Bad Driving Habits That Can Get You Killed (Merging)



Pop quiz: You’re driving in the right lane of a highway.  The speed limit is 55 mph.  You’re approaching an entrance lane and there are cars that need to merge into your lane.

  1. Do you just maintain your speed in the right lane and ignore the situation since you have the right-of-way.
  2. Do you slow down in the right lane to let the other car(s) in?
  3. Do you move over to the middle lane so as not to get involved with the other car(s)?

It’s a common experience for drivers.  Some will move over, some will slow down and others will ignore the situation entirely.  Is there a right answer?  Of course, there is. If you’re an observant driver you would have noticed a sign ¼ mile or ½ mile ahead of the entrance, warning you that you’re approaching an entrance lane (pictured above).   Is it possible you’ve never seen that sign?  Is it possible you never knew what it meant?

Now why should there be a sign warning you there is an entrance up ahead?  Well, because there is danger up ahead.  There are drivers who don’t know how to merge onto a highway, for instance, drivers who don’t understand acceleration lanes or the laws of right-of-way.  There are drivers who shouldn’t be getting on the highway, for instance, unlicensed drivers, drunk drivers, distracted drivers, novice drivers, and permit holders.

Let’s analyze the various solutions cited above.

If you stay in your lane without reducing speed it’s because you think you have the right-of-way over the driver trying to get onto the highway.  Big mistake.  I’ve discussed in previous blogs that the law doesn’t give anyone the right-of-way.  It can only be given to you by the other driver – in this case the driver trying to merge. He/she is supposed to yield to traffic already on the highway – but will they?  What if the driver is drunk, distracted or a novice and doesn’t see you approaching – and doesn’t yield?  The what do you do?  Too late to slow down from 55 mph.  Too late to move over – safely, that is by signaling and checking traffic. You might swerve into another car.  As my headline says, staying in your lane and ignoring the situation is a habit that can get you killed.

What about slowing down?  Well, it sounds like a plan but if there’s another driver tailgating you, which is not uncommon, you will have a rear-end collision.  Do you consider that a good alternative?

Now, about moving over.  You might say that’s not a possibility since there might be a car alongside you.  Well, who put that car alongside you?  You did!  If you had been observant and noticed you were driving alongside another car you could have adjusted your speed to change the position of that car in relation to yours.

Notice I said the warning signs are posted ¼ or ½ mile ahead of the entrance.  The reason for that is to give you enough time to signal, check traffic and adjust your speed (if necessary) in order to make a safe lane change.  If you feel you’re not up to the task, then maybe you shouldn’t be driving on highways.




Bad Driving Habits That Can Get You Killed (Distractions)



More people drive with their eyes closed than drive drunk!  Oh, you didn’t know that people drive with their eyes closed?  It’s absolutely true.

There is the case of a fellow who was driving his family from NY to Alabama.  He was taking his kids to meet his father; the kids never met their grandfather.  The plan was to drive through the night to save money by not stopping at a motel.  Well, somewhere in North Carolina, he fell asleep behind the wheel, drifted into oncoming traffic and wiped out the whole family.  Trying to drive with your eyes closed is a very dangerous behavior.

Then there are those who would say that driving while drowsy (DWD) is common but people don’t purposely drive with their eyes closed and that can’t be more common than drunk driving. Really?

When people drive in dense fog, isn’t that driving with their eyes closed?  It usually leads to multiple car crashes.  There have been crashes where more than 100 cars and trucks were involved.  They were driving in fog and not able to see very far ahead so when they suddenly came upon a crash scene, they also crashed because they couldn’t see that there was a problem up ahead.  Is that not the same as driving with your eyes closed?

Then there’s the case of a 32-year old lady who was texting while driving and also drifted across the center line slamming into an oncoming truck.   If she wasn’t paying attention to the road, could it not be said she was driving with her eyes closed?  And she was not a teenager, the group that usually gets blamed for distracted driving.

Now, it’s true we have plenty of drunk drivers on the road.  But, who among us never, ever drives distracted?  We all do!  And driving distracted is the same as driving with your eyes closed because at that moment you see nothing that pertains to your driving.

