Defensive Driving Techniques Will Help Protect You, Even In An Accident Hotspot!

There are some well known accident hotspots in St. Catharines, Niagara Falls, Hamilton and beyond, but you can still protect yourself from becoming a statistic with defensive driving

Ask any commuter and they’ll tell you a story about a near miss or an actual accident that they’ve been a part of first hand.

It’s a given on our busy highways, but there are some parts of the province that have worse track records than others.

The OPP identifies some of the riskiest sections of roadway every year and for those of you who travel these routes during rush hours, you probably won’t be surprised:

  • The nine-kilometre span from Centennial Parkway to the split at the QEW, 407 and 403 highways. In 2015, this stretch accounted for 14% of all the crashes in the area (Source)
  • QEW between Mountain Road and Niagara Street (Niagara).
  • Highway 401 from Highway 8 to Highway 6 (Cambridge).
  • Queen Elizabeth Way between Burloak Drive and Winston Churchill Boulevard (Burlington).

What Are The Primary Causes Of These Crashes?

40% are rear end collisions caused by following too close or distracted driving.

Another 20% of collisions are caused by unsafe lane changes.

Distracted driving isn’t all about cell phone use, either. It includes people who are eating, yelling at their kids in the back seat, or other forms of distraction.

How Can You Protect Yourself From These Types Of Accidents?

  1. Drive appropriately — Don’t be distracted yourself. Don’t use your cell phone and focus on the road, regardless of what’s happening in the back seat. Unless your son is trying to throw your daughter out an open window, it can wait.
  2. Drive defensively — More on that in the next section!
  3. Arrive safely.

Defensive Driving Techniques We Should ALL Practice

Look ahead — If you only stare at the back of the car in front of you, you can’t see what’s coming. On the other hand, if you’re looking well ahead, you will see issues before you are too close to avoid them. For example, if you’re seeing a bunch of red brake lights, it’s time to evaluate whether you should be slowing down yourself.

Check around you vehicle continually — People who drive the same route a lot tend to get tunnel visioned about it. They don’t check their mirrors or blind spots on a regular basis, so they don’t actually know what vehicles are around them. If they had to make a quick move, say because of flying debris, many would panic and possibly make an unsafe lane change.

Have an escape plan — By knowing what vehicles, lanes and blockages are around you, you are in a better position to always have an escape plan at the ready. Bottom line, you have no idea what other drivers will do but it’s best to assume that they might do something unsafe, like slamming on the brakes for no apparent reason. In the back of your mind, you always need to be thinking about how you would get out of the situation because at 100 + km/hr on the highway, you won’t have a lot of time. Practicing ‘what if’ scenarios in your mind is a great way to build up a more instinctive reaction that will kick in more readily, in the event of near collision.

Keep your distance — Following too close, as I mentioned earlier, is a leading cause of accidents in hotspot areas. Whether it is because of congestion or a simple unwillingness to make space in case someone edges in front, a lot of drivers stick too close to the vehicle in front of them. If that vehicle were to slow down quicklylor even stop all together, you won’t have time to stop too. What distance you should maintain depends on your average speed, as this affects the stopping distance you’ll need.

In dry weather on a highway, you need to leave at least 3 seconds distance. You can measure this by picking a fixed point on the side of the road and start counting when the car in front passes it. If your front bumper passes that point too, before you’ve even counted to 2, you’re too close. In wet or snowy weather, you need to increase that distance even more: anywhere from 4 or 5 seconds for foggy or dark conditions and up to 10 seconds in snowy and icy conditions.

If you do have an accident, make sure you follow these basic steps to ensure that you’ve got your bases covered, in case of injuries. It never hurts to check in with a personal injury lawyer, as part of those bases, so that if you do have an actionable cause, the necessary information can be collected immediately.


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