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Predictability — great safety asset for drivers

If you’re a poker player, being predictable is the worst thing you can be. But if you drive a vehicle, being predictable is probably the best thing you can be. If you could communicate to drivers around you exactly what you intended to do, it would make life so much easier for other drivers, and also for you.

You CAN be predictable, if you would just try to do it. Unfortunately we cannot “tell” other drivers what we are going to do, but we can give them very obvious clues. When we use our brakes to slow down, our brake lights give following drivers a strong clue that we are slowing.

Perhaps the most obvious is use of the turn signal, which, unfortunately, many drivers fail to do. Being predictable is why New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law mandates signaling a turn or lane change a minimum of 100 feet in advance. If you do this, you are communicating your intentions to every driver around you, and most of them will try to make it easier for you to complete your turn or lane change.

If I’m following another vehicle that starts to slow down, I don’t know what that driver is intending to do, and thus I am not certain of the best course of action for me. But if that driver is intending to turn into a driveway, or perhaps another intersecting road, and that driver uses his/her turn signal, I can reasonably expect that that vehicle will be turning in short order. If they signal a right turn, maybe I can pass safely on the left. If they signal a left turn, I certainly will not try to pass on their left, but maybe I can on the right. At any rate, I will be aware of the driver’s intentions.

Although VTL requires signaling 100 feet prior, all turns are not the same. If I am on a 55 mph highway, signaling a turn is better if began more than the required 100 feet — about the time you begin slowing for your turn is a good rule of thumb.

Signaling a turn at an intersection controlled by a traffic signal is also important. Far too many drivers wait until the light changes to green to begin signaling the turn. Why wait? Don’t you want to tell the driver waiting on the other side of the intersection, or the car behind you, just what you intend to do, so they can decide on their course of action?

Some things just can’t be communicated to other drivers. An example is to tell the driver who is tailgating, waiting for an opportunity to pass, that you will soon be turning off that road. If you could, it would be helpful to that driver to know your intentions, but it’s impossible to tell him/her that.

So to conclude this discussion, a good driver tries to be predictable to other drivers and to pedestrians. The more others know about what you intend to do the better, and safer, everyone can be.

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