Collisions only happen when Collisions only happen when someone is doing the wrong thing!
Think about it, if everyone on the road is doing the right thing collisions don't happen! So a collision on the road is always caused by someone doing the wrong thing. Sometimes no matter what you do that crash is going to happen and you're going to be involved; even though you did nothing wrong. But most of the time it requires a second person, YOU, to not be watching and paying attention.
Observation is key!
The sooner you see something bad coming the more time and opportunity you have to get out of the way and keep yourself safe. Good observation could save your life!
One example I've seen a couple of times:
Just because you have a green light does not mean the other guy has stopped for his red light, especially trucks on Anzac Ave and James St, so check just to make sure. You should also consider the distance you cover, below is a chart that shows you just how many meters you travel every second, 3 seconds and 30 seconds. If you take your eyes off the road for just 3 seconds at 60kph that’s 50 meters.
Focused & Alert
Ideally you want to be looking ahead and seeing EVERYTHING while you are focusing on one specific hazard. Your peripheral vision needs to wide and open.
Tunnel vision is DANGEROUS and happens the more relaxed we are. Sadly this happens all too often on familiar routes, especially as you get closer to home.
You're relaxed, you know the roads, you feel safe, secure and comfortable as you're driving and your eyes start relaxing and taking in less and less information. All it needs is one thing out of place and this could become a terrible mess!
So what can we do to avoid this?
1. Aim High
Don't look close to you! Look as far ahead and as high as you can!
When you look down your eye lids close a little and everything in front of you is lost. When you look high you are able to see everything! In the image above you should be looking where the eyes are at the top of the image. Even with this image you'll notice to a smaller degree that if you look at the water mark at the bottom of the image it's difficult to make out the details in the image, but if you look at the eyes you'll be able to notice the other details a bit clearer.
Look though the car in front of you or move to a position on the road where you can see around them, when going over the crest of a hill you can look under the car in front of you. As you take corners look through the corner to where you will be in 5-7 seconds.
2. Eye Moving
Keep your eyes moving, don't allow them to settle on any object for more than 2 seconds unless it is presenting as a danger; and don't forget to check your MIRROR regularly as well.
Move your eyes from one hazard to the next, scanning from one side to the other and back again. Be purposeful to look for traffic & speed signs and things hidden behind other obstacles.
3. See it All!
Mentally tag each and every hazard you see. A hazard is anything that COULD affect your driving; a speed sign will effect the speed you and the traffic around you are traveling at and so is a hazard. Once you've tagged it and processed what it means move on to the next one, then the next and the next. Once you've covered them all scan back and tag them all again.
What this does is puts them clearly in your subconscious which will naturally track them. Anything out of the ordinary will grab your attention extremely quickly when you do this. You can assist this process initially by simply pointing to each hazard you see, make it a game for yourself & don't forget to regularly check the mirror.
4. Central & Focused
When you follow these steps you'll find your peripheral vision is open nice & wide and is fully active! As you are scanning and focusing on one specific hazard your peripheral vision and subconscious mind will be able to see, watch and monitor everything that is happening.
This means you'll see potential obstacles and dangers much quicker, even a fraction of a second can mean you could avoid a potential collision.
5. Look for the Way Out
You'll also be very aware of your immediate surroundings, you'll already know if it's safe to do an emergency brake or if you are able to swerve across the center line to avoid a collision. Obviously you'll still need to look and make sure, but all you're doing at this point is making sure it's still safe rather than looking for a way out.
But don't let that be the end of it, be looking for a way out, always be considering if the emergency braking is an option or should you be making more space between you and the vehicle in front so you can brake more softly. Consider your position on the road, in most cases the center of your lane is the ideal as this means you have space to move in either direction. Spot obstacles for other vehicles, is there a car parked on the right hand side of the road? If so move a little left so oncoming traffic have space to go around.
6. Observation at Speed
One thing we really need to consider is the speed we are used to seeing things!
The average walking speed is 5kph, that's about 1.3m per second. If you go for a walk you'll probably find that you look down at the ground somewhere between 5m and 10m ahead of you, giving you approximately 5-10 seconds to adjust your path, alter your strides to enable you to step over something or come to a complete stop. It takes you only one or two steps to pull this off, plenty of time all around.
As we grow up some of get bikes and ride quite a bit, thankfully we are designed to adapt to our surroundings and so as we increase our speed we also learn to look further ahead, I would suggest that a bikes average is 40kph or 11m per second. You'd want to be looking at least 50m ahead of you because changing course or stopping would also take a little longer.
In a car however you will be travelling around town at an average of 50-60kph or up to 16.5m per second, and up to 110kph or 30.5m per second on a highway (see chart above). The more challenging aspect of driving though is that you can't correct your course to the same degree as you can walking or cycling, you are just too big! Stopping is also a bigger problem as you are heavier and your momentum will carry you farther.
Your observation needs to be high and far ahead, not just to the car in front of you, but as far as you can. Look ahead for traffic lights, signs, people, cars, animals, children playing ball in their yard or anything out of place. You must also engage your peripheral vision so you can get more information about your surroundings. A good trick to keep your peripheral vision engaged is to not focus on anything too long, try not to read the funny stickers on the back of the car in front, read signs quickly and then move on. Basically keep your eyes moving, always looking for something you need to notice.
7. Stay Alert
An obvious one really, but it's still one of the "Fatal Five" and that's "Fatigue" the more tired you are the less you'll see, the slower you'll react.
If you're feeling tired pull over somewhere safe, get out of the car and go for a walk, turn the Air-Conditioning cooler and turn the music up, maybe open a window. These tricks will help keep you awake and alert. But if you're getting tired, consider if you really need to be driving right now or is there somewhere you can stop and have a break.