It's a strange concept, avoiding collisions. How can you avoid something that "just happens".
Surely that's impossible. You can't predict everything that could happen, people often do strange things in cars, so how can you even begin to learn how to avoid collisions?
Accidents are accidents, so you can't avoid them. Isn't that right?
No, it's not right.
There are some collisions that are unavoidable, but they are rare.
Many collisions are fairly easy to understand when you recognise the common themes in which they happen. Once you have the know how you can take steps to avoid the vast majority of them.
Accident Or Collision?
The Police no longer refer to these incidents as 'accidents', they are now called collisions.
Because the word 'accident' implies something that couldn't be avoided, it suggests that no one is to blame. In almost every case someone most definitely is to blame. Often, everyone involved is to blame to some degree.
Let's be completely honest, no one can ever predict or anticipate absolutely everything that could happen. Similarly, you can never completely avoid being in a collision that is not your fault and that you couldn't avoid. For instance, no amount of advanced driving skills can prevent someone else driving into your car whilst your car is parked at the side of the road.
Having said that, once you know the themes you'll be able to reduce even the risk of that happening by thinking about where you park.
The collisions that happen hundreds of times every day across the country are almost all avoidable. They are almost all understandable and easy to anticipate when you know what to look for.
You can never entirely eliminate the inherent risks of using the roads, but you can learn how to reduce the risk to a level at which your chances of being involved in a collision are drastically reduced compared to a normal driver.
Avoiding common collisions is quite simple when you understand how collisions happen, where they happen, what factors to look for and how to anticipate what might happen next.
Collisions, even minor bumps, can cost you a fortune. You may have your car off the road. Your insurance costs may increase, you may spend a lot of time waiting for buses. That's if you're lucky. If you're not lucky, you may experience serious injury or a loss that is indescribable and costs far more than money.
Understanding and recognising the main causes of collisions is a key part of Weelz Pass Plus and Advanced Driving courses. I have personally investigated or been involved in researching thousands of collisions, and it's true to say that the same collisions happen over and over again, just with different people involved at a different location and on a different day.
What I mean by this is that collisions tend to follow certain themes, and the same themes throw themselves up time after time after time.
There are very few that are caused through mechanical failure or any other avoidable circumstances.
What Do We Mean By 'Themes'?
In any particular environment, such as any T junction on any road near where you live, drivers tend to make the same mistakes.
They make those mistakes over and over again.
Exactly the same mistakes are made by different people at the same junction the next day. The junction could be in Scunthorpe or it could be in Barton or it could be in Hull, it doesn't matter. Different people will make almost exactly the same mistakes time after time. Some of them continue to make the same mistakes because they simply don't understand what they've done wrong.
Let me give you just one example of a recurring theme.
Several years ago I was involved in investigating a collision on a dual carriageway.
As is often the case, a pedestrian crossing spanned both lanes of each side of the carriageway, allowing pedestrians to reach the central refuge before looking to cross the opposite carriageway.
At the time the traffic in lane 1 (the left lane) was particularly busy with trucks, buses and other large vehicles queuing on the approach to the pedestrian crossing. The vehicles in lane 1 were travelling at no more than 2 or 3 miles per hour, the rush hour traffic had been building and the backup of traffic was almost at a standstill whilst they queued to leave the main road at the next junction. It's an extremely common scenario, you'll no doubt see it yourself in the near future and can probably recognise it from your driving in the past.
Lane 2 was completely clear for traffic travelling straight on.
An elderly pedestrian pressed the button on the pedestrian crossing, the lights started to change and the pedestrian stepped out. Perhaps they stepped out a little early, but one thing was for sure, they couldn't see into lane 2 (the right side lane) due to the traffic in lane 1.
At exactly the same time, a driver in lane 2 decided that she could beat the lights and get across the pedestrian crossing.
Again, one thing was for certain, and that was that the driver could not see the starting point of the crossing near the kerb and admitted having no idea that the pedestrian was there.
As the elderly pedestrian came into view from behind the vehicles in lane 1, the driver could not stop. She braked heavily and swerved but struck the pedestrian with a glancing blow. Fortunately for all, there were no serious injuries. In fact, there were no injuries at all. A remarkably lucky escape.
Just a few days later I attended the scene of another collision on a dual carriageway in a different town.
Exactly the same circumstances: heavy traffic in lane 1, clear lane 2, a driver in a hurry and a pedestrian who wanted to cross.
This time there were just a couple of minor differences . . .
The pedestrian was younger and decided to run across. The driver was going in excess of the speed limit.
The young person was killed.
It is almost impossible to describe how sad such incidents are, particularly as they are completely avoidable. Had the driver recognised the danger and reacted to what might reasonably be expected to happen, this collision would not have occurred.
You could be the driver in lane 2, or you could be the pedestrian. Think about that.
But Why Is This A Theme?
You're driving in town and just ahead of you is the local bus. It's 8.30 am and everyone wants to get to work, go for their shopping or just get home.
The bus driver indicates and pulls over on the left, as you get closer you move out to the right to pass the now stationary bus.
What about the unseen pedestrian that just got off the bus and is about to run out from the front of it to get to the shops on the other side?
The 'theme' is there again. Different vehicles, different place, different circumstances, but the elements are all there:
- a stationary or slow moving vehicle to the nearside (left)
- a vehicle moving passed it to the offside (right)
- a completely blocked view of the kerb hidden by the stationary or slow vehicle
- a pedestrian or cyclist in a hurry to get across
Add these factors together and the outcome can be predicted. Recognise the theme, and react accordingly.
How Could This Be Avoided If The Driver Can't See The Person Running Out?
Think of the phrase 'what might reasonably be expected to happen'
Is it reasonable to see the stationary vehicle, any vehicle, and imagine that a small child may run out from behind it? Not only is it reasonable to imagine it could happen, it does happen, every single day. Particularly in this case as the vehicle is a bus. It stopped to either pick someone up or drop someone off, so what might happen here is entirely predictable.
As soon as you recognise the theme, look for the child. Look for the pedestrian. Imagine that they are there, that they are going to run out, act as though you can see them even if they are not there, and adjust speed and position accordingly.
I promise you, the first time you recognise a potential collision by seeing the theme and you react, and then the full circumstances play out and you realise that you just avoided something that a normal driver wouldn't have bee able to deal with, it's a wonderful feeling and you'll be hooked on Advanced Driving.
The above 'theme' will happen again, and you could be one of those involved. This is a very simple example of a theme .eading to a collision in reality. Understand the themes, recognise them and they become simple to spot.
Avoiding collisions is a skill that you can learn when you understand what could happen, when you ask the 'what if' when you observe any particular scene on the road ahead.
When you see a situation developing in front of you, you can recognise the danger, and you can avoid becoming involved. The very first time that this happens to you and you get that light bulb moment and it should stay with you for the rest of your life.