And when a driver hits a pedestrian and then jumps out of the car and proclaims, “I didn’t see you!” is that not enough evidence to prove that they were, for all intents and purposes, driving with their eyes closed?

Researchers at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute recently completed the largest light-vehicle driving study ever conducted with more than 3,500 participants across six data collection sites in the United States.  The study represents the largest crash database available to date, with more than 1,600 verified crash events ranging in severity from low, such as tire and curb strikes, to severe, including police-reportable crashes.  The report was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.  They concluded that drivers more than double their crash risk for more than half of their trips when they choose to engage in distracting activities.  They sited behaviors such as using or reaching for a cell phone, reading or writing, reaching for a non-cell phone object (such as a comb or money), or using touch-screen menus on a vehicle instrument panel as activities that require drivers to take their eyes off the road or, in other words, drive with their eyes closed!

The driving study method pioneered at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute involved equipping volunteer participants’ vehicles with unobtrusive instrumentation – including a suite of cameras, sensors, and radar – that continuously collected real-world driver performance and behavior, from the time the drivers turned on the ignition to the time they turned off their vehicles.

Drivers in the research program participated between one and two years each, resulting in more than 35 million miles of continuous naturalistic driving data that are securely housed in a data warehouse located on-site at the transportation institute.

When analyzing 905 high severity crashes involving injury or property damage, researchers found that, overall, driver-related factors that include fatigue, error, impairment, and distraction were present in nearly 90 percent of the crashes.

People, observation is the name of the game.  Too many drivers think speed is the name of the game.  They mistakenly feel that the faster you can move a car, the better a driver you are.  That’s ka-ka, as I call it.  Every driver who ever crashed thought that they were in control…moments before the crash.  It takes no skill at all to press a gas pedal.  The mark of a truly great driver is how observant they are; what they see and what they’re aware of.  So, make sure your eyes are wide open when driving and use them effectively to scan the road from side to side and far ahead.

Bad Driving Habits That Can Get You Killed (Traffic Lights)







What happens when the “jumper” meets the “beater!”  Have you heard those terms before?

The “jumper” is a very skillful driver who, when waiting at a red-light, watches for the yellow to come on for the other side.   At that point he/she starts moving knowing the green is about to come on, so there’s no need to wait for it.

The “beater” is also a very skillful driver who knows that when the yellow comes on, the red will soon follow.  So, in order not to get stuck for the red-light he/she speeds up to make it through before the red does come on.

Well, now you know what happens when the “jumper” moves before the light turns green and meets the “beater” who is racing through the yellow. They collide.

I’m pretty sure the seniors reading this remember a time when we didn’t have yellow lights.  The traffic signal was just a red-green combination.  And drivers complained bitterly if they got a ticket for going through a red light.  The claimed they needed some kind of warning that the light would change.  The State listened and that’s when the yellow light was added.  So, now, do drivers heed the warning?  Sure they do, but not for the intended purpose.   Now they race like hell when they see yellow to “beat” the red signal.

And when the two collide, they have the nerve to call it an accident.  Bull-dinky!  It is most definitely a crash caused by bad decisions on the part of UNSKILLED drivers — or Movers, as I call them.

Believe it or not, some drivers are now calling for a warning that the yellow is coming on. Maybe a purple light should be added and then the jumpers and beaters can get a bigger head-start.

Comments are always welcomed and I will respond to questions.

Bad Driving Habits That Can Get You Killed (Signalling)




Are you in the habit of signaling?  Do you know what the signaling law says?

Let’s say you’re driving along and you decide to change lanes.  You check your mirrors and you see there are no vehicles behind you (This is not a trick question – no car will fall out of the sky).  You’ve checked thoroughly and there is no one behind you. You even turned your head to make sure there is no one alongside you in that so-called “blind spot.”  The question is, would you signal for that lane change knowing there was no one behind you or on your side?

If you said, “NO,” you do not know law!  Likewise, if you said, “YES,” you also don’t know the law!

