CHAPTER 4:
BASIC DRIVING AND SAFETY

Driving habits are formed because the same physical actions are required over and over again. Your tendency to reduce these required actions results in the formation of "bad'' driving habits. The topics covered may not be in the Highway Regulatory Law, but they can help improve your driving skills.

ENTERING AND STARTING YOUR VEHICLE
Before entering your vehicle, look around for any obstacle that might interfere with safe driving.
· Walk around your vehicle. You may need to move a child's tricycle or some other object.
· Notice a child standing or playing near your vehicle.

GETTING READY TO DRIVE

Before starting the engine:

1. Make sure all windows are clean. Remove anything blocking your view.
2. Adjust the seat so you can reach the pedals and controls safely
3. Adjust the inside and outside rear view mirrors.
4. Lock all car doors.
5. Fasten safety belts and shoulder harnesses.
6. Make sure your car is in park or neutral gear.

Never move your car until you have looked around for pedestrians and oncoming traffic. Then signal and move into traffic when safe.
When you back up, turn your head and look back. Don't just look in the rear view mirror.

USE OF SAFETY BELTS

"BUCKLE UP, IT'S LOUISIANA'S LAW!"

Louisiana has a mandatory safety belt use law which requires the driver and all front seat passengers in cars, vans and pickup trucks to be properly buckled.

The smartest thing you can do before starting your car is to buckle your lap and shoulder belts. Your chances of surviving a collision are three to four times greater if you are wearing your seat belt and shoulder strap.

Imagine what it would be like to hit a tree while riding in a car at just 30 miles per hour. As the collision begins, the cars and the people are traveling at 30 m.p.h. Only the people on the left are wearing their safety belts. The barrier stops the cars almost instantly, crushing the front ends. But the passenger areas are not damaged.

With safety belts. the people on the left stay in their seats and slow down with the car But the people on the right who are not wearing safety belts . . .

. . keep moving forward at 30 m.p.h. until they hit something. It might be the steering wheel, the windshield, the dashboard, or another passenger Even worse, they might be thrown out of the car . . hitting trees, concrete or other vehicles.

Keep in mind these reasons for wearing your safety belts:

1. They keep you from being thrown from your car. Your chances of surviving a crash are much greater if you stay in the car
2. There is much less chance of being knocked unconscious or seriously injured. If there is danger from fire or water, you can get out quickly
3. Safety belts keep you in a position so you can control the car. The first impact in a crash frequently throws the driver from behind the wheel and the vehicle is out of control.
4. If you are pregnant, you and your unborn child are much safer if you wear a lap and shoulder belt. By protecting yourself from injury, you protect your child.
5. Properly buckled safety belts prevent you and your passengers from being thrown about inside the car This reduces the chance of serious injury and death by 60% to 80%.

Lap belts should be buckled snugly across your hips and the lower part of your abdomen. The shoulder belt should not be quite so tight.

Young children. Louisiana's Child Passenger Restraint Law requires that all children under five years of age be properly restrained. Children from birth to three years of age must be in a federally approved car seat in the front or back seat. Children three to five years of age. who are seated in the front seat. must be in a child safety seat Children three to five years of age, who are seated in the back seat may use a safety belt only.

NEVER HOLD A CHILD ON YOUR LAP OR BUCKLE YOURSELF AND A CHILD INTO A SINGLE SAFETY BELT.

YOU ARE NOT STRONG ENOUGH TO HOLD ONTO EVEN A SMALL CHILD IN ACCIDENTS OR SUDDEN STOPS. NEVER ALLOW A CHILD TO RIDE STANDING ON A SEAT.

The middle of the back seat in a passenger car is safer than the front seat.
For more information on safety-approved child restraint devices, contact your local Safety Council, hospitals and doctor's offices.

VEHICLE CONDITION

Any defect which may affect the safe operation of the vehicle should be corrected as soon as possible. If the engine coolant, engine oil, battery water, tire pressure and condition, and vehicle lamps have not been checked in the previous week, you should check them or have them checked at a service station.
1. Tires - Bumps, cuts or bad tread can cause blow-outs. Your tire air pressure should be checked often. It is not safe to drive on tires with less than Y16 inch of tread.
2. Brakes - If your car pulls to one side when stopping, have your brakes checked. After driving through water, pump your brakes gently to test them and dry them out.
3. Brake lights - If your brake lights are not working, someone may crash into your car from behind. Have someone help you check them.
4. Tail lights - Check them often to be sure they are all working. They warn other drivers in the dark and help prevent accidents.
5. Headlights - Keep your lights clean. Make sure your bright lights and dim lights are working and are in alignment.
6. Steering - If the steering wheel moves 2 inches or more without moving the car, it has too much play.

