E038 - Master the Road with Defensive Driving

This time on Across The Peak Rich and I tell you what you need to know before you operate that 3,000-pound kamikaze weapon - your car!

Intro Stuff

What Are You Drinking?

What Did You Do This Week?

  • Rich: Yoga, spin, lift, BJJ, run

  • Justin: Dry practice, rucking, vehicle PMCS

Defensive Driving: Intro

Rich’s Experience with Defensive and High Performance Driving

  • Marine Corps Tactical Vehicle Operator’s Course

  • Emergency Vehicle Operator’s Course (EVOC) and many high-speed pursuits

  • Level I and Level II Motorcycle Rider’s Course

Justin’s Experience with Defensive and High Performance Driving

  • 5-day Evasive Driving Course at Bill Scott Racing

  • 5-day PSD Driving Course for a government employer

Why YOU Should Drive Defensively

  • Preservation of self, family, and others on the road. There is a very high likelihood of a vehicle accident relative to other emergencies that we prepare for,

  • Health: a car accident can cost you your life, massive medical bills, debilitating injuries, or psychological trauma

  • Financial security: This falls under Joshua Sheats’ “avoid catastrophe” principle. Don’t risk getting in an accident with an uninsured motorist or an accident that might be ruled your fault,

  • Inconvenience of having to repair or replace your vehicle,

  • The ability to drive the car well during times of emergency. Being able to drive defensively may help you to escape a dangerous area when traffic is already bad and you need to get out of the area.

General Principles of Defensive Driving

Control your Speed: Speed can be a factor in accidents because:

  • It impacts the vehicle’s handling characteristics,

  • Speed increases distance necessary to stop the vehicle,

  • Speed decreases reaction time to unexpected events on the road, and

  • It increases the amount of damage potential if an accident occurs.

You should adjust your speed based on:

  • Road conditions (wet, dry, icy, etc.),

  • Traffic conditions, and

  • Visibility conditions like fog, rain/snow, darkness

Look “Deep” in the Road. You should be looking well ahead of your vehicle and the vehicles immediately in front of it. Things to look for include:

  • Traffic hazards like debris in the road or construction on the side of the road,

  • Traffic signals and crosswalks,

  • Curves, hills, and other terrain features,

  • Brake lights coming on…

Be Alert and Remain Distraction Free! Things can change rapidly in front of you. Be alert and ready to react to the unexpected by looking “deep” in the road, and by NOT doing the things listed below.

  • Don’t text (or scroll your Instagram feed or flip through photos or browse the internet) and drive,

  • Don’t compromise your alertness and reaction time by drinking and driving,

  • Don’t compromise your alertness and reaction time by driving when you are exhausted

Remember, when you get in a car you are piloting a several-thousand-pound bullet. It deserves your FULL attention.

Defensive Driving: YOUR Vehicle and YOUR Behavior

There are only so many things we can control on the highway. This episode will cover those things that you can control through your behavior that will positively influence your safety.

Safe Following Distance: Your following distance is the distance between you and the car in front of you. Following distance is measured in time (generally seconds). Observing a safe following distance gives you time to react to hazards in front of you.

Determining Your Following Distance: You can determine your following distance by:

  • Observe the vehicle in front of you,

  • When it passes an object (a certain sign, a tree, a mailbox, etc.) begin counting, “one one thousand, two one thousand…”,

  • When you pass the same object the time that has elapsed is your following distance.

Following Distance Rules of Thumb, or What Should Your Following Distance Be?

  • 2-3 Seconds during normal road conditions. We recommend 3 seconds as the absolute minimum when driving at speed,

  • 4 Seconds in periods of decreased visibility like nighttime, fog, or light rain (rain also has the additional complication of increased stopping distance),

  • 6 Seconds in extreme weather like heavy rain or snow

  • Up to 10 Seconds on icy or snow-covered roads

Adjust Your Speed to Road Conditions. We talked about this a little in the general principles, but we will reiterate and clarify some of these concepts here.

  • The posted speed limit is intended for dry, clear roads. It is not (usually) a “minimum” and you don’t have to travel at the maximum posted limit if road conditions don’t warrant travel at that speed. Use your judgment.

  • Road conditions can cause a loss of traction. This can cause you to lose control of the vehicle, especially at high speeds. The faster you are going, the greater your chances of losing traction become.

  • Road conditions can increase stopping distance, so increase your following distance accordingly.

  • During inclement weather you should also brake carefully. Braking on slick roads can cause you to lose traction and ultimately, control of the vehicle. Roads are obviously slick when snow- or ice-covered, but also when it is raining, since water serves as a lubricant between your tires and the road.

Leave Yourself an Escape Route in Traffic. We always like to have an escape route. Whether in a theater, a restaurant, or our own homes. This extends to traffic. You can create an escape route by:

  • Observing a safe following distance. This will give you room to the front,

  • At stop lights make sure you can see the tires on the vehicle in front of you touching the road,

  • Not being right beside another car. This will give you an escape to the left or right, and

  • Not being in a middle lane of traffic and having a shoulder to one side of you,

  • There’s not much you can do to the rear except keep an eye on what’s behind you.

Take Care in Curves and Over Hills. Driving around curves and over hills cause your vehicle to lose some of its traction. This negatively impacts vehicles handling characteristics, so adjust your speed accordingly.

Keep Your Vehicle Well-Maintained. Your vehicle’s performance depends on maintenance. Your ability to stop the vehicle depends on the correct amount of the correct type of brake fluid. Your ability to see out the windshield impacts your ability to see hazards in front of you.

The ATP Vehicle Maintenance Logbook is a book Rich and I put together to help you keep your vehicle maintained. It will serve as both a guide to what you need to check on your vehicle, and a checklist to provide a record of your preventative maintenance checks and services.

Defensive Driving: Other Drivers

Bottom Line: There’s not much you can do about other drivers. But here are some things to think about:

  • Prepare for them to do something other than what you expect them to do,

  • Keep an eye on the rear view mirror and see who’s coming up behind you,

  • If someone is exhibiting road rage, don’t make eye contact and let them go around,

  • Be courteous. Use your turn signals. Don’t drive in the left lane, use it only for passing,

  • If you’re following someone who is intoxicated or distracted, call 911 and report the drive, if you can do so safely. If you can safely do so, you may also want to go around.

Defensive Driving: Training

The best advice we can give you is to seek some driver training. Driving training is expensive, but you use your car every. Single. Day. Training is absolutely worth it. Some respected trainers:

These aren’t all the trainers that are out there, just a few “top” high-performance trainers. There are local defensive driving all over the country that offer excellent classes at much more affordable prices. Their training might not be as sexy and fun but it’s no less valuable. You drive your car every day; get some training!

Book of the Week

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America by Erik Larson

Civility Rule of the Week

3rd - Show Nothing to your Friend that may affright him.

From George Washington’s Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company & Conversation

Affiliate Disclosure: Across The Peak uses Amazon Associates to earn a small commission when you click Amazon links on our site. We are also affiliates with Private Internet Access, and receive a small commission when you subscribe. This helps to support the blog and the show.

Justin Carroll