The law says you signal the “intention” to do something, whether it be to make a turn, pull away from the curb or change lanes.  It’s the intention, not the execution.  In other words, signaling doesn’t hinge on the traffic situation.  You should signal when the thought enters your head to change lanes – THEN you check the traffic.

And when you do check the traffic, if it’s not safe to change lanes, you don’t have to do it.  You’re only signaling the Intention, not the execution.  So, just keep signaling, keep driving straight, keep checking, and when it’s safe, make the move.

For those who said you wouldn’t signal at all in that situation, I have to wonder if you know there are signal lights on the front of the car.  Now, who would see those signals?  Of course, the oncoming traffic.  So, even if there were no vehicles behind, there might be a vehicle in front of you who needs to see your signal.  For instance, you want to change from the left lane to the right lane, and you don’t signal because there’s no one behind; but, there’s a driver up ahead in a parked car who is ready to pull out into the right lane and has no idea that you plan on moving into the right lane also.  You’re setting up a collision course.

Here’s another common situation.  You come to a stop sign, you see a car approaching so you wait.  When the car gets to the corner where you’re waiting, he/she turns right without signaling.  And, you feel like a fool waiting for a car that’s not going across the intersection.  So, why didn’t that driver signal?  Because there was nobody behind him/her, never thinking that someone up front needed to see the signal.

Everything in driving is a habit. Signaling is a good habit   It’s not a matter of courtesy.  It’s a matter of survival to let others know what you intend to do.  Not signalling is a bad habit that can get you killed.

Traffic Laws That Can Get You Killed (Right-Of-Way)


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In truth, this law will not get you killed! It’s the common misinterpretation that will do you in.  I’m talking about the right-of-way law.

Let’s say two cars approach the same intersection from opposite sides and they both have a green light, but one car wants to go straight and the other wants to make a left-turn.  Does the car going straight have the right-of-way?

Did you say yes? Well, you’re wrong and it’s that exact misinterpretation of the law that can get you killed.  The law doesn’t give anyone the right-of-way.  The law only tells us who is supposed to yield the right-of-way.  For instance, in the example above, there is no law that says the car going straight has the right-of-way.  What the law says is that the car turning left yields to the car going straight.  Most drivers would interpret that to mean tat the car going straight does, in fact, have the right-of-way. Nonsense! Ka-Ka!

For anyone to think that the car going straight has the right-of-way must be a figment of their imagination or wishful thinking or just a misinterpretation of the law.

Let’s explore a few situations. Would you say the car going straight has the right-of-way if the left-turner turns first in the following scenarios?

  1. the left-turner doesn’t know the law.
  2. the left turner doesn’t care about the law. The driver thinks he can “take” the right-of-way and the other driver will allow it in order to avoid a crash.
  3. the left turner is drunk, dozing, texting, eating lunch, putting on makeup, yelling at the kids in the back seat, or changing their underwear, and doesn’t see the oncoming car.
  4. the left-turner is totally alert, knows the law, sees the oncoming car but thinks there is enough time to “make it” because the oncoming car is far enough away or going slowly.

In all four situations, the driver going straight DOES NOT have the right-of-way simply because the left-turner did not give it!

The first situation is common because many drivers movers don’t know the law.  They think the car going straight is supposed to yield to the left-turner.

The second situation is common because there are many lawbreakers out there; they run red-lights, they don’t stop for stop signs, and they never give the right-of-way.

The third situation is very common.  It’s called distracted driving and who among us doesn’t drive distracted?

The fourth situation is also very common when drivers movers make a “race” out of right-of-way.  “I can make it” is what drivers always say just before the crash!