PRACTICE COURTESY

Always signal. Dim your headlights for others. Yield to others. Keep right. Take your time. and resist the urge to become impatient with other drivers Keep a smiling attitude. Give pedestrians and bicycle riders a break.

DRIVING UNDER STRESS

Any stress situation can affect your driving. Even mild emotional feelings can affect your driving ability. Emotions are hard to control and they can make you temporarily accident prone.
If you are worried. nervous, angry. frustrated or depressed. Let someone else drive. You may become impulsive and aggressive and take risks you normally wouldn't. You should avoid driving when you are not emotionally prepared to handle the additional stress that driving can cause.

DRIVER FATIGUE

Driving is work. It is tiring. It takes a person in good physical, mental and emotional condition to be a good driver When you are tired, you can't drive as well as you do when you are rested. It's up to you to decide when you are too tired to drive.

Driver fatigue can kill. Motorists should not push themselves to the point of not being physically and mentally alert at all times. A driver should rest every two hours and not drive longer than six or eight hours a day.

Drowsiness is the first step in falling asleep. Stop driving when you feel drowsy Don't try to fight it. Pull off the highway at the first rest stop or service area. Get out of your car and walk around until you are refreshed and ready to continue.

Fatigue can often affect you in several ways. It slows your reaction time. There is a loss in your concentration and attention. Your eyes become tired, so you do not see what you would ordinarily see Extreme fatigue may lead to moments of dozing behind the wheel. Driving under these conditions can be disastrous.

You have many ways of fighting fatigue. Take a break (at a rest area if on the interstate). Have a cup of coffee. Chew gum. Listen to the radio. Let some fresh air into your car.

Boredom is common to motorists on long trips, especially when driving on an interstate highway. It can lead to what is called "highway hypnosis". That is, your senses become dulled, your eyes become fixed on the road and you are not alert to traffic situations around you.

To keep from getting tired on a long trip:
1. Be well rested before you start.
2. Don't take any drugs that can make you drowsy.
3. Try not to drive late at night when you are used to sleeping.
4. Take regular rest stops, even if you are not tired.
5. Keep moving your eyes. Look at objects near and far, left and right.
6. Roll your window down and get some fresh air.
7. Keep your car's interior cool.

If nothing seems to help you stay awake, get off the highway and take a short nap. This could save your life.

DRIVING ON WET PAVEMENT

Road surfaces are most slippery immediately after the rain begins to fall. This is because the oil and grease on the pavement have not yet been washed away Driving on a road covered with oil and water can be like driving on ice. You should reduce your speed, use extra caution and allow twice the normal following distance.

Prolonged or heavy rain will cause a layer of water on the road surface. At speeds up to 35 miles per hour, tires with good tread will "wipe" the water from the road surface much like a
windshield wiper cleans the windshield. As speed increases, the water cannot be removed fast enough and the tires start to ride up on the layer like water skis. This is called 'hydroplaning".

Partial hydroplaning starts at about 35 miles per hour, and increases with speed until at 55 m.p.h. the tires may lose all contact with the pavement. When this happens, you lose traction, you cannot brake, accelerate or turn. To recover, keep your wheels straight, and reduce your speed to regain contact between your tires and the road.

To prevent hydroplaning you should:

1. Keep tires with good tread depth on your vehicle. Don't drive with bald or badly worn tires.
2. Keep your tires inflated to the proper air pressure.
3. Slow down when driving through a heavy rain, or when water is on the road.

LOOKING AHEAD

In order to avoid last second moves, a driver needs to look far enough ahead to see things early. A common mistake drivers make is looking right in front of the car instead of down the road. Looking 10 to 15 seconds ahead will allow time to prepare for traffic conditions. It also makes it easier to keep your car on a steady path.
Take in the whole scene. Keep your eyes moving. Look to the sides and behind. Watch for things about to happen. Check your rear view mirrors often. Always know the position of other vehicles near you. Train yourself to observe signs and signals - not just look at them.

REAR VIEW MIRRORS

It is very important for your rear view mirrors to be in the correct position. You need to see as much as possible of the traffic behind you.

When you are driving, you have two blind spot areas to the left and right back sides of your car If another vehicle is driving in one of your blind spots, you won't see it unless you turn your head.

