• Defensive Driving Rule #15: Drive Predictably

    One of the best ways to create a safe environment for yourself and others while driving is to be predictable. Plainly stated, you don't want to surprise anyone. This is similar to Rule #14 (Drive to Communicate), but slightly different in practice.

    Have you ever seen a driver fly down the left lane of an expressway, then at the very last second, veer across all the lanes and onto an off-ramp (usually cutting off a number of other vehicles in the process)? Driving instructors call that a "kamikaze." It's probably the most extreme example of unpredictability, the kind of unexpected sudden movement that results in many traffic deaths each year.

    Be predictable! If you find that you are too close to your intended off-ramp (or turn) to be able to signal normally and slow down gradually, then forget making any sudden corrective moves and go on to the next exit, or to the next block. Turn back, or go around the block to get back where you wanted to be.

    Being predictable is part of planning ahead and paying attention -- for the freeway exit, you should change lanes long before your exit ramp, getting yourself into position early so that others have plenty of time and space to react and adjust.

    If you are confused about where to turn, or looking for an address, be careful not to stop dead in the road when others aren't expecting your sudden stop. Instead, pull off to the side or into a parking lot until you figure out what to do. Pay attention to your turn signals. It is not unusual to see a driver whose signal doesn't auto-cancel happily motoring along, unaware, for many blocks. No one knows WHAT they are going to do. Are they looking for a turn and unfamiliar with the area, or did they just forget that the signal was "on?"

    Another trouble area is maintaining proper position during turns. Do you often see others turning wide into an incorrect lane, either left or right? If you turn from right lane to right lane, left lane to left lane, you are being predictable, and traffic flows smoother.

    One of the intents (and benefits) of traffic laws is to make our movements on the road predictable. If we adhere to them, then our roads are safer for all. Next week: Always signal your intentions.