Wisdom > Hack

Drive like you have eyes in the back of your head

The best driving aid isn’t some fancy system or driver aid

Distracted driving is one of the leading causes of accidents around the world. PHOTO BY SAM SURLA

I recently witnessed a minor collision. A rear-ender type of accident. With all the mishaps happening on our crazy roads today, why was this incident a bit of a big deal?

Kindly allow me to explain.

I was on my merry way to pick up my kids from school when I noticed the driver in the vehicle behind me checking her mobile phone—a bad habit many motorists are guilty of despite the existence of the Anti-Distracted Driving Act.

Though we were cruising at a friendly 40km/h on a fairly loose four-lane highway, my instincts made me keep a close watch on the car behind me while there was a small utility vehicle right in front of me.

Oncoming traffic was continuous so I couldn’t safely overtake. I also constantly checked the shoulder lane for possible motorists coming from my right going in the same direction, and looked as far ahead as I possibly could for counterflowing or parked vehicles in the same lane.

Minor accidents like this can be prevented with defensive driving. PHOTO BY JETHRO AFRICA

In other words, I was preparing for the worst-case scenario. Meaning that if the traffic ahead suddenly came to a halt, the car at my 6 o’clock would likely crash into my rear given that the driver was distracted. Since I was prepared for this, I could evade imminent danger by steering into the shoulder lane out of harm’s way.

Moments later, the inevitable happened, but since the coast in the shoulder lane was clear, I immediately swerved to safety. As predicted, the car behind me wasn’t able to brake in time and bumped the vehicle that was ahead of me.

Though the mishap didn’t result in anyone getting hurt and probably caused very minor damage to both vehicles, I felt extremely relieved and thanked God for sparing me from that situation. More than ever, it is an absolute must to have vehicle insurance in this country for peace of mind, but also (most important) the ability to drive defensively.

A defensive mindset behind the wheel can ensure that major crashes do not happen. PHOTO BY MANSKEE NASCIMENTO

When my late father was teaching me how to drive some 30 years ago, he would always emphasize how crucial defensive driving and spatial awareness were. He was quite strict with my lessons, and for good reason. He once unintentionally hit and killed a pedestrian crossing at a blind curve along the national highway in the dead of night.

That experience changed him. He didn’t want me to go through something like that and live with the consequential baggage for the rest of my life. I may have been irritated by his strict ways behind the wheel, but now I completely appreciate what he had taught me.

You may be a proficient driver operating a car with the latest driving aids and comprehensive vehicle insurance, but nothing tops having a defensive mindset on the road. It doesn’t take much observation on our roads that defensive driving is gravely lacking among motorists.

Sometimes you have to forgo courtesy to guarantee safety. PHOTO BY SAM SURLA

It’s always good to practice road courtesy, especially with pedestrians. However, given the current state of our road culture, you may have to set aside courtesy for safety at times.

For example, you see pedestrians trying to cross a highway, but the vehicle behind you is tailgating. As much as you’d like to stop to let people cross, it would be best to continue driving and let the vehicle behind pass you, instead of stopping and eventually dealing with a rear collision. Good judgment is always key.

It sounds counterintuitive, but it's best to never let your guard down on the road. PHOTO BY MANSKEE NASCIMENTO

Many will say that accidents can’t be avoided with all the kamotes out there. I say take defensive driving to a whole new level, and use all your senses to assess situations on the road.

Furthermore, utilize all the equipment in your vehicle to make conditions safer for you and those around you. Never be lax even when you feel things are safe. Be two steps ahead of danger, and presume that everyone sharing the road with you is an idiot.

Even the most advanced safety tech can't save you from getting into an accident. PHOTOS BY MANSKEE NASCIMENTO AND SAM SURLA

Please use turn signals appropriately. If you’re on a busy highway and you intend to make a left, engage your turn signal early and gradually slow down to give motorists behind you room to react.

Though helpful, don’t completely rely on driving-assist tech. Nothing beats human intuition and instincts. Of course, always pray before driving off. His divine guidance and protection are above everything.

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Manskee Nascimento

Manskee is a music-loving petrolhead who specializes in car care. He finds peace in long drives to and from his home in La Union.