An unimaginably scary car accident happened recently on the Mount Baker Highway in Whatcom County. A car fell 150 feet off the roadway, in a place very near where another vehicle had gone off the road last year. Amazingly, the two passengers were unhurt, and rescue workers marveled at the engineering of the car that kept them safe. It’s likely that if this accident happened a decade earlier, the passengers would not have been so lucky. Modern advancements have made cars safer in accidents… even though drivers are driving less safely than ever before.
At the end of the Bellingham Herald’s article is a short video on driving dangers and ideas for avoiding them by Whatcom County Target Zero Task Force’s manager, Doug Dahl. He writes the Rules of the Road column, one I often cite in my blog when I give driving tips. The whole point to the Task Force is to make Washington’s roads 100% free of traffic deaths. It may seem lofty, but maybe not – motor vehicles are so much safer than ever before, as this recent car crash shows. It’s driver behavior that is our biggest obstacle to safe roadways, namely distracted and aggressive driving.
From Doug’s video, here are some tips on what to do if you’re sharing the road with a drunk or distracted driver:
In general, when driving have an exit plan. Often that’s a place to exit the roadway safely and quickly, but obviously that’s not always possible on a road like Mount Baker Highway, or many of the rural roads in Whatcom County. You cannot have an exit plan if you’re driving distracted, because you’re not paying attention to changing conditions. Behaviors like paying attention to the road, maintaining a safe speed for the conditions, not driving when you’re tired, and keeping an eye out for distracted or aggressive drivers all give you a better chance at getting out of danger. In a nutshell, this is defensive driving.
Speeding and tailgating are two other behaviors that greatly limit your ability to drive defensively. Don’t do them and you will greatly increase your chance of not being the at fault driver if you get into a car accident. If you need more convincing that you should maintain the speed limit or safe speed for the road conditions, read up on why speeding doesn’t get you there any faster. Doug describes two types of tailgaters: distracted and aggressive tailgaters. The first group are the drivers who may not even know they’re following too closely. They’re on their phone, or are otherwise more focused on some other task than driving. Aggressive drivers may ride your bumper because they think you are preventing them from going the speed they want, or to intimidate you, or just because they’re taking their aggression to the road and you’re an easy target. Doug’s advice: exit the roadway safely and let them pass, and maintain the speed limit.
For more: Ten Tips To Prevent Road Rage