I have a friend who collided with a left-turner. He was going straight at 40 mph in the right lane on a three lane road when a left-turner suddenly cut in front of him.  There were drivers in the left and middle lanes who stopped to avoid a crash. But my friend collided with the left-turner, no doubt, thinking he had the right-of-way

Right-of-way was the main factor in his collision but there were other factors involved as well.  He could have been more observant, scanning the “big” picture to see the left-turner coming.  The drivers in the left and middle lanes saw him, but my friend did not.  Then there is the speed factor. If the speed limit was 40 mph, he should not have been doing 40 mph when approaching an intersection.  The law demands that you approach intersections with caution since there is inherent danger in an intersection.  So, had he been going slower, maybe he could have stopped to avoid the crash.

What you need to learn from today’s lesson is that you don’t have the right-of-way unless it’s given to you.  And the law doesn’t do the giving.  The law cannot and does not give anyone the right-of-way; only the person you’re in conflict with can give it to you.

Comments are always welcomed and I will respond to questions.

Traffic Laws That Can Get You Killed (Horns)


Blowing the Horn to Avoid a Crash?


I’m pretty sure that in most states the car horn is expected to be in working order.  In New York it’s part of the inspection process.  But, what purpose does it serve?  Why do people blow their horns?  Many use it as a way of yelling at another driver.  But I want to talk to those people who say they use it to avoid a crash.

The truth is when you blow your horn, YOU are NOT trying to avoid a crash. What you’re doing is trying to shift the responsibility to someone else to avoid the crash – either because you feel you can’t or just don’t want to. Either way, that’s unacceptable.

Let’s take a look at this scenario.  You’re approaching an intersection and you don’t have stop sign but the driver on the cross street does.  But, it doesn’t look like he’s going to stop.  So you blow your horn to avoid a crash.  But, are YOU really trying to avoid the crash?  If the other driver heeds your warning and stops, there will be no crash.  But, if the other driver ignores you totally and proceeds into the intersection, there might very well be a crash.  This is just one example where using the horn can get you killed.  Horns don’t stop cars – yours or theirs.

Now why wouldn’t the driver with the stop sign listen to your horn and stop?  Well, maybe he/she didn’t hear your horn.  Do you ever think about the fact that the person you’re blowing the horn at, doesn’t hear it?  The other person might be deaf.  Oh, you didn’t know that deaf people drive cars?  Yes, they do and the reason they can get a license is because they happen to be the best drivers on the road.  Since they can’t hear anything, they have to see everything.  And, they do. They are always watchful, observant, and cautious.

But, you see, when I said the other driver with the stop sign might be deaf, I wasn’t talking about a “deaf” person.  A deaf driver would see you long before you saw him/her and would never threaten you.  When I said the other driver might be deaf, I was talking about someone who can hear but is “deaf,” because the windows are rolled up, the heater is blowing, the entertainment center is blasting, and there might be ten friends in the back seat doing a rap.  That makes the other driver just as deaf as a deaf person, but not as cautious.

Drivers really need to rethink horn-blowing. New York City has banned horn-blowing. Now why would the city ban a safety device?  Because, it’s not a safety device!  It may have been a safety device once upon a time in a land far away, but it’s been so abused that now it’s just noise pollution and people don’t take it seriously.

Then there’s something else to think about. One of the many syndromes in driving is “when I do it, it’s OK, but when you do it, it’s not okay.  In other words, if you don’t signal, no big deal, but if they don’t signal, holy hell breaks loose.  Isn’t it the same with horn-blowing?  When you blow the horn, others should listen to you and heed your warning.  But, how do you react when others blow their horn at you.  Do you say, “Thank you?” Or give them the finger?  Sure, when you blow the horn it’s very important.  But, when they blow the horn, “Who the hell is he to be telling me how to drive/”  Well, I’ve got news for you; others don’t care too much about your horn either.

Next time you truly want to avoid a crash, try using the brake.  That will work since you will be taking charge of the situation and there will be no need to blow the horn.  You will be accepting the responsibility to avoid crashing.

Bad Driving Habits That Can Get You Killed (Blind Spots)

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If You Look, You Will See!


Where exactly is the blind spot?  I’ve been told it’s on the left side of the car, the right side of the car and on both sides of the car.  I am told that when I look into the mirror, there can be a car on the side that I cannot see.  That happens to be true because unlike the human eye, a mirror doesn’t have peripheral vision, that is, it only shows what it’s focused on. So, when you adjust the inside rear-view mirror on the back window, you only see what’s behind the car.

