One of the least known principles of safe driving is how a driver uses their eyes. It turns out that the eyes are crucial in everything from changing lanes to all your decisions behind the wheel.
To put it another way, observation outweighs every other function in safe driving including skill. Some would say a skillful driver is better because with their training and expertise, they can quickly evaluate and respond in evading a crash situation. But what about teens who are just learning, or our elderly drivers
whose reaction time has slowed down with age? Lacking in skill, expertise, and experience, how can they hope to react quickly and safely to avoid accidents? For that matter, how can any driver with just average skills dramatically improve their driving to stay out of dangerous accidents? The answer will surprise you.
It’s all in the eyes.
What we are talking about here is observation. Observation simply means looking. It means learning to develop your powers of seeing to a higher level. Call it focus, attention, or awareness; but good habits of seeing will keep you out of trouble, whereas skill primarily relies upon quick responses to avoid what
is about to happen. If you are a good observer, you will see situations long before they develop, so only average skill is needed. We are not saying that skill is unnecessary. Only that observation is far more important.
Don’t believe it? Ask any police officer or insurance claims representative “What is the most common excuse you hear at the scene of an accident?” The answer most common is “I didn’t see them”, not “I couldn’t avoid them”. The truth is, most people involved in accidents simply were not looking correctly.
Learning to use your eyes in a more efficient manner could mean the difference between life and death. It starts by making a change in the way average Americans drive today — distracted. Good habits of observation have to be learned through practice and discipline.
Here is a tip to improve your observation starting today. Check the intersections visually before you enter. It does no good to observe after you have entered the intersection. That’s too late. As you approach, simply glance left, then right with a slight turn of your head; and remember, people still run stop signs and red
lights. Your only defense is to see them, early.
For further exercises on observation see http://www.dds.ga.gov/docs/teen/Hazard_Recognition_Ride.pdf