Safe City Driving Practices

September 1, 2006
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Safe City Driving Practices

Driving in cities presents its own set of unique challenges. It can be unpleasant, stressful, upsetting and even dangerous. Drivers’ attention, concentration, reactions and awareness are tested as they face constant hazards.
Motor vehicles of all shapes and sizes, bicycles and pedestrians are all competing for space on narrow, congested streets, often with impaired visibility. At the same time, there are endless traffic signals, signs, rules, speed zones, detours and all types of street work and repair.
Nevertheless, there are measures a driver can take to ensure a safe and less frustrating trip, according to traffic and safety professionals, and it all begins with planning.
They advise that dispatchers and drivers plan their routes ahead of time and make sure they are aware of any truck routes, trucks-prohibited roads or planned road closures or construction. It is not safe to be reading a map or a navigation aid while driving in what is usually heavy city traffic.
Professionals recommend that drivers stay alert, concentrate on driving and minimize unnecessary distractions in their vehicles, such as turning down the radio. Being able to hear what is going on around them can be a big asset to driving safely.
Drivers should not use a cell phone while driving, even a hands-free model. The fewer the distractions, the better a driver can concentrate on safely maneuvering his vehicle, say traffic and safety professionals.
Traffic laws, traffic control devices and speed limits should be obeyed and a safe following distance kept. The amount of space needed to safely come to a stop increases the faster one drives. Traffic and safety professionals point out that driving too close to the vehicle in front is one of the most common causes of accidents in cities.
They also caution against insisting upon driving rights when it may lead to an incident. An example of this is a four-way stop: even if it is your turn to go and another driver goes as well, let him, say the professionals. Patience can often avoid an incident, traffic and safety professionals note.
When driving in cities, whether large or small, traffic and safety professionals urge drivers to be alert for:
Schools — Drive slowly, even if the school zone warning lights are not flashing. Be extra vigilant for children who may run across the road without looking.
Pedestrians or bicycles — They, too, may dart out into traffic without warning.
Alleyways, driveways and parking lot exits — These areas require extra caution as they may be hidden from view and vehicles may appear suddenly.
Construction and resulting detours — Normal speed limits may be reduced, traffic lanes and flow may be changed and people and vehicles may be working on or near the road.
Drivers should get in the practice of scanning the roadway ahead, about a block or two further on, say safety and traffic professionals, keeping any eye out for potential traffic problems and being prepared to react. The danger in not looking far enough down the road, they warn, is that a driver might miss seeing slow or stopped vehicles ahead of them, or a pedestrian crossing in mid-black, until the last moment.
Drivers should try to anticipate the actions of other drivers but never presume they know what another driver or pedestrian will do, the professionals add. And do not rely on traffic directions from others.
Drivers should give other drivers warning of their movements by appropriately using turn signals and flashers. These attract the attention of other drivers and reduce the chance of accidents, note traffic and safety professionals. Driving with the headlights on also helps ensure other drivers see your vehicle.
Traffic and safety professionals advocate that drivers keep their eyes constantly moving up and down the road and side to side, and to check their mirrors frequently. A driver should always know what is going on behind his vehicle and on the sides so there are no surprises, they stress. The windshield, windows and mirrors ought to be kept clean for good visibility.
The horn should be used in emergency situations only as it might startle other drivers, causing them to make a sudden or unsafe move.
As with any type of driving, drivers can reduce their chances for traffic incidents while driving in cities by applying safe driving practices. According to traffic and safety professionals, the majority of all traffic incidents may be attributed to human errors. So tell your drivers to plan their routes, concentrate on their driving, avoid distractions, be prepared for the unexpected, have patience and use common sense.
Traffic circles
Traffic circles, sometimes referred to as roundabouts, are used to reduce accidents, traffic delays, fuel consumption, air pollution and construction costs, while increasing capacity and enhancing intersection beauty.
Here are some tips to share with your drivers for safely entering and driving through them:
As you approach, slow down and be prepared to stop if necessary.
Check the traffic control signs at the entrances to the traffic circle to determine who has the right of way.  
When you enter, yield to circulating traffic but do not stop if the way is clear.
Use your turn signal and go off at your exit.
When in doubt about who has the right of way, traffic and safety professionals say drivers should exercise extreme caution and remember the basic rule governing any uncontrolled intersection: the vehicle to the left shall yield the right of way to the vehicle approaching from the right.
Equipment news roundup
ArvinMeritor is dropping its line of Meritor branded fully manual truck transmissions and focusing on its FreedomLine of automated manual transmissions, produced by Germany’s ZF Friedrichshafen (ZF). However, all Meritor manual transmissions will continue to be supported by the company for an “extended period of time.”
International Truck and Engine has updated its 8600 model regional-haul tractor with a variety of new features, including on-board tire and battery monitoring technology, along with other electronic functions such as a parking brake alarm, automatic windshield wiper speed control, pre-trip exterior light inspection and a theft-deterrent system.
Kenworth, for the second year in a row, achieved the highest ranking in customer satisfaction among Class 8 truck owners in the Pickup and Delivery, Over The Road and Dealer Service Segments, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2006 Heavy Duty Truck Customer Satisfaction Study. The study includes responses from 2,529 primary maintainers of two-year-old Class 8 heavy-duty trucks and also measures satisfaction with services received from an authorized truck dealer’s service department. Customer satisfaction for the three product segments is measured for four factors: performance, quality, warranty and cost of ownership.
David Kolman is a veteran truck communicator, keynote speaker and long-haul trucker. Commissioned as an Honorary Colonel on the Kentucky governor’s staff for his work promoting traffic safety, he actively participates in trade associations and reports news and information about the trucking industry for broadcasting and print media.

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