My new on-line editor loves Top Ten Lists.
New Year’s is a time for resolutions.
So if I can come up with a Top Ten List of New Year’s Resolutions, that’s two dead birds to start the year off right.
And in the 'giving' spirit of Christmas recently-past (or still on-going for certain branches of Christianity) I can give these resolutions to others!
Nothing all that new, but we all could use reminders from time to time.
So, here goes:
1. To police departments throughout Ontario - just obey the law. I go into this more thoroughly in the print edition of Wheels tomorrow.
2. Drive sober. You’d think this would go without saying after all these years, but still, about one in five fatal car crashes involves alcohol. Assuming (as we must to retain a semblance of sanity) that fewer than one in five drivers are in fact drunk, that represents a disproportionate total - most estimates suggest you’re somewhere between 10 to 20 times more likely to have a crash if you’re drunk. Just don’t do it.
3. Walk sober. Statistics indicate that walking drunk is, per kilometre travelled, even more dangerous than driving drunk. Even if you’re going just a few blocks to a neighbour’s for a party, and you’re going to be drinking, don't drive OR walk - organize a designated driver, crash on his couch, or take a cab. Most serious car crashes occur within a remarkably short distance from home. Just ask Tiger Woods.
4. Drive drug-free. Prescription or otherwise, legal or otherwise, we don’t have a lot of good data on how serious this issue is. Even some over-the-counter cold medications should not be taken if you’re ‘operating machinery’ - and that includes your car. Last time I looked there was no machine corresponding to a portable breathalyzer to test for marijuana, although anecdotal evidence suggests weed may be a more serious driving problem than we suspect. As was suggested during the Ross Rebagliati snowboarding Olympic gold medal controversy a few years ago, anyone who thinks marijuana is a performance-enhancing drug has never seen somebody who’s high trying to work a can opener.
5. Drive awake. The biggest single contributing factor to car crashes, according to Ministry of Transportation statistics is - well, nothing. Crash report data suggest that the most dangerous thing we do is - drive normally, in good weather, with nothing going wrong on our car. But we can surmise that a lot of crashes occur because the driver is tired - the dreaded white-line (or, often in our case, yellow-line) fever. Obviously, you are awakened quite smartly by the collision, so there is nothing for the police officer to report. But studies in Europe have shown that as little as two consecutive hours behind the wheel can result in a marked deterioration in driver alertness. Two hours - not much for most of us, who think nothing of a full tank of fuel’s worth of non-stop driving which, in a VW Diesel for example, could be all the way to Montreal. Get in the habit of taking a break every couple of hours, even if just for a quick walk around the car. Just letting your eyes refocus for those few minutes can be all they need to recover.
6. Drive Right. Yes, my favourite double entendre - ‘right’ as in correctly, and ‘right’ as in keep right except when passing. Remember that passing on the right is NOT illegal, at least not in Ontario, but BEING passed on the right means you are breaking at least one and probably two provisions under Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act. Yes, it does mean you have to keep your eyes open for when the right lane disappears, which in this benighted province with brain-dead highway designers and/or line painters it surely will. But seems to me…
7. ...keeping your eyes open while driving is generally something you should resolve to do this year and every year.
8. Switch on your headlights. All the time, every time. Depending on your car’s Daytime Running Lights, mandatory now in Canada for two decades, to switch on your taillights is dicey because too many cars don’t. And who ever walks around the back of their car to check? Also, WAY too many of these cars turn on the dash lights with the DRL so at night you have no clue your taillights aren’t on - car makers really shouldn't be allowed to make cars like that. So just avoid the possibility - ignition on, engine on, belt on, lights on, check mirrors, seat and steering wheel position, and away you go.
9. Back into your parking spot. Unless you’re lucky enough to find a ‘drive-through’ spot, where you can go in frontwards and exit continuing in the same direction, you’re either going to have to back in, or back out. And it’s much safer to back in:
(a) because you drive past the spot before going into it and can ascertain there’s nothing dangerous in there, like a shopping cart or a small child;
(b) when you’ve just come out of the traffic pattern as you are when you’re entering the parking spot, you know who’s around you, so backing in is relatively easy. When you jump back into your car to leave, you don’t have that knowledge, and you have to back out into the great unknown. Much safer to be driving out frontwards with vastly better visibility. Now, my colleagues on TSN’s Motoring 2010 television show note that when you’re carrying heavy equipment as they do, you sometimes want to have the back of the car facing out to ease access to the rear. Maybe. Just maybe. And some readers have told me that trying to back in to their driveway off a side street can be difficult because other traffic gets impatient, starts honking, and in one case actually drove up on the sidewalk to get around the car that was obviously impeding his much-more-important-than-anyone-else’s schedule. OK, so there are occasional idiots everywhere. Don’t base your ‘normal’ driving habits on the occasional exception to the rule.
10. Speaking of idiots, don’t be one. Drive like a ‘mensch’, a Yiddish word (I went to Bathurst Heights Collegiate…) meaning 'a person of integrity and honor'. Don’t assume the worst about everyone else you encounter on the road; maybe they’ve had a bad day too.
Happy New Year!