Defensive Driving is a Personal Responsibility
As our country grew, roadways developed because of population growth and the need to facilitate the safe movement of goods and services. The streets of historic townships were composed of narrow roadways and short blocks designed for the movement of people, horses and wagons. Speed was slow, and the wagons were able to maneuver within confined spaces. Roadways were later made wider and blocks grew longer as traffic volume and speeds increased. This roadway design pattern repeated across the United States, representing an increasing need and role for formal planning and engineering in roadway design.
Traffic engineers now consider the driving environment, anticipated speeds, lines of sight and projected travel volumes as they design roadways. Motor vehicle design now incorporates vehicle crush areas, passenger restraint systems, warning systems and web-based navigation systems designed to warn drivers about hazards. State law sets predetermined speed limits for certain roadways, and educational programs remind drivers to drive with due care for themselves and others. Law enforcement, while seeking voluntary compliance to traffic laws, is a necessary component for motor vehicle safety.
Despite all the contemporary strategies, aged roadways demand the use of good personal judgment. Many of our country’s bridges remain narrow, and most rural roadways were not designed for high traffic volumes and increased speeds. Drivers need to be aware of their vehicles’ capabilities and remain constantly vigilant while driving.
It is a driver’s responsibility to drive a safe vehicle by monitoring the need to service tires, replace lights, and insure windshield wipers are in working order. Vehicle fluids levels must be maintained to ensure reliability of the vehicle’s operating systems and maintaining proper tire pressure is critical. While running out of gas can be an inconvenience, it may also expose the driver and others to personal risk.
Planning and time management are essential elements of driving safety. Drivers should always plan sufficient time to make the trip successful. Poor time management may lead to stress and undue safe-driving compromises. Drivers can save time and resources by combining trips, scheduling appointments when traffic volumes are reduced and avoiding travel delays such as construction zones and extraordinary events.
Defensive driving is a risk management process. A personal assessment of a driver’s readiness can reduce crashes caused by illness, stress, fatigue and the influence of alcohol or prescription drugs. Do not drive while impaired by alcohol or drugs. The emotional and monetary cost can be extremely high. Even one drink may impair your decision-making ability, vision and driving ability. Only one drink may require you to defend your sobriety in a civil or criminal court proceeding.
Be aware of the unexpected. Share the road with pedestrians, bicycles, emergency vehicles and school busses. We all need to work together to keep our travel safe through voluntary compliance with road and driving laws.