You cannot get rid of these blind spots. but you can make them smaller by adjusting your mirrors. To get the smallest possible blind spot at the right side of the car. turn your inside mirror so you can see the edge of your right rear window post.

To make sure your mirrors are in the correct position, let a car pass you on the left. As it passes out of view in your inside mirror (illustration no. 1) you should see its front bumper in your outside mirror (illustration no. 2).

Even with properly adjusted mirrors, always turn your head and check your blind spots when you want to turn or change lanes.

Remember, driving in someone else's blind spot is just as dangerous as not checking your own. Either drop back or pass, but don't stay in the other driver's blind spot.

KEEP A SPACE CUSHION

A cushion of space ahead, behind and to the sides gives you the distance to avoid the mistakes of others.

Rear-end crashes usually occur because of drivers that follow too closely When the car ahead stops, they cannot stop in time. If your rear view mirror shows another vehicle is too close to you, realize you are dealing with an unsafe driver. You should still keep a safe following distance behind the vehicle ahead of you.
If you are being followed too closely (tailgated):

1. Flash your brake lights and perhaps the tailgater will drop back. (Whether or not you can do this depends upon how close the other vehicle is. If it is too close, braking may cause an accident).
2. Slow down and encourage the driver behind you to pass.
3. If all else fails, pull over, stop and let the tailgater pass. Keep your doors locked.

Keep a space cushion to the side to have room to react to sudden moves toward you by other vehicles.

1. Avoid driving alongside other cars on multi-lane streets.
2. Drive in the center of your lane to keep space between you and oncoming cars.
3. Make room for vehicles entering interstate highways. If there is no one next to you, move over a lane.

PASSING PARKED CARS

When driving past parked cars, watch for cars turning out in front of you. Look for clues such as:
1. Smoke coming from tail pipe.
2. Red brake lights on, turning signal flashing, or white backing lights on.
3. At parallel parking areas, front wheels turning out.

Always watch for a car door being opened in front of you. If anyone is sitting in a car. expect them to open the door. Also, watch for pedestrians or bicyclists trying to cross the road between parked cars. Be especially watchful for children.

Safety tips on passing - do not pull up closely behind the vehicle you intend to pass (especially a large truck or bus). Your vision may be obstructed.

Follow at a safe distance until you can see far enough ahead to insure safe passing. Make certain no car is passing you-he may be in the left or right rear "blind spot". Signal your intention to pass to any vehicle following you. It is safe practice to tap the horn to avoid surprising the overtaken driver. After passing and before returning to the proper lane, be sure there is ample clearance. An accepted rule is to wait until you see the other car in your rear view mirror.

When you are about to be overtaken and passed, make it as safe and easy as possible for the other driver Slow your speed a little and, if on a two-lane highway, move over to the right as far as you safely can.

Weaving from lane to lane in an attempt to move faster than the traffic flow is the sign of an immature driver - and is very dangerous.

STOPPING DISTANCES

There is no simple way to tell exactly how long it will take you to stop at a certain speed Your stopping distance depends on:
1. Your own reaction time.
2. Weather and road conditions.
3 The weight of the vehicle.
4. The condition of the brakes.
5. The type and condition of the tires.

The chart gives an estimated number of feet your car will travel on dry pavement from the time you see danger until you come to a stop.

Many things can make your total stopping distance longer than is shown here. If you are tired, have been drinking, are not paying attention or if you have poor vision, you may not see danger. . .until it's too late.

FOLLOWING DISTANCES

Since most people have trouble judging distances, the "2-second rule" makes it easier for you. You can use it at any speed.

1. Choose some object ahead of the vehicle in front of you such as a sign, pole or a tree.
2. As the vehicle in front passes the object, begin counting two seconds (one-thousand-one, one-thousand-two. . .).
3. If it takes less than two seconds for your car to pass the checkpoint, you are following too closely.

During bad weather or when driving on wet pavement, increase the rule to four seconds.
If another vehicle moves into the space between your car and the one ahead. drop back to a safe following distance.

TURNING AROUND ON A NARROW STREET

Try to avoid turning around on a busy street. It is better to circle an entire city block. However, if you are on a narrow street where traffic conditions are light, and you find it necessary to turn around, here are the steps you should follow:

1. Stop close to the right edge of the pavement.
2. Look over your left shoulder and check traffic behind you. Do not depend on your rear view mirror alone; be sure that the street is clear both ahead and behind.
3. Signal for a left turn. Then, follow the numbered steps in the drawing.