Some believe the side-view mirror solves the problem. However, the side-view mirrors show the same thing that the inside mirror shows, just from a different angle.  The reason it’s called a “side-view” mirror is because it’s mounted on the side of the car.  Not because it shows you what’s on the side of the car.

Therefore, the area alongside the car is called a “blind-spot” simply because you can’t see what’s on the side of the car through the mirrors.  So, what to do?  Simple, just turn your head slightly to the side.  No need to do a 180 and look through the rear-window; you only want to see the one car that the mirrors can’t show you and your peripheral vision will do the job.

My point is that if there is a way to actually see the car, why call it a blind spot.  If someone dozes off behind the wheel and crashes, would it be said that he had a total blind-spot?  Of course, not.  But, if you’re eyes are closed, you do have a total blind spot.  Open your eyes and there is no blind spot. Well, if you turn your head, then there will be no blind-spot on the side either.

I had a student once who said that her instructor actually demonstrated the blind spot to her.  He stood outside the car on the side, asked the student to look in the mirror and tell him if she could see him.  After checking the mirror, she turned to look at him and told him, “No, I can’t see you!” This, mind you, while she was looking directly at him.   How absurd.

So, why call it a blind-spot?  I believe it has to do with giving “movers” an excuse for crashing.  If they hit the car alongside, it’s the blind-spots fault.  But, hey, if you’re supposed to turn your head and you don’t, instead of blaming the so-called blind-spot, why not say, “Idiot, why didn’t you turn your head?”  Wouldn’t that make more sense?

And then there are those who say that turning your head creates a different blind spot in front of the car.  Nonsense; ka-ka!  When a normal field of vision is turned slightly to the side, peripheral vision still covers the front.   So, you never do take your eyes off the front.

The bottom line is this: if you look, you’ll see and if you don’t look, you won’t see!






Traffic Laws That Can Get You Killed (Legal Murder)

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Killing With A Car is Legal!

“Aggravated unlicensed operation,” (AUO) of a motor vehicle is a low-level misdemeanor that the police and prosecutors apply when an unlicensed driver commits a traffic infraction.

In 2015, twenty pedestrians were killed in NYC, the last being 30 year-old Victoria Nicodemus, when an unlicensed and uninsured driver drove onto the sidewalk to avoid hitting a bus that had stopped.

The driver was charged with “aggravated unlicensed operation.” Not murder, mind you, killing with a car is not a problem.  Being unlicensed was his big crime according to the law because he didn’t pay the fee for getting a license.  Cheating the state out of its money demands is a major crime, you see.

So, what happens when a driver is charged with AUO?  It carries a maximum penalty of a $500 fine and 30 days in jail, though plea deals usually result in a fine and no jail time, even when a driver kills someone.

DiBlasio’s “vision zero” is just that…a zero.  When drivers like the one who killed Nicodemus can get away with murder, then exactly how is he protecting pedestrians?  It’s all smoke and mirrors.

Now, you might say it wasn’t murder…it was an accident.  My foot!!  Witnesses say the driver was speeding and knew he couldn’t stop to avoid hitting the bus so to save himself he kills an innocent pedestrian.  That’s murder, plain and simple. And don’t tell me he didn’t “intend” to kill anyone.  What do you think the result is when you go speeding down a city street?  It’s bad enough to speed on a highway…but on a city street where pedestrians are in close proximity?

And doesn’t the fact that he was unlicensed and uninsured tell you something about the character of this individual?  Alas, none of that matters.

At a memorial for Ms. Nicodemus, a mourner said, “It really isn’t enough to mourn and pray for Victoria.  It’s not enough to attend vigils and it’s not enough to cry.  We need to prevent these types of crashes from happening over and over again, which means that individuals who are responsible for this crime, for flouting the law, should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.” Therein is the rub because according to the law its legal to kill with a car!

[Your comments are always welcomed and I will respond to questions.]