• Defensive Driving Rule #50: Connect Your Mind To Your Eyes!

    What color is a "yield" sign? Think about that for a few moments and we'll come back to it.

    Human beings are prone to operating on "autopilot." Especially on familiar roads, our minds wander away from our immediate task to other things. It is virtually impossible to keep this from occurring, but it is important to recognize it and bring our attention back to what we're doing as often as possible -- especially if what we happen to be doing is piloting a 3,000 lb piece of machinery down the road at a brisk pace.

    A few years ago, network television produced a "national driving test," sponsored by the Valvoline Corporation. One of the questions in the program involved a trip down a city boulevard -- with the viewer "riding along" as a passenger. At a specific point, the camera froze and the viewer was asked to identify the last traffic sign the camera vehicle passed. This program has been used in thousands of traffic school classes in my state over the past 15 years, and you may have guessed by now that most participants are not able to identify what that last sign was. We LOOK, but we don't SEE.

    One of the most important aspects of defensive driving is recognizing impending hazards BEFORE they become a problem for you. Early recognition allows the time you need to avoid trouble. It is vitally important that you recognize and become IMMEDIATELY aware of what you see while driving. This is what I mean by "connecting your mind to your eyes." It is thinking about the possibility the ball rolling across the road may be chased by a child, that a vehicle approaching on an adjacent roadway may not stop at a cross street, and not being so deeply lost in thought that you fail to see a "no turn" sign, or a partially hidden railroad crossing up ahead. Use your EYES to see, and your MIND to analyze what you see for potential dangers.

    What was the first thing that came to your mind when I asked you what color "yield" signs are? Yellow? You are not alone, if that's the case. Do you know that yield signs have not been yellow since the early 1970s? Yet, because we often don't really see them, our minds still think of them that way (yellow). Back about 1974, the United States adopted the international standards for road signs and since that time, ALL yield signs have been red and white. I guarantee you have not SEEN a yellow yield sign on a public roadway for over 20 years. Don't believe me? Check it out next time you drive. Really LOOK at one!

    Remember, don't trust that other guy - he drives just like us!