If you must turn around, the proper way to do it is by making the ''three-point'' or Y'' turn shown here. (a) Turn all the way to left side of street. exercising due caution. (b) Back toward opposite side of street, turning your car toward the direction you want to go. (c) Pull your car into proper lane and continue on your way.

BACKING

Check behind your vehicle by walking behind it before you back. When you back, do not depend upon your mirrors. Turn your head and body so you can see where you are backing. Place your hand at the top of the steering wheel and back slowly. Always be prepared to stop.

PARKING ON HILLS

When parking on a hill you must make sure your car does not roll into traffic if the brakes do not hold. Always set the emergency brake. Shift to park, or reverse, or low gear. If you park where there is a curb:
1. facing downhill, turn your wheels toward the curb and shift into reverse or park.
2. facing uphill, turn your wheels away from the curb and shift into low gear or park. If there are no curbs, turn your wheels toward the edge of the road, whether facing uphill or downhill.

The above diagram indicates three parking situations. You should turn your wheels in a different way for each one, for safety's sake. Study the position of the wheels and notice where your car will roll if the brakes should give away.

ANGLE PARKING

Keep safe clearance. Drive forward into space- with equal space on each side between lines.

Angle parking is often used in parking lots, shopping centers, and sometimes at curbs. When you enter an angle parking space:

· Watch for traffic both ahead and behind.
· Signal and begin slowing down.
· Make sure the rear of your car will clear the parked car.
· Steer sharply into the parking space. Then straighten the wheels, centering your car in the parking space.
· Shift to park or reverse and apply the parking brake.

Before backing out of an angle parking space:

· Walk around to make sure nothing is in your way.
· Move your car back slowly because it is hard to see oncoming traffic. Be sure traffic is clear in the lane where you are backing.
· Tap the horn to warn pedestrians nearby.
· When you can see past the tops of the cars parked next to you, stop and look again. Look back and to each side for other drivers.
· Remember that the front of your car will swing opposite to the direction of your turn.
· Back slowly while turning until your left front wheel passes the rear bumper of the car parked on the left.
· Straighten the wheels as your car comes back into the lane of traffic.

PARALLEL PARKING

STEP 1
Signal, stop parallel to the front car (about 18 inches from it), with rear bumpers even.

STEP 2
Back slowly, turning steering wheel sharply to the right until your car is about a 45-degree angle with the street. Straighten front wheels and back slowly.

STEP 3
When front bumper is even with other car's back bumper, turn wheels sharply and rapidly to left. Back slowly to car behind you without touching it.

STEP 4
Turn steering wheel sharply to the right and slowly pull forward. Center car in space.

Front and rear bumpers should not be closer than two feet from the other vehicles when in parked position unless the street is otherwise marked.

NIGHT DRIVING

No one can see as well at night as they can in the daylight. The glare of oncoming headlights can reduce your vision to near zero. A dirty windshield increases glare and obscures the road, signs and other motorists.
Many drivers wait too long to turn on their headlights in the evening. Louisiana law requires that your headlights (not just parking lights) be on between sunset and sunrise. You are required by law to use lower headlight beams, not your "bright lights," when approaching within 500 feet of or following within 200 feet of another vehicle.

The law further requires that your headlights be on when driving in weather conditions that make it difficult for other people to see your vehicle clearly from a distance of 500 feet.
Driving at night can be made safest if you follow these rules:

1. Keep your windshield and windows clean, inside and out.
2. Be certain that all lights on the vehicles are operating properly.
3. Reduce your speed so that you can stop within the distance you can see ahead.
4. Use lower beam when approaching other cars so you won't blind the other driver.
5. If a stubborn driver refuses to dim the lights, flash your high beams once, look to the right edge of the road as a guide and slow down.

SHARING THE ROAD WITH MOTORCYCLES

Today's motorcycle riders are friends, relatives, and neighbors, but many car drivers still have not adjusted to motorcycles appearing in traffic. Traveling by motorcycle is appealing to some people; they are fuel and space efficient and can be just plain fun to ride. But there is a flip side. Motorcyclists are more vulnerable to injury than a car driver if involved in an accident. Research shows that over two-thirds of the car/motorcycle accidents are the result of a car driver turning in front of a motorcyclist. Motorcyclists and cars need to mix in traffic without causing harm to each other.

