough clear space to make a turn. If the left turn arrow isn’t working and traffic is heavy in the other lane, you may have to wait through the red light until the next green light before traffic is light enough to allow you enough clear space to turn left.

Car surfing

Teen Dies After Car Surfing

Another teen has died as the result of “car surfing.” The teen fell off the car and received multiple injuries including injuries to his head. He was taken to the hospital by his parents where he died the next day.

If you aren’t familiar with car surfing, it involves standing on top of a car and trying to “surf” while the car is in motion. It seems like this idiotic practice just won’t go away. It’s a popular subject on Youtube.

The problem with car surfing is that there’s no traction to maintain your footing and it’s almost impossible to maintain your balance. The law of physics that says “a body in motion tends to remain in motion” comes into play if the car turns even slightly or comes to a stop.

Given the relatively short distance from the roof of the car to the ground and the, hopefully, low speed, it may not seem like it would be too dangerous if you were to fall off. However, the low speed and distance are deceptive. Even at just 10 mph, a 140 lb teen boy whose head hits the pavement will strike the pavement with a force of more than 460 lbs. That’s more than enough force to cause serious brain trauma.

The Center for Disease Control conducted a study on car surfing in 2008 and found, among other things, that:

  • The researchers found 99 reported incidents of car surfing, 58 percent of which were fatal.
  • The average age of those injured or killed was 17.6, with males accounting for 70 percent of the victims.
  • Three out of four car surfing deaths were caused by head trauma.

You can read the CDC press release here: CDC Media Analysis Examines Car Surfing

There’s no way to car surf safely and parents need to discuss the dangers of this practice with their teens. Read more: Wis. teen dies in “car surfing” accident, police say

two-second rule

Ask The Driving School Instructor: Two-Second Rule

Question: What is the two-second rule?

Answer: The two-second rule is the rule most states have adopted to keep a safe following distance between your vehicle and the vehicle ahead. It’s the most simple way to know if you’re following another vehicle too closely or not.

To keep a safe following distance, some older drivers were taught, and still hold to the rule, of keeping a distance of one car length for every 10 mph you’re traveling. In other words, if you’re traveling at 40 mph, you should keep a distance of at least four car lengths between you and the vehicle ahead. Some parents may still be teaching that rule to their teen driver but the rule doesn’t work very well. The main reason it doesn’t work is that it’s hard for most people to visually determine a car length. What exactly is a car length? Are you talking about a 1972 Ford station wagon or a VW Beetle? For those of us who may be math challenged, the math just gets too complicated.

The two-second rule is much simpler. When the car ahead passes a line or a shadow in the road, start counting “one-thousand-one, one-thousand-two.” If you get to that spot in the road before you’re finished counting, you’re following too close. You need to back off a bit until you’re no less than two-seconds behind the vehicle ahead. The great thing about the two-second rule is that it works whether you’re traveling at 10 mph in rush hour traffic or at 70 mph on the interstate.

Your reaction to an emergency ahead takes time. If the vehicle ahead should suddenly stop, it can take up to three-quarters of a second before you’re even aware that it has stopped. Then you need time to decide what to do; should you slam on the brakes or should you try to swerve into another lane to avoid it? If you want to move over into another lane, are there any other vehicles in the way? The decision-making process takes time. Once you have decided what to do, you have to put your plan into action. If you decide to slam on the brakes, you have to move your foot from the gas pedal over and fully depress the brake pedal and that takes even more time. Once you hit the brakes, it will still take time before your vehicle can come to a full stop.

On average, it can take from up to one and a half seconds from the time the emergency starts until you fully react and put your escape plan into action. That’s known as the “reaction time.” One and a half seconds may not seem like a long time but remember, if you’re traveling at 40 mph, your vehicle will travel almost 60 feet in that amount of time. That’s a long way! When you add the distance after you hit the brakes until you come to a complete stop, you have the “total braking time.” The distance adds up!

The two-second rule provides the minimum distance to give you enough time to react and take action if something should happen ahead. Three or more seconds is even better and some states require at least a three-second distance. If it’s raining or if you’re following behind a motorcycle, you should keep a four second distance. In the rain, the roads may be slippery and you need the extra distance in case your vehicle starts to skid. You need to keep a longer distance behind motorcycles because they can stop so much more quickly than a larger, heavier vehicle and you’ll need more distance to react if something happens ahead.