Saturday, June 25, 2005

Total control
H. Kishie Singh

Illustration by Sandeep Joshi

From the moment you get into the driverís seat, there are two sets of factors that control your driving.

The factors that you can control are: condition of the vehicle; speed of the vehicle; your emotions that can influence your concentration; and your position in traffic i.e. the distance and space around the car

The factors that are not under your control are: weather; the other driver; the road conditions; energy built up by the speed of the car; and the impact force.

Concentrate on the factors that you can control and you will be able to exercise some control over the factors not in your control. For example, if the weather is bad (with, rain, fog or snow), be extra cautious and alert and you will reduce the danger factor.

If road conditions are poor and you have potholes, broken surface, soft shoulders, reduce your speed. The danger will be reduced and you will save expensive repairs to your suspension, steering, brakes and tyres.

Sleep and fatigue are factors that lead to dangerous driving. Sleep and fatigue affect reaction time, impair judgment and lower your awareness level. All this leads to dangerous driving conditions. It is the opposite of defensive driving.

The symptoms signalling drowsiness in drivers are: excessive yawning, disconnected thoughts and speed variations. Should any of this happens, pull off the road and rest. A 10-minute map will revive you. If it is late in the day, it may be better to find a hotel and have a restful night.

Starting your trip early in the morning is the best form of defensive driving. You are fresh, the visibility is good, your reflexes are sharp and awareness level is at its peak. Most important, the mind is clear and relaxed. The stress of daily life has not manifested itself. This makes for defensive driving.

If the driver ahead is slower than you and still not giving you a pass, fall back and look for another opportunity to overtake. Do not make it a prestige issue. Indian drivers consider it a loss of face if they canít overtake so they overtake from the left or make other foolish moves that are downright dangerous.

If the driver behind you is faster, let him overtake. To have an aggressive driver behind you could be unsafe. Allow him to go ahead and you have avoided danger. That is defensive driving.

A lot of people "live" in their cars. They have books, documents, and other stuff on the rear seat or the passenger seat. This clutters up the interior. Other than breaking your concentration, they are an invitation for petty thieves to break into your car.

While following a car on Madhya Marg last week, I saw a huge torch on the shelf behind the rear seat. What for? If the driver had to slam his brakes in an emergency, the torch could go flying. It could hit the driver on the head, it would certainly distract him from the problem he was facing. Do not leave heavy items loose and unsecured in the car.

Most cars have huge boots. Even hatchbacks have storage space. This is where you should store items like torches, tool kits and documents. A cardboard crate, which wonít rattle or scratch the paintwork, is ideal for storing things. It would also hold your shopping from rolling around your car. That could be distracting. Fruit can also be sticky and could leave patches on the carpet in the boot.

A neat clean interior enhances the price of a used car. It shows that the owner cares.

Happy motoring.