Size

Motorcycles present a narrow silhouette and are usually much shorter in length than an automobile. The small profile of the motorcycle may make it appear farther away and traveling slower than it actually is. Because it is difficult to judge the motorcycle's distance and speed, car drivers need to take a second look, and then a third. Its small size also makes it more difficult to spot in traffic than another car. Some motorcyclists take advantage of their small size and maneuverability. They may cut between cars and put themselves in places where drivers cannot see them. Be alert for a motorcycle to appear unexpectedly.

Lane Position

Because of a motorcycle's size, its position within a lane of traffic will change as traffic conditions change. The motorcyclist should position himself in the lane to see and be seen. Often this means riding in the left portion of the traffic lane to allow a better view of traffic and road situations. It also makes the motorcycle more visible to other traffic. However, as traffic and road conditions change, the rider may move. This move could be to the center of the lane or even to the right side to avoid traffic or to be seen by others on the road.

Most drivers take for granted the ability of their automobile to handle minor road hazards such as potholes, strong winds or railroad tracks. Minor problems for the four-wheeled vehicle can be major problems for motorcycles. The cyclist will change position within the lane to increase the distance from potential hazards. These lateral movements sometimes occur suddenly. Motorists need to be alert for these sudden changes in position and direction, and drive accordingly. Respect the vehicle space of a motorcycle and its position in traffic. Motorcycles are allowed the full width of a lane in which to maneuver. Refrain from sharing a lane with a motorcycle. It restricts the rider's ability to avoid hazardous situations.

Passing

Because a motorcycle has the right to a full traffic lane, pass it just as you would another car. Don't pass too fast or too close. The wind blast of large, fast moving vehicles can blow a motorcycle out of control.

Intersections

Intersections are the most likely places for car/motorcycle collisions to occur. This usually is the result of a car driver NOT SEEING the motorcycle and turning into the motorcycle's path. Misinterpreting a cyclist's intentions can also lead to problems. A cyclist will change lane position to prepare for upcoming traffic conditions. The cyclist will move to one side of the lane in preparation for a turn or possibly to move away from a hazard unseen by other motorists. Do not assume the cyclist's intention until the maneuver is unmistakably started, such as a turn into an intersection or driveway Also, turn signals do not automatically shut off on a motorcycle and cyclists occasionally forget to cancel them after a turn is completed. Make sure you know what the cyclist is going to do BEFORE you move into the motorcycle's path.

Following Distance

When driving behind a motorcycle, allow at least a 2-second following distance. This provides the cyclist enough room to maneuver or stop in an emergency. Due to its vulnerable nature and the difficulty motorists have in judging a motorcycle's speed and distance, space between the two vehicles should be increased to avoid sudden braking. Both cyclists and drivers are more likely to make incorrect decisions if there is not enough stopping distance or ability to see and react to conditions. This leads to accidents. A cyclist's chances of injury are greater if forced to avoid obstacles ahead, as well as a driver following too closely.

Cycles at Night

The single headlight and single tail light of a motorcycle can blend into the lights of other vehicles. This can cause you to misjudge distance. Always dim your headlights for a motorcycle just as required for other vehicles.

SHARING THE ROAD WITH BICYCLES

Bicyclists have the same right to use the highway as you do, but they must share their lane. They should ride as near to the right side of the pavement as practicable. Two cyclists may ride side-by-side, but it is safer to ride single file.

Passing. Allow plenty of room when passing a bicyclist. Avoid passing between a bicyclist and oncoming vehicles on a two-lane roadway. Slow down and allow oncoming vehicles to pass. Then move to the left to allow plenty of room to pass the cyclist safely.

Bicycles at night. Any bicycle used after dark must have a front light and rear reflectors. These may be hard to see with other traffic approaching you. You should watch the side of the road for bicyclists.

PEDESTRIANS

Pedestrians occasionally use highways to walk along or cross. Pedestrians have the right of way when they are in a marked crosswalk, when crossing an intersection with a green traffic signal or walk signal, and over a vehicle making a right turn on red.

Pedestrians should always walk facing traffic when possible and should never enter a roadway without checking for oncoming traffic. Many pedestrians, especially young children, do not follow the law or use safe crossing practices. When you see people walking or standing along a road, or children playing near a roadway, you should slow down. Always allow pedestrians as much room as safely possible, and be alert for sudden movement by pedestrians into the path of your vehicle.

Blind, or partially blind pedestrians have the right of way. If a person has a white cane, or seeing-eye dog, he or she cannot see you, so you must help him or her. Slow down or stop to let him or her cross safely.



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