Saturday, August 6, 2005

Two seconds to safety
H. Kishie Singh

A man gets a call from his wife. "Darling," she says, I have good news and bad." "I’m at a meeting," says the man, "just give me the good news."

"Our air bags work!"

Well, we know what happened. The woman had a severe front-end collision which activated the air bags. These things happen but they can be avoided.

‘Keep distance’. This advice is painted on the rear end of nearly all sarkari vehicles and it will help you avoid front-end collisions. Incidentally, most front-end collisions happen when you are tailgating i.e. too close to the vehicle in the front. In motoring parlance, it’s called a front-end scrunch. If you get it from the rear, it’s called a rear-end scrunch. And, getting hit from the back and consequently getting pushed into the vehicle in the front is called a concertina collision. This effect is both dangerous and expensive in repairs. It happens all the time in fast-moving traffic on the highway. There is only one reason for it. Drivers were not maintaining a safe distance from each other.

There is a very definite formula for drivers to maintain a safe distance. While braking, there is a thinking distance or reaction distance and the actual braking distance before you come to a stop. At 80 kmph, the reaction time i.e. when you take your foot off the accelerator and onto the brake pedal is 15 metres. The braking distance is another 38 metres. So, you need 53 metres to come to a complete halt. This is the shortest stopping distance in perfect conditions, that is if your tyres and brakes are good, the road is dry and the visibility is good. If the visibility is poor and roads are wet then the stopping distance will increase. Another factor that plays a crucial role is the driver’s physical and mental condition. While going to work in the morning, the driver is fresh, alert and a better performer than when returning home in the evening. He may have had a stressful day and, in any case, the fatigue factor is always present. The driver should recognise these changes and drive more vigilantly.

About maintaining that safe distance, drive at a speed that will allow you to stop in the distance you can see. This is important at night when your lights illuminate say about 30 metres of the road ahead. At 80 kmph, you need 53 metres to stop, so you should be driving much slower than 80 kmph. The ‘two-second’ theory is a good way to keep a safe distance. Select a stationary object on the roadside. When the car in front passes the object, count two seconds. Kodak one. Kodak two — that’s two seconds. That’s when you should pass the same object. This two-second gap greatly increases your safety factor on the road.

You may face another problem if you are maintaining this distance. The driver behind you sees this gap and will try and make a dangerous overtake move to squeeze into this gap. Your two-second gap might disappear. In this case take your foot off the accelerator pedal and slow down marginally. This makes the overtake safer for both cars.

The two-second gap and allowing the driver behind you to overtake with ease are valuable defensive driving measures.

Happy motoring.