When distracted driving is typically discussed, it is often associated with texting. Last week's blog on distracted driving with a focus on the various items that increase the risk of a crash while driving certainly pointed-out that distracted driving covers a much larger collection of items than just texting. Well, this last week the author was a personal witness in a crash involving another form of distracted driving - dogs freely roaming in a car while driving.
In this case, the driver was stopped at a red light patiently waiting his turn to get through the intersection. All of a sudden, a quick galnce to the rear view mirror showed there was a huge pickup truck filling the mirror. Then came the sickly sounds of the "crash" and lurch forward from the momentum of the truck impacting the stopped car. Well, the good news was that this was a slow speed crash and nobody was hurt. The bad news was that the car was new and the driver will have to spend a great deal of time dealing with getting it fixed even though this is covered by insurance.
The driver of the pickup truck had 2 dogs in the front seat at the time of the crash. And his first words when jumping out of the truck was that he was trying to get one of the dogs out of his lap, looked up, and realized he couldn't stop in time to avoid the crash. "Unrestrained pets in car" is another item that should be added to the distraction list. And more than likely its up there in terms of added crash risk.
It is obvious that the driver of the pickup truck was at fault. And its also obvious that having unrestrained pets in a vehicle is a recipe for disaster. However, what is not so obvious is that the driver of the stopped car could've done a few things that may have helped avoid or at least lessen the impact. Chances are this wasn't covered in drivers ed, so here's a quick list of what can be done in this situation.
Best pratices when stopped at a stop light or intersection:
- Keep your foot on the brake. In this case, the driver did have his foot on the brake and possibly saved him from being pushed into the car directly in front of him. Its just a good practice to always keep your foot in the brake when stopped in live traffic.
- Leave a "safety space" when stopping. When stopping in traffic you should be able to see the bottom of the tires on the car in front of you. This will leave a bit of maneuvering room and in some cases may be enough room for an "escape forward".
- Glance at your rear-view mirror periodically. Leaving some maneuvering room doesn't help unless you remain attentive. It is important that you realize that even though you are stopped, you are in a live traffic situation and need to continually scan your surroundings.
- Be prepared to move ahead if required. If it appears the car in back of you may not get stopped in time, you will see this in your mirror. It is known as "your mirror being filled-up". You may be in trouble if a vehicle fills-up your rear-view mirror quickly. They may not be able to stop in time to avoid a crash.
- Use that safety space. If it appears you're in for a crash from behind, try moving ahead slightly into the safety space. Many times a couple of feet will avoid a rear-end crash.
The bottom line is that you can't control what other drivers do but you can be prepared by leaving yourself a little space to maneuver and be vigilant about watching what those around you are doing.