How to Drive Safe, Avoid Tickets, and Save Money

Robert B. Henn

Safe driving is far more than taking a course in driver education; it's also a matter of using your head and common sense.


The first thing to fix firmly in your mind is that your sense of time goes out the window the moment you get into a car. This can easily be illustrated by timing how long it takes to get out of a side street onto a well-traveled road, and then asking someone else in the car to estimate how long you were sitting there. If you actually waited ten seconds, the other person would probably say 30 or more seconds.

An example of this foregoing point is that if you leave late and try to make up some time by driving extra fast to work, you may save two or three whole seconds. Conversely, if you leave two minutes early, and try to spend some extra time by driving slowly, you'll get there about two minutes early; perhaps one minute and 56 seconds early, if you really drag your feet.

Another point, which you can prove for yourself quickly, comes from watching the progress of somebody who has passed you because of his feeling that you're going too slowly. Pick out a marker when that person passes it, and count the seconds until you reach it. Somebody really steaming down the road will pick up as much as five whole seconds in a mile, and maybe even 30 seconds in a trip of five or ten miles. Big deal.

Learning to drive

The worst driver is one who is convinced that he's the best driver in the world. So if somebody says "Wasn't that last corner a little fast?", consider if the remark was legitimate. If it wasn't, forget it; if it was, learn from it.

Continually analyze your own driving: "Did I make that entry onto the freeway properly, or did I almost risk an accident because I jumped into traffic too quickly?"


The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends that you leave a two-second cushion between your car and the one in front of you. Simple math: at 60 mph, you're traveling 88 feet per second. Two seconds puts you 176 feet behind the guy you're following. What happens if that guy hits the brakes? It takes the average driver one-half second to see the brake lights, conclude that the vehicle in front is slowing down, move the right foot from the accelerator to the brake and depress the pedal. You have already traveled 44 feet before your brakes even start to slow you down. Now you have one and a half seconds and 132 feet of maneuvering space left and you don't even know what's going on. All of this assumes that the pavement is bone-dry, there's no other traffic to worry about, your brakes are in top condition, and your attention is directly on the brake lights of the car in front of you. To me, that two-second cushion doesn't leave much room for error.

Always allow for as much space as possible. Don't drive directly behind or next to anyone when it isn't necessary. This all pays off when someone has a slight emergency. You don't get caught in it—you have enough room to use your brakes, swerve out of trouble, or just continue driving.


The best driver is the most alert driver--the one who is watching traffic, road conditions, driver behavior, external influences, weather, visibility, the condition of his own vehicle, and is continually assimilating that information.


Just paying attention to these tips can save you lots of money on insurance costs, tickets, and body work (your's and the car's). Maybe it's worth working on.

Source: July/Augest 1996 NMA News

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