Get Smart about driving

by DGO Web Administrator

Whether it’s been a few months or a few decades since you took that driver’s test, you’ve certainly forgotten some basic rules of the road (or you’re just an inconsiderate asshole, but we’ll go with the former …) Let Captain Adrian Driscoll of the Colorado Highway Patrol remind you about how to make the ride home safer.

How long have you been with the CHP?Twenty-one years. I got into it because I love to help people and I think we have an excellent opportunity to do that here every day. Every traffic stop we make is a chance to change someone’s opinion of law enforcement.

What are the most common moving violations?A lot of speeding. Occupant protection is a huge thing with us as well. We’ve got a very high compliance rate for a rural community, but there’re still people that don’t feel they need to wear their seatbelt. That’s frustrating. Taking the extra two seconds to click that seatbelt makes a huge difference in a crash.

Really?Getting ejected from your vehicle is the big thing. We’ve had several really, really bad crashes in the last few months where people would’ve fared much better if they’d just put on their seatbelt. We’ve also had a lot of motorcycle crashes lately. Wear your helmet. Wear your helmet. The last motorcycle fatality we had, if he had just worn his helmet, he’d have been fine.

I have a long standing feud with a friend. True or false, the left lane is for passing?True. Especially on thoroughfares where the speed limit is higher than 55 mph, there is a lane law where you’re required to stay in the right lane unless you are passing. But that doesn’t give you an excuse to exceed the speed limit. [laughs] There is also a move-over law that we see neglected often. If there’s an emergency vehicle on the shoulder or in the right lane, you are required to move over. Basically, you want to give that emergency vehicle as much space as you can so that they can do their job safely. There’s a lot of potential for bad things to happen. Last year alone, just in my agency, we lost two officers who were hit by cars.

And vehicles are to yield to moving emergency vehicles, yes?Yes. That means getting over on the shoulder, or stopping where they are if there is no shoulder so that an emergency vehicle can get through. And emergency vehicles, we’re going to drive with due regard. We’re not going to blow through intersections.

Is that a misconception – that law enforcement takes advantage of their authority?Sure, you see officers who are in a hurry to get places. We’re very proactive about emergency driving. We go through an extensive course in the academy and regulate that on a very consistent basis. I recently had a complaint about an officer that was going too fast for conditions and we took action on that officer. We’re not above the law. Sure, we’ve got to get places quickly, but we also have to get there safely.

Talk turning signal to me.When you make a lane change, you’re required to signal. We do write that up quite a bit. It’s very important because people behind you need to know where you’re going. The law requires you to signal for 100 feet in town and 200 if you’re over 40 mph.

How about turning at an intersection?Drivers are required to turn into the lane closest to them when making a right or a left hand turn.

And the big one: Texting.Texting and driving is extremely dangerous. There’ve been studies by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration where they took drivers who were distracted and drivers who were intoxicated and they modeled the exact same behaviors. It’s obviously a danger.

What can the average person do to be a better driver?Keep your head in the game. They’re so many distractions in our vehicles these days. We’re probably the worst practitioners as officers – we’ve got computers, radios going – but you have to put that to the back of your attention and just drive. Scan the road two or three seconds ahead of where you’re at, especially this time of year when we have so many deer collisions. Limit your distractions, don’t drink and drive, wear your seatbelt and make sure your mind is focused.

Why does it take an accident for us to realize that we’re piloting a several ton death machine?Unfortunately, I think it’s human nature. People live their lives in a certain way until something forces a change on them. We’re very proactive, as I said, but it’s hard to reach everyone. And if you don’t want to make a change, nothing I can say will make you. The only consistent way we get results is writing tickets, which is unfortunate. I’m not out to wreck your day. We strive for voluntary compliance. We just want to make you a better driver and make the roads safer.

Cyle Talley loves that fall is coming, but hates that football is coming along with it. Ugh. If there’s something you’d like to Get Smart about, email him at: [